In 2007, Sao Paulo’s government launched the “Cidade Limpa” (Clean City) project, with the intention to standardize all visual advertisements throughout the city. This initiative has addressed what was indeed an overwhelming visual pollution, common to many large metropolises in the developing world, and in this matter it has certainly improved the life of the population.
But initiatives such as Cidade Limpa only deal with the most superficial aspects of the city and its problems. They are aseptic projects that do not propose structural changes. Sao Paulo’s housing deficit, for instance, is a much bigger problem that affects people’s lives directly and contributes to the degradation of the city in a much more fundamental way than mere visual pollution.
“Citizen X” refers to the thousands of people who live on the margins of Brazilian society. Sao Paulo’s housing deficit, according to some estimates, stands at over 7.9 million units. And yet there are around 400 thousand empty apartments and houses scattered around the city, mostly in dilapidated areas&mdasha testament both to the magnitude of the problem as to the potential for change.
Sao Paulo’s homeless movement started in the early 1990’s and only distinguishes itself from the more famous countryside landless movement (MST) because it is mainly urban.
Twelve organizations now represent over 13 thousand families. The huge majority are migrants from Brazil’s poorest regions, who have joined immigrants from other South American countries in looking for a better life in Sao Paulo.
The goal is to provoke a two-fold reaction on the part of the spectator: a contemplation of what constitutes beauty in a city, and at the same time, raising awareness about its contradictions.
The people photographed for this project throughout the past three and a half years are either unemployed or have unprotected jobs in the city’s informal economy.
They have been homeless since their arrival in São Paulo.