Luz is a downtown neighbourhood in the centre of São Paulo, Brazil. My story about ‘the face’ of Luz started with the housing occupations in the area. The occupations are quite well known because of their proximity to, and high visibility in, the city centre. It was, however, something new for me. As a Brazilian returning after many years away I could not recall seeing so many ‘occupied’ buildings in the city centre. I looked further and managed to get access to two buildings; Rua Maua a former hotel, and Prestes Maia, a former commercial building.
I have spent the past year talking to and photographing the residents of these occupied buildings; seeing how the city is changing while the battle for good housing and social justice rages. It was then that realized that this was not a story about occupations in São Paulo, but rather about the occupation of São Paulo.
The area around the Luz station has been going through a prolonged period of urban revitalization. It is a process which promises to transform the face, not just of the area, or the city, but of this entire region in Brazil. Luz was once a grand colonial district that surrounded the city’s main railway station that in turn acted as a hub for commerce. But in the mid-20th century the area fell into decline as the station ceased to be the main depot for the coffee trade that had brought it riches in the past. Luz station was, in its time, a cornerstone of the economic and social growth of the city. It was the gateway for millions of immigrants who came to live in São Paulo and the surrounding region and whose ancestors are found there today.
The renovation plans for the Luz area has a lot in common with the rapid redevelopment and gentrification going on in many other cities around the world, but there are still unanswered questions about what will happen to the, already excluded, population who have made their homes in the area. They have little or no means to move on, or upgrade themselves in the same fashion as the buildings which the marketeers and investment funds have planned.
The intention of this project is to compile a visual document of the daily life of the Luz area with an emphasis on the people who make it what it is today. Whilst politicians and developers herald the renovation plans, they say very little, if anything, about the people who live there and where they will figure in the new Luz, the new São Paulo, the new Brazil.
About the Photographer
Hugo Palotto grew up in Brazil but has lived and worked in London for the past nine years.
The various environments in which he has lived have greatly influenced his work, particularly the multicultural and social aspects of each place. Palotto feels compelled to portray the social workings of society, challenging preconceptions, enlightening viewers and demonstrating the significance of each individual and place.