Residents of the “Tower of David,” a building in Caracas, Venezuela, that was abandoned during its construction and became a makeshift home for several thousand people. (Photos by Alejandro Cegarra)
Over the next several weeks we will be profiling this year’s new Reportage Emerging Talent roster. The first is Alejandro Cegarra, from Caracas, Venezuela. Alejandro originally took up photography as a hobby while studying publicity at Alejandro de Humboldt University in Caracas. After working for a year at an advertising agency, he quit to pursue photography as a fulltime profession. He has worked for Venezuela’s largest newspaper, Ultimas Noticias, as well as freelanced in his country for the Associated Press. Earlier this year, he was recognized in Magnum Photo Agency’s 30 Under 30 contest and was the first-prize winner of the Ian Parry scholarship. We asked Alejandro a few questions about his work and burgeoning career as a photographer.
Q) Your winning portfolio for the Ian Parry Scholarship was a story about Caracas’ Torre de David, an unfinished skyscraper that was turned into a makeshift community of squatters. Where did they predominantly come from, and what is life like for the families who live there?
A) In 2007, around 2000 people moved into the building: many were families with no place to live; others arrived because they were tired of the insecurity where they lived, etc. Mostly, the people who live in the tower come from the slums of Caracas, which form a ring of poverty around the city. Life in the tower is not easy: you have water one day per week; if you live in the high floors, you have to carry everything on your shoulders (beds, refrigerators, furniture). The garbage system is to throw everything out the window. They have problems with plumbing and other basic services. Also, they are prone to fall into the void [a large shaft in the center of the tower]. The tower has a lot of places that are dangerous to walk near. Two days ago, a pipe fell from one of the higher floors and hit a kid in the head. The kid later died.
Q) The fate of the building’s residents remains unclear. What is the most likely future for the building and its occupants?
A) The government has started moving out the squatters to new houses outside Caracas. They are going by their own will and mostly they are happy with the new apartments. Meanwhile, other inhabitants do not want to leave Caracas, and want new apartments in the city. I expect that, by the end of the year, the tower will be empty.
Read the rest of the interview on Getty Images’ Stories & Trends blog.