5cents a pound

An archive of inspiration, negotiating the world through artistic intervention

Susan Meiselas: Cova da Moura (Portugal)

Artist Statement: This little enclave of Cape Verde islanders on the outskirts of Lisbon has a strong sense of community. I think of streets as public spaces, but in Cova they are private domains. Each corner has a distinct personality. Certain crossroads are to be avoided.

It was not surprising to be seen with suspicion as I walked the streets of Cova da Moura. I was a stranger and although no one directly asked if I was a cop, clearly they wondered. Why was I so interested in the daily life there, if it were not to inform on them?

As I wandered around, I felt the stare of eyes from apartments above, while others averted mine as I passed through narrow alleyways. It was days before a young man called out to take his picture. Though he had a camera cell phone that he was proud to show me, he clearly had never watched a Polaroid print develop in his own hands. The moment he recognized himself, I signed the picture and added his name. It was just a beginning, but I was no longer trespassing.

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