Nelson Garrido shoots a ghostly portrait of Portuguese architecture

Capturing the victims of the financial crisis

A single light illuminates a gloomy housing block in Portugal, casting a haunting glow over its abandoned shell. Is there life inside this monolith after all?

‘The light reminds us of the difference between what reality is and what it should be,’ says photographer Nelson Garrido, who has spent over four years documenting the effects of the Portuguese financial crisis on the country’s housing stock. ‘A lot of people became homeless after the crisis. This was my way to represent them.’

Garrido captures everything from empty multi-storey blocks to detached homes across the country for his aptly titled Home Less series. ‘With the beginning of the real estate crisis, construction of new houses almost stopped and a lot constructions were left unfinished,’ he explains. ‘Others, which were actually completed, were never sold or occupied.’

The photographer shoots just one image per day, capturing the buildings at dusk: the ‘golden hour’, as he puts it. ‘This is when you start to notice people’s presence in a building. They turn on the lights as they arrive home.’

Garrido’s ghostly scenes aren’t created by Photoshop. ‘I wanted the effect to be as “real” as possible,’ he says. So he sends his assistant inside each building to rig up the lighting, while offering direction from afar by phone.

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Photography: Nelson Garrido

This layer of fiction adds a tantalising sense of promise to the building’s interrupted story. ‘[Home Less] goes beyond the revelation of ruins,’ Garrido explains. ‘It intends to provide an experience of place.’

‘Home Less’ is on view at the ‘Time – Space – Experience’ exhibition at Palazzo Bembo during the Venice Architecture Biennale, until 27 November.

Read next: An ode to Lisbon’s kiosks by photographer Richard John Seymour

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