911 Prestes Maia, a 22-story tower block in central São Paulo, Brazil, is thought to have been the largest squat in the world. In 2006, the abandoned building was home to an estimated 1,630 people, including 468 families with 315 children.
In 2002, the ‘Movement for the Homeless’ transplanted hundreds of homeless families into the empty building and made the place habitable, even going so far as providing a library, cinema, and workshops. The new residents drove out vermin and drug dealers, all the while cleaning up the place. Then, suddenly in March of 2006, the inhabitants learned that within a moth they were going to be evicted.
Julio Bittencourt photographed the diverse occupants at their windows, from which they communicated with one other, recording the happiness and dignity in coexistence with decay and neglect. Since Bittencourt was raised in São Paulo, he became accustomed to people communicating across windows, as family and friends lived on top of and next to each other.
"I think that by choosing windows, and only them, I created a rigorous game that I proposed to myself – to look at windows, from windows," says Bittencourt. "My intention was to show a symbolic and a physical barrier, the decay of the materials, the dignity of the people who survive behind them, and the decay of a system that doesn’t integrate its inhabitants into society."
Julio Bittencourt - Verve Gallery website