In the course of the last 18 months, José Bandeira has been photographing the old Dafundo neighbourhood, in the outskirts of Lisbon. First drawn to the place by its unusual buildings and riverside landscapes, he eventually met Euclides, a Cape-Verdean immigrant who runs a modest tavern by the roadside. In José’s frequent visits to the place he got to know many of the locals, mostly inhabitants of the Clemente Vicente building – an austere construction built a century ago to lodge the working men of two factories in the vicinity and among whose current inhabitants abound retired elders, immigrants, and unemployed workers; they share convivial space with less fortunate, destitute people living on the streets. José never forgets to give the local prints of the photographs he takes of them. They learned to trust him and his camera: his pictures of the Dafundo inhabitants are a compromise between José’s photographic aim and the idea his models have of what a portrait should be. Seen as a whole, the hundreds of photographs José gathered in the last year and a half are as much an artistic pursuit as they are documents of a soon-to-disappear world.
At some time José, who has an interest in the Classics, saw an improbable photographic connection between the close-to-martial façade of the Clemente Vicente building and the Troy citadel. The fact that the locals kept small boats, tents and furniture, vegetable gardens, bird cages, and all sorts of strange objects in a land strip adjacent to the Lisbon-Cascaís railway line, which runs parallel to the (now highly degraded) Dafundo beach, helped construct the simile. The land strip became a Greek camp and the railway line a defensive wall and ditch (“What’s a suburban train but a moving wall,” José asks.) To complete the picture, the hazardous Ivens Avenue, a straight, busy road with no pedestrian crossing, became a stretched-out Trojan plane.
After a geography was defined, José started toying with the idea of posing some of the inhabitants as characters of the Iliad and the Epic Cycle. This implied narrating to each one of them the whole story, from the Judgment of Paris to the returns of the Greek heroes, plus giving them a more detailed insight n each specific character. How would people who never heard of the Trojan War respond to the narrative and the moral issues it poses? Were there points of contact between the vulnerability – sometimes even hopelessness – of their lives and that of the Greek and Trojan contenders after ten years of war?
When Professor Adriana Freire Nogueira suggested that “neither Greeks nor Trojans” could be integrated in the Imagines IV Congress and hosted at the University of the Algarve, what was little more than an idea became a de facto project. José spent the months of July and August 2014 shooting “Cycle” portraits, some of which are now part of this exhibition. In the last few days of August, José and the Clemente Vicente inhabitants learned that works to complete the Maritime Walk between Algés and Cruz Quebrada, at both ends of Dafundo, were to begin. With the collaboration of the locals (who expect improvement) thee small boats were dragged to the beach by an excavator and what remained was raised to the ground, the debris filling a tall container with the word “Rebirth_” painted ion it. When José saw the green, conspicuous container in the middle of nowhere, facing the Clemente Vicente building, he couldn´t help but ask himself: “Could that be a horse?”