Photo Essays

Looking at Life Inside a Skyscraper-Turned-Squat

An image from "The Other Side of the Tower" (all images courtesy of Alejandro Cegarra)
A photograph from Alejandro Cegarra’s ‘The Other Side of the Tower’ (all images courtesy Alejandro Cegarra)

In a little under a decade, the Centro Financiero Confinanzas, or “Tower of David,” in Caracas, Venezuela, has achieved almost mythical status. After being dreamed up by billionaire David Brillembourg in 1990, construction halted on the building in 1994, when a third of the country’s banks failed. In 2007, squatters spurred by then-President Hugo Chavez moved in. The skyscraper became a poster child for Latin American poverty and crime — documented in The New Yorker, immortalized on Homeland.

Despite all the scary stories, 24-year-old Caracas native and photographer Alejandro Cegarra (or “Ale,” as friends call him) knocked on the tower’s door last year and asked to talk to someone in charge. After receiving permission to photograph, he began visiting the tower’s residents, who gradually welcomed him into their homes. The resulting series, The Other Side of the Tower, shows a different view of what life is like inside — not necessarily romanticized, but perhaps more complete. 

“I have to be honest with what I saw, and what I saw was the beauty of life in one of the hardest places to live in Caracas,” Cegarra told Hyperallergic. Since he first visited, the government has begun relocating families just south of the capital to Cúa. About 40% have already been evacuated, and Cegarra spends one day a week photographing them in their new homes.

“The tower changed my way of seeing,” he explained. “I discovered that in any place there are good people hidden, just trying to live despite the bad conditions. Now, more than ever, I want to be their voice.”

An image from "The Other Side of the Tower"
A photograph from Alejandro Cegarra’s ‘The Other Side of the Tower’
An image from "The Other Side of the Tower"
A photograph from Alejandro Cegarra’s ‘The Other Side of the Tower’
An image from "The Other Side of the Tower"
A photograph from Alejandro Cegarra’s ‘The Other Side of the Tower’
An image from "The Other Side of the Tower"
A photograph from Alejandro Cegarra’s ‘The Other Side of the Tower’
An image from "The Other Side of the Tower"
A photograph from Alejandro Cegarra’s ‘The Other Side of the Tower’
An image from "The Other Side of the Tower"
A photograph from Alejandro Cegarra’s ‘The Other Side of the Tower’
An image from "The Other Side of the Tower"
A photograph from Alejandro Cegarra’s ‘The Other Side of the Tower’
An image from "The Other Side of the Tower"
A photograph from Alejandro Cegarra’s ‘The Other Side of the Tower’
An image from "The Other Side of the Tower"
A photograph from Alejandro Cegarra’s ‘The Other Side of the Tower’
An image from the moving out period
A photograph by Alejandro Cegarra from the moving-out period
An image from the moving out period
A photograph by Alejandra Cegarra from the moving-out period
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