Spain is currently undergoing enormous social and political change. Since the 15-M movement began in 2011 - when 8 million people flooded the streets of all major Spanish cities voicing their disillusion, their anger, and the view that their democracy had been hijacked - new social dynamics have come into play as a highly connected, tech-savvy and irreverent generation comes of age.
Occupied spaces all over the country, from old car-parks to 18th Century Tobacco factories, are now legitimate cultural hubs where local communities converge and redefine urban living. Through regular film screenings, debates, workshops, neighbourhood concerts, and the cultivation of ‘Huertos Urbanos’ (neighbourhood-run urban orchards), the people of Spain are reclaiming their cities and blazing a fresh trail in cooperative living.
Typically, these spaces are governed by an open council that meets on a weekly basis. Here, all are free to propose ideas, projects, and changes as long as they benefit the community as a whole. This mindset is in direct opposition to the ‘old way of doing things’, and it is therefore no surprise that the youngest and most subversive Spanish party “Podemos" was born in the basement of one of these spaces.
The idea that people are embracing what “previously only Hippies would have done” is at the core of this story, but now those Hippies have smartphones and Economics degrees, and a very real chance at implementing long-term positive change.
I spent six months documenting the day-to-day of some of these spaces in central Madrid. From artists and drug dealers, to illegal immigrants and politicised students, the diversity of people that have embraced this communal idea of public space is astounding. After I met Dominican rapper and local celebrity Fujimoney, I quickly became “one of the boys” and was allowed to shoot who and what I wanted, no questions asked. As breeding grounds for creativity, social change and, above all, a sense of community, these spaces stand in stark contrast to the isolation we know far too well in Northern European cities.
I wanted to create images that serve as a reminder that alternatives do exist.