How come Abrantes? — Local community

During the 180 Creative Camp we have invited Matilde Viegas, a photographer based in Porto, to walk around the streets of Abrantes, get to know the locals, listen and collect their stories and capture them in some beautiful portraits. This second article of How come Abrantes series is thus an opportunity for you to meet some locals through Matilde’s eyes.

This was my second year at 180 Creative Camp. This time, my main focus was not the young participants but, instead, people from Abrantes who spend their entire year in the city and welcome us every summer.

Abrantinos are quiet, friendly people. They like to sit out on a terrace cafés, on the benches of the streets or in the squares of the city; they usually meet in the afternoon, after they take a post-lunch nap. They have established this intricate community between shops, services and citizens that allows them to keep connections over the years. Every place you visit or enter, you are welcomed with a smile and a “Bom dia” or “Boa tarde”. It makes me feel good, having such a warm greeting every time I enter the room. The ice cream store Lis was my go-to place every day. Enjoying an ice cream in a room with AC, that was a blessing during those summery hot days.

I was lucky enough to have met people in the streets who told me their stories and shared their time with me. When I asked for a portrait, they would stand tall or pose in some other way, facing the camera. They were proud, and I felt grateful.

After the lunchtime, next to the playground, neighbours from that area get together. I have said “Boa tarde” and they have promptly asked me if I came with 180 Creative Camp. One of the ladies said she really enjoys the colors of this years’ wristband, another one shared that she really likes seeing the building, painted with flowers in front of Chave D’Ouro. We have talked for a bit and they have appreciated the smile and the heed as it doesn’t really happen that often that people who come to Abrantes go for a talk.

Dona Maria de Lurdes told me about her son that lives in Porto, “a stylist and figurist”, and that he calls her every day. She showed me his photograph she carries in her wallet when he was 15. On mother’s day, her son took her to visit Porto and she enjoyed it a lot, said that Serralves garden is very beautiful and that people were all very friendly. Meanwhile, Isabel, the youngest of the four, said it was time for her to go home and eat something because of diabetes. As it was Saturday and I would go home the next day, I have said goodbye to the ladies with the wishes of best luck.

Dona Maria José, drinking water at the Praça da Republica garden.

Last year I have met her at this very same place on a Saturday afternoon. She comes here to feed a cat, whose owner has passed away, and to throw some wheat for the pigeons. She really likes animals, because, unlike the humans, they don’t hurt anyone. This cat, that she calls “The Black”, has been missing for some five months, but she knows it is after some cats. Around the winter time, it will be back. We talked about her mother’s food and she shared some recipes with me. She has told me, with a lot of care, about her cloth. As a child, she was mourning because of the early death of her brother and so now she only wears colors.

During one of the George Muncey’s workshops, with big format cameras and instant film, participants invited three Abrantinos to pose for their portraits. This sir didn't leave his pose while ladies kept on laughing. At some point, the ladies got confused with the cameras and where they should look and the sir, with his glasses on, kept his serene expression.

Senhor Eduardo, a 70 years old photographer in Abrantes

Senhor Eduardo told me that he started to work at twelve, developing films for another photographer. At fourteen they sent him to shoot weddings, alone. They gave him Voigtlander 6x9 and ten films that would give around 80 pictures for almost 400 guests! Weddings were always big family reunions so they would ask him to take pictures of “the bride with all the single ladies”, “the groom with all the single gentlemen”. It got to the point that he would be “shooting” with no film loaded as he had no courage to tell he had run out of films.

Some years after, following the 25th of April (The Carnation Revolution in 1974), senhor Eduardo started his own business. An owner of a photo studio, a man that has returned from Angola, bought him a Polaroid that would take passport size photographs. This year, with the shift in the government and the restructuring of obligatory documents, senhor Eduardo had always a line of people at his door to take a picture for a new identity card.

For a long time, being a photographer when no one was taking pictures, he says was like living in a prison with an open door, working incessantly at weddings, christenings and portraits. He never wanted to pass his work on someone else, he would only trust his hands and his work.

Every time we go to 180 Creative Camp and Abrantes, Gelataria Lis is a must-go place. After lunch or by the end of the day, a biscuit cone with a melon ice cream for a modest price of one euro… it seemed to be a common sin around.

One of the employees told me about the previous owners, that they sold their business and also their recipes to someone younger and that’s how it was possible to pass this business to a new generation. The atmosphere is familiar, people from the stores nearby go there for a bit of talk, to have a coffee or to get an ice cream. Some of them talked to me about the 180 Creative Camp, excited at the possibility of new interventions in the city.

One of the streets in the center of Abrantes, flanked by the flowers, with kids playing around.