Guarita is a documentary photo-essay about the life of São Paulo's night watchmen and an environmental study of how their sentry boxes are inserted into the contemporary urban landscape. The quality of life of a city's residents is directly related to the make-up of the surrounding cityscape. These images reveal the isolation in which we place ourselves as a part of our everyday (urban) reality.
Private sentry boxes—called "guaritas" in Brazil—were incorporated into the daily life of the country's metropolises over the past two decades in response to the growing rate of crime and violence. The night watchmen emerged as an alternative to Brazil's ineffective public security forces. Since the first guarita was built, they have continued to proliferate, becoming a commonplace element of the city. But for all their profusion (in some areas they can be found on every block) guaritas are still a sparse and naive compensation for the lack of state protection. Indeed, rather than serving a significant protective purpose, the guaritas only seem to underscore the way that many urban lives are confined in micro-cells. Throughout this series, the photos converge on a theme: the loneliness of contemporary man as a result of his isolating search for safety.
The constant feeling of insecurity has transformed our ability to integrate socially and build relationships with strangers. This insecurity is also manifested in our perception and organization of public spaces. In the end, my photographs of the guaritas show not only these night sentries but, in a more universal way, a portrait of every contemporary urban dwellers' fragility and loneliness.
—Stefan Schmeling, Alexander Strecker
Editor's Note: Stefan Schmeling's work was shown as a part of "Elemento Latente", an exhibition of South American work at PhotoEspana. Elemento Latente will run until July 26, 2014 at the Casa de ámerica in Madrid.