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Homo Paulista

The Rise of a New Tribe

by Tolis Tatolas


Homo paulista is a photo essay that aims to raise awareness of the massive housing problem in São Paulo, currently the world’s fifth largest megacity. Presented here is a selection from an expansive portfolio that I developed during a three-month residency, scouting the urban network and seeking to map out its social reality, laden with inequality and contradiction.


Urban dystopias, which have been central to my research over the last fifteen years, are the basis of my project, alongside my ongoing interest in the human condition. Through my work, I seek to examine, comprehend, and present the processes through which urban dwellers adapt to unprecedented population shifts, changes in modes of production, and extreme urbanisation. An uncontrollable housing problem is a direct result of all the above and is therefore common in most megacities. I was led to develop this project after observing the insecurity and instability of millions of inhabitants developing concurrently with the rapid transformation of the urban landscape - both planned and organic.



Framing and geometry are key elements in the composition of my photographic works, particularly architectural shots. Developing this and seeking to highlight how the human factor is integrated in the contemporary urban tissue, I set all subjects against an abstract background, which displays a definitive geometry revealing or exhibiting lines. People are given a distinctive place in each work, as if they are a portrait sitter or a point of visual convergence. Consequently, the normally visually isolated subject in the city’s hustle and bustle gains intensity and dominates the composition, while also maintaining a strong connection with the urban landscape that has seemingly begot it. 


A common denominator in all pictures is the subject’s ‘ground state’. I approach this both literally and metaphorically. Homeless people are portrayed in stationary mode, without any essentials and having turned urban furniture and surfaces into their seats and mattresses. Most of them in São Paulo own just a blanket. Having no place to live, no food and no access to any kind of medical care, they are captured symbolically as having been brought to the ground, which appears to have become their new habitat in the new urban circumstance. This comes in stark contrast to our acquired tendency to understand and experience life in megacities vertically, and commands a new, complementary appreciation of it, resembling grassroots organisations.


Moreover, purposely isolating the movements of homeless inhabitants reveals a different layer of the potential future of the urban network. Showing people who sit or sleep literally at zero level, either in direct contact with the soil of the parks or the man-made materials of pavements and squares, I seek to demonstrate an emerging figurative ‘hybridization’. Skin, the organic shell of humans, merges with the inorganic shell of the city, represented by building materials and infrastructure. 


As such, it appears that this ‘tribe’ gradually reclaims the urban space horizontally, thus revealing the potential of a novel, organic architecture which emerges in a megacity that is exponentially growing.


Lamma Sabacthani

[Image 1] 


Lamma Sabacthani, 2019 


Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Photo Luster paper

Limited edition of 3 + 1AP


Image by the author (2019).

All Images

[Image 2] 


Chalepas’ sleeping, 2019 


Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Photo Luster paper

Limited edition of 3 + 1AP

Image by the author (2019).

Chalepas’ sleeping

[Image 3] 


Cracolândia beach (not), 2019 


Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Photo Luster paper

Limited edition of 3 + 1AP

Image by the author (2019).

Cracolândia beach (not)

[Image 4] 


Bernini’s homeless, 2019 


Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Photo Luster paper

Limited edition of 3 + 1AP

Image by the author (2019).

Bernini’s homeless

[Image 5] 


The supermarket buggy shelter, 2019 


Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Photo Luster paper

Limited edition of 3 + 1AP

Image by the author (2019).

The supermarket buggy shelter,

Tolis Tatolas is a worldwide active interdisciplinary artist based in Greece. His artistic interests focus on geometry, composition and abstraction. By employing homo universalis as his intellectual model of predilection, he orientates himself creatively to a holistic approach to aesthetics within the frame of unity of all art forms.


Interdisciplinary artist, independent since 2008

BA (Hons) Vakalo College of Art and Design – University of Derby 2008

BSc (Hons) Department of Biology – Aristotle University of Thessaloniki 2002




Published in Issue 2024

Dis-Ruptive Horizons


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