Santa Filomena slum

In 2009-2010 I have worked on a social photo-story about Bairro de Santa Filomena – a slum in the outskirts of Lisbon. This neighborhood is home for more than three thousands immigrants from Cape Verde. Most of them are unemployed and live in very bad conditions. Drug trafficking, murders, robbery and prostitution make this area a ghetto. Even police don’t patrol the slum and taxi drivers never bring there passengers after the sunset.

I was building a trust of over several visits and managed to get a permission of the local drug-traffickers to come to the slum with my camera.

Today I want to share with you some images from this story.

A woman cooks food on fire to sell it to the slum residents.

Kids play on a street of Santa Filomena slum. The writing on the wall in Portuguese slang means: “Death to the cops!” In the past few years two policemen were killed in this slum. Several more were injured during gunfights with the gang members.

A man inside his barrack in Santa Filomena. Almost all the residents of the slum have similar living conditions.

A hand of a slum’s drug trafficker. On the tattoo is portrayed a hero of the local youth Ze Pequeno (Little Jose), a fictitious gang chief from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro in Brazilian popular movie “The City of God”.

A “guard” on the entrance of the Santa Filomena slum. Almost all the entrances and exits of the slum are protected by such guards. They are helpers of the drug-dialers and notify the gang leaders about the appearance of the police or strangers in the neighborhood. It i€™s almost impossible to enter into Santa Filomena without criminals been warned.

The authorities of the city of Amadora (Lisbon’s satellite town), where Santa Filomena is situated, plan the total demolition of the slum in few years. However, there are many other problematic neighborhoods around Lisbon, where people live with the same problems and in the same conditions.


  1. Kate Anthony

    All of these images are spectacular. I’m curious as to how you were able to garner trust with them? These are images any photojournalist would be proud to lay claim to. Props for the bravery needed to get these!

    • Vlad Sokhin

      Thanks, I very much appreciate your words about my work. Before bringing a camera, I went to Filomena few times and talked to people, explained what I want. There was living one Ukranian guy, a drug addict, who helped me to meet the big boys. Also social workers gave me a hand with meeting right people.

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