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For The Other Side of the Tower, Caracas-based photographer Alejandro Cegarra captures daily life in the unfinished Centro Financiero Confinanzas, or the Tower of David, a 45-story building that has been adapted into a vertical slum. Observable from all areas of the city, the concrete and glass tower has come to signify for some the unrealized hopes of the capital and the disappointment of its residents. While illegal inhabitants are often incorrectly labeled criminals and drug addicts, Cegarra presents a more nuanced view of the tower, shedding light on the resilience and hopefulness of its residents.

Abandoned it the 1990s after the death of its developer, the structure housed an estimated 3,000 individuals until it was evacuated this July. Although it was unsafe in many ways—children have been reported falling to their deaths from the unwalled areas— the tower was a viable home and haven for many of its impoverished tenants, who work and go to school in nearby areas.

In addition to grocery stores, the people of the tower created barber shops, gyms and daycare facilities, turning the tower into a small working city. Some of them kept pets. Without elevators, families climbed numerous flights of stairs or were transported by a motorbike taxi system that ran throughout the building. Access to water and electricity was unreliable.

Cegarra gained entry into the apartments of the Tower of David residents by chatting with them for hours, making clear his genuine interest in telling their stories. He often waited for them to forget about his camera before snapping their portraits. From the inside, the tower is bathed in natural light, emerging not as a bleak and crime-ridden metropolis but as a temporary shelter for families of all sizes.

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All images © Alejandro Cegarra

via TIME Lightbox

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