SOMOS ZARAGOZA, portraits and voices of El Gancho

Listen to the voices of the participants from this Action in Zaragoza, Spain! Through their Action, the community of El Gancho came together to tell the stories of their neighborhood and share them with the world through a special exhibition that included qr codes of audio recordings, interactive activities, and much more! Learn more about how they carried out this Action.

Ingrid Guyon and Alejandro Molano Vasquez

"Seeing ourselves as human beings helps us to coexist better."

Discover the virtual exhibition with all the audios!

What inspired you to create your Action?

To showcase and celebrate the diversity, cultural and ethnic richness, and stories of our beloved neighborhood, El Gancho, in Zaragoza, with 50 people who live and work in the area.
El Gancho, or the San Pablo neighborhood, is an ancient neighborhood full of culture, history, with multiple monuments, vibrant life, lots of urban art, and many stories to tell in the Historic Center of Zaragoza, Spain. For many years, the neighborhood has been stigmatized and viewed negatively within the population of Zaragoza. This action seeks to portray a positive outlook from the perspective of some of the inhabitants and workers of the neighborhood.

Each portrait is accompanied by the person's voice sharing something about their life. With this Inside Out action, we want to showcase and celebrate the diversity, cultural and ethnic richness, and stories of our beloved neighborhood, El Gancho, in Zaragoza. This action is the first Inside Out action with audio recordings and QR codes on the photos. We have carried out two actions: one in a gallery and another on the street.

Being immersed in the neighborhood sparked our curiosity to tell some stories of the area through our artistic disciplines. The neighborhood has historically had a negative connotation; it has been stigmatized as a dangerous place. However, living and working in the neighborhood, we have seen its dynamics, its people, and its stories. Our French photographer, Ingrid, has known about JR's work for a long time and has always wanted to do similar work on a large scale in the streets. While working on writing and researching a book on participatory and community photography for peace with Tiffany Fairey (Imaging Peace), we included Inside Out as a case study and discovered the possibility of carrying out our action. This inspired us, so we took the initiative and got the ball rolling, securing a grant from the Zaragoza City Council to assist us with this action.

Community members attended the first opening of the Action.

With this project, we aim to:

- Bring the El Gancho community closer to a photographic and auditory experience where they can explore their senses, feelings, and thoughts.
- Facilitate the creation of new bonds within the neighborhood community.
- Provide the El Gancho community with the opportunity and a platform to showcase the multi-ethnicity and cultural diversity of the neighborhood.
- Invite the residents of Zaragoza to discover the El Gancho neighborhood from a different perspective and accept that all of us who live in Zaragoza ARE Zaragoza and contribute to making Zaragoza what it is: an inclusive, diverse, and dynamic city.
- Transform the public spaces of the neighborhood into a living museum accessible through an intervention, action, and public final exhibition on the walls and ground.
- Bring art and culture to the neighborhoods.
- Foster collaborations and conversations in communities from all corners of the world and promote intercultural coexistence.

Who helped you carry out your project? How did they help you?

Inside Out has been an unconditional support in resolving many doubts, especially regarding the audio recordings and QR codes, and all the logistical aspects. The Zaragoza City Council financed part of the action through a grant from Zaragoza Cultural. Local businesses, associations, neighborhood leaders, the Audiovisual Cluster of Aragon, the Office of the Historic Center Integration Plan, the Joaquin Roncal Foundation, the Zaragoza firefighters, and the community also supported us. Additionally, the participation of four young students has been indispensable in carrying out this action, from collecting consent forms, to doing makeup for the participants, helping to relax them, assisting with sound, and assembling the final action.

Participant recording his audio testimony during the photo session.

What were the reactions of the participants? Is there a particular story they would like to share?

This action was an act of community love, where in addition to listening to each other we understood how close we are and how we complement each other as a community, all the stories are special and unique, but at the same time they convey a collective voice.

The day of the exhibition brought together different actors from the neighborhood and as Rosa says, 'It has been a joy of neighborhood space, meetings, discoveries and synergy.' We have seen people exchange contacts and others discover businesses that they did not know like Carmen discovered the tarot reader Mar, how María met Julius Caesar and his art.

'Listening to the voices and trying to guess who they belonged to was something I enjoyed a lot because by listening, I could already imagine the person's face, age, and accent. By listening to all the voices, in the end, you're left with a collective voice of the neighborhood, not individual voices. And that action is very useful, especially in this climate of racism and migrant crisis, for society to realize that immigrants don't come here to steal; they come here to contribute to the country, to share their experiences and cultures.' - Photography student

This project initiated a collection of historical memory of the neighborhood and has sparked a lot of curiosity.

Young participants pose in front of their portraits with the Group Leader, Ingrid.

New friendships and bonds were created, along with a feeling of belonging and pride in the neighborhood as previously explained. A participant who heard their audio at the exhibition, after listening to others, wanted to retell their story because it reminded them of their belonging and family legacy in the neighborhood. Upon seeing the photos and hearing the audios, many people have shared their own stories and stories from El Gancho and have shown interest in participating if there were a second part of the project.

"It's a way to recognize and value a corner of Zaragoza with so much history and experiences, a community with the need to showcase it positively. It would be good to continue with the project and include more people and stories. El Gancho is diverse and rich in people." - Exhibition visitor

"Thank you very much to all of you. It has been a joyous space of neighborhood, encounters, discoveries, synergies, and much love for the neighborhood." - Rosa, Pediatrician at the Health Center

"Thank you for making this beautiful and comprehensive project possible. It is the loveliest project ever done about the neighborhood, and showing it in a positive way means a lot to us. I have seen a change in mentalities and a lot of interest from people. It's a project that says very beautiful and cool things about the neighborhood. You have done a great job." - Rosa

"The work you are doing is wonderful. Thank you very much for this initiative!!! A huge hug and my sincerest congratulations. Many people are seeing the work done because they send me messages, and that is thanks to this project. I send my congratulations and gratitude to everyone." - Elena

"Sometimes people say that the San Pablo neighborhood is contentious, it has its good side and its bad side. But look at the good side. Here it doesn't matter if you're 'paio', if you're Gypsy, if you're Moorish, if you're black, if you're whatever. Here we are all people from this neighborhood, and everyone greets you." - Armanda

Group Leader, Alejandro, interviewed by the media during the opening.

What was the impact of your action on your community? How did people react? Was it significant for your participants and your community?

"What a great initiative to dignify the neighborhood. The diversity of its streets represents human diversity." - Exhibition visitor

We managed to represent 50 people as planned, from over 17 nationalities (Romania, Portugal, Spain, France, Uruguay, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Morocco, Algeria, Western Sahara, Senegal, Mauritania, China), ranging from 1 year to 92 years old, including women, men, and members of the LGBTQI+ community. These individuals represent a mix of the neighborhood's population, community leaders, ordinary neighbors, recent arrivals, and those born in the neighborhood, as well as merchants and workers from associations, some of whom only work in the neighborhood. Many have asked us to replicate this project in all neighborhoods of Zaragoza.

We are aware that this action will not change the social problems of the neighborhood or local policies, but we believe that it can help start a conversation between neighbors and attract those who make decisions to listen to us more.

During the community meal, we had a roundtable for everyone to introduce themselves, which created many synergies.

Due to the originality of the artistic proposal in Zaragoza, the media showed a lot of interest in disseminating the work, even on the local television news, and the Department of Equality and Opportunities of the Government of Aragon has shown interest in replicating this project in various regions of Aragon due to its social impact on the community. Many people from the community saw themselves on television and were contacted by friends congratulating them. It's one of the few times the neighborhood has made it to the news with a positive and inspiring story. We have been contacted by more people than could participate in the project. Alejandro, from the SOMOS LGBTQI+ association, commented: "I don't interact much with people in the neighborhood, but today, with this meal, I am very grateful to meet so many neighbors, and I leave here with many ideas for collaborations and new acquaintances in the neighborhood"; Tzan, from the Rico Rico restaurant, said, "I knew certain people by face but didn't know who they were or what they did, now I do, and I'll be able to greet more people in the neighborhood.

Participant poses in front of her portrait with her children.

'I don't interact much with the people in the neighborhood but today with this meal, I am very grateful to meet so many neighbors and I leave here with many ideas for collaborations and new acquaintances in the neighborhood' (Participant)

'I knew certain people by face but I didn't know who they were, what they did, now I do and I will be able to greet more people in the neighborhood.' ((Participant)

In most of the audio recordings, the participants invited listeners to discover the neighborhood by giving examples of places they like, such as the terrace of Hotel Paria, Tio Aissa's chicken grill, the parties of El Gancho, the Rico Rico restaurant, the playground at Santo Domingo Square, Berdiguer wine cellar, Oca Loca seamstress, and the San Pablo herbalist. In the transcription of the audios, the most commonly used words are: welcoming, village, solidarity, diversity, and security.

"Thank you for vindicating a neighborhood as unfairly vilified as El Gancho. Hopefully, more projects like this will move forward in the rest of the neighborhoods of Zaragoza."

Visitors from other neighborhoods who attended the exhibition have shown interest in coming to visit our neighborhood to explore and meet the places and people mentioned in the audios, like a neighborhood tour through the audio recordings. These tours will also be organized as part of the El Gancho Festivities, inviting the general public to discover El Gancho from the perspective of its inhabitants. Additionally, this exhibition has sparked a sense of belonging to the neighborhood and historical memory in certain individuals, recalling stories that their ancestors experienced in the neighborhood. By being displayed in a gallery rather than on the street, the exhibition has attracted many people, as it was featured in the news, as well as in schools and associations.

Exhibition visitor listening to the audios of each participant.

"I loved your project highlighting the human and positive aspects of the neighborhood. It is very enriching to live with different cultures and soak up the best of each of them; it's worth it."

"I loved seeing the faces of the people from the El Gancho neighborhood. Thanks to everyone who has made it possible to believe in equality among people and that we all have the same rights."

"There is something that unites all of us from El Gancho: the smile!"

"It is a multicultural neighborhood and an example of solidarity." - Exhibition visitor

"El Gancho always shines, and with this exhibition and project even more. Thank you for these initiatives that highlight the dignity and diversity of El Gancho."

"The El Gancho neighborhood is what it is because of its neighbors, each of us puts our heart into enriching coexistence every day."

"Wow, that's amazing! It enriches my sight, my hearing, and my soul... all my senses... to reflect."

"Thank you, the exhibition is beautiful, it captures the faces of all the people wonderfully, their looks, a new initiative. Good luck with this project, let's hope it's not the last. It's very moving to listen to the audio recordings of each person.

What challenges did you face along the way? How did you solve them?

Finding a wall! I never would have thought how difficult it would be to find a place to paste the photos. It has been a saga of rejections and closed doors, also a bit of censorship from some institutions that wanted to listen to the audio recordings. Because of including audio recordings and QR codes, the photos could not be displayed at a height or far away, nor in places with little pedestrian traffic, and that complicated the assembly of the artwork a lot. The changes in the date of the action and the government of Zaragoza also affected some permits that we had obtained, which were later canceled or came with some unforeseen costs. We learned that before organizing any action, it is essential to have the location secured. (although we had two places, but the circumstances changed.)

Wallpapering is not that easy! It takes hands, time and nail-free walls! But yes: you are guaranteed to enjoy it and most of all, the satisfaction of seeing the action staged and the reaction of the people in the neighborhood. Some recognize friends, others prefer these photos instead of a blank gray wall, and others ask: 'and why am I not in the photos!'.
By exhibiting on the street, we run the risk of people not respecting the work and damaging it, but we must let go!

Photography production students from the INAEM visit the exhibition

Learn more about this action!

The artists: Ingrid Guyon is a French photographer, portraitist, humanist, videographer, editor, director and facilitator in participatory audiovisual media. Alejandro Molano Vasquez is a Colombian filmmaker and sound engineer with international recognition for his work in direct sound for fiction and documentary films.