Hothouse, copyright Reinaldo Loureiro
Underneath a white sea of plastic, north African immigrants toil in the hothouses of Almería to produce our supermarket fruit and vegetables. Reinaldo Loureiro reveals the undercover story of what lies beneath the multibillion euro industry
Home to the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world, Almería in southern Spain provides a large portion of the fruit and vegetables we buy in supermarkets, employing thousands of immigrant workers who toil among a vast “sea of plastic”.
The economic success of this billion-euro industry belies fears of environmental catastrophe, and 10 years ago, the notorious working conditions among the mostly North African employees sparked some of the worst race riots Europe had seen in a decade.
In 2007, having graduated from an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication, Reinaldo Loureiro travelled to the region (whose name, coincidentally, comes from the Arabic for “The Mirror”) to begin work on Hothouse, exploring its unique socio-economic landscape with his Mamiya 7 camera.
Many of Loureiro’s pictures were taken at high noon, giving them a flat, utterly unpicturesque feel that accentuates the alien surrounds. His ideas developed along the way, as he made contact with the people working there and figured how to capture the sense of segregation.
“You have to let ideas settle. They take time to develop and you need to explore a place, and express what you’ve learned. Being able to go back is good.” says Loureiro, who works as a teacher and uses his holiday time to pursue his ambition to become a full-time documentary photographer exploring major social issues.
“It was important for me to show the workers along with the landscape because they haven’t integrated into Spanish society,” he says. “I wanted to get this sense of isolation across against this bizarre landscape. They have spent years there and they have almost no chance to speak Spanish.”
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