People of Lisbon
We have another special series on board: People of Lisbon!
This video series showcases the lives of people from various countries, with different occupations, who are now living in Lisbon. An original idea by Stephen O'Regan with the help of photographer Rita Ansone.
Find out their motivation for this project, their expectations for the future, and many other things...
How did the idea of People of Lisbon come about?
Stephen - I arrived in Lisbon in June last year. Before that I had lived in New York for years until the pandemic brought me back to me back to my hometown of Dublin. After a couple of months in Dublin I was unsure what to do, and so I decided rather spontaneously to come to Lisbon as Portugal was the most open country at the time. What was not to love about Lisbon in the summertime. After a few weeks in Lisbon, I decided I should start working on a project. The title of 'People of Lisbon' just popped in my head. It had a ring to it, and also it was perfectly clear. I didn't think about it much more after that. I just decided to do it. I did think it would be positive project for Lisbon. And considering thing difficulties of the time we are in, I felt that was important.
These mini documentaries are extremely well produced. Tell us a bit about your background and previous work.
Stephen - Thank you for saying so. But I wish they could be better. I wish I was better. I am 38 now. I went to film school when I was younger and had ambitions to become proper film maker after that. But unexpectedly I got sucked into startup world after I created a music website called BalconyTV. BalconyTV was also a very simple idea - where every day we would film bands on my apartment balcony in Dublin. That took off in its own unique way, and then completely dominated my life for the next 12 years. I became very hands off in terms of camera work over the years. And really it's only been in the last 2/3 years that I began making videos again myself. I use a pretty simple camera, a small tripod, and a basic plug in microphone. My editing skills are basic, but I like to think I make the most of my few skills.
Rita - I graduated with a diploma in photography back in 2008 in Riga, Latvia. Shortly after, I started traveling and lived in England, Bulgaria and Belgium. While residing in these countries I worked in the tourism sector while at the same time developing my biggest passion, photography. My photography and installation works have been featured in various exhibitions across Europe, which includes organising my own solo shows in London and Bristol.
One day I was looking for an assistant for one of my photo shoots. I was relatively new to the city and came across Stephens post on FB where he mentioned that he had also just arrived, I made contact and he came to help.
The next time we met, Stephen shared his idea about "people of lisbon" and asked if I would like to start this project with him. The third time we met we were making our first episode.
How do you go about knowing/meeting these "Lisboetas" who are mostly foreigners?
Stephen - At time of writing we have made 20 videos - 7 of which have been Portuguese or from Lisbon. It is true though, there are so many nationalities that live in Lisbon. And I have heard the joke a few times that it is hard to meet people from Lisbon in Lisbon. To be honest we have had no major criteria on who should feature in the videos - except that they should live in Lisbon. Finding the people has been a combination of word of mouth and exploring online. Often, we only find the person the day before we film them. As we have become a little more known, people have begun to reach out to us to be featured too.
One thing they have in common is feeling genuinely “Lisboeta”. Do you feel that Lisbon's essence is intrinsically down to this mix of cultures?
Stephen - Lisbon is a great mix on cultures and nationalities. And multiculturism is a great thing. But we would like to make more videos about the really authentic Lisbon folk. I mean whenever you visit any city, you want to really discover where its soul and history is.
Rita - Such a mixture of cultures makes the present Lisbon. Perhaps it was always this way. I’m one of the foreigners who was passing through the city, fell in love with it and spread my roots.
Do you already feel like a “Lisboeta”?
Stephen - I've only been here 9 months. I think I need to do more to earn my stripes. I could start by making a better effort at learning the language.
Rita - Honestly, it’s hard for me to understand the true definition of Lisboetas. Living here little over a year now I still feel as if it’s my second week of a holiday. Every now and then I come across new streets, neighborhoods and people. Lisbon is always a city that surprises. I feel this is part of the magic that attracts travelers to settle here.
All these people are connected to different jobs or passions. Is there anyone in particular you'd like to interview next?
Stephen - I would really like to mix it up. I'd love to capture a dram driver, or a taxi driver. I'd even like to do someone who sweeps the street. Everyone has a story I feel. The whole project is a good exercise for any documentary skills I might possess. I would like to push myself more by really digging into people’s stories and personalities. That said, I think it would be amazing to capture some footballers, being a big football fan myself.
What would you say to a friend who is thinking of visiting Lisbon? What can't he not miss? / What's absolutely unmissable?
Stephen - Lisbon center is a great size. I like that it's not too big. At the same time, there always seems like new pathways and streets to discover. It's like a labyrinth. Or a maze. My advice would always be, just wonder and get lost. Unquestionably the views are the most incredible. And if you can find a good rooftop bar to go with one, you'll be in good shape. I do like a good rooftop bar.
Rita - People are extremely welcoming here and this is what makes any experience so enjoyable. In my opinion nothing can make you feel better than others who put a smile on your face and make you feel like you are part of the city. I would always advise visitors to explore the colorful streets, enjoy the amazing sunsets and viewpoints, try the delicious pastel de nata and breath in the peace of the city.
Do you know other cities in Portugal? Are there any plans to do a People of Porto, People of Coimbra, etc.?
Stephen - I've been to Porto a few days and enjoyed it. But in the Porto v Lisbon playoff I vote for Lisbon. I hope I have lost half our potential audience saying that. Also, I think I could probably do with more time exploring Porto. I also did a huge walk along the cliffs somewhere. I say somewhere because I have no idea where it was. It was utterly stunning though. In Ireland we are so proud of our cliffs. Discovering some of them in Portugal, I feel a bit embarrassed now.
Your project has been on board TAP aircraft since 1 March. What feelings and expectations do you have about that?
Stephen - When considering where our videos could best be viewed, I've always felt they would be perfectly suited to an airline. I mean, what better way to learn about Lisbon or get a sense about the people of Lisbon that through the people themselves. I think the videos in that sense are good for visitors to Portugal in general. That said, we are very excited that our videos are featuring on TAP, and we hope that people enjoy them.