By Mark McConville
THE ISOLATION and loneliness of villages with a population of 10 people or less has been captured in a series of striking photographs.
Incredible images show the few remaining people, most of them elderly, as they go about their simple lives without modern technology such as televisions and mobile phones.
Other black and white pictures show people posing for the camera or gazing longingly outside, perhaps waiting for their relatives to return.
These people still living in the villages of the Portuguese region, Tras os Montes, were captured on camera by Portuguese photographer Ricardo Ramos.
He joined a young team from the Proximity to the Isolated Elderly project. The goal is to ward off loneliness and help improve the quality of the elderly’s life.
“The people I’ve met have fantastic stories that I could listen to for hours,” said Ramos.
“The natural light in these houses is very good. Usually they are old houses, with small windows and a fireplace.
“People like my photos, but they are also sad by the reality. In the 70s and 80s, these villages had between 100-200 people and today only five or 10 people remain.”
“This region and the personality of the people is very moving. They have little, but they always have something to give you. There is simply no wickedness in their hearts.”
There have been cases of only 1 person living in a whole village. As the young population left a long time ago in search of a ‘better life’, the small villages are mainly lived in by the elderly.
Many of the villages are untouched by technology; television and cell phones are a rarity. People mainly survive from agricultural production and sheep farming. During winter, these elderly people spend days or even weeks without leaving the house because of the cold.
The photographs are in black and white, which Ramos hopes forces the viewer to wrap himself in the mystery and immerse himself in the scene.
Ramos simply walked into people’s homes and chatted with them, before asking if he could take their picture.
Ramos believes that loneliness among the elderly is a problem and that it can kill them faster. The current desertification of Tras-os-Montes also doesn’t help the situation, as almost all schools are now closed and the villages have been turned into ghost towns – except for the elderly.