BY: CONNOR BRIAN
All images © Kevin Faingnaert
Follow the rainbow-painted signs and after a three-hour hike shaded by thick forest canopy you will reach a clearing of green sweeping hills bathed in golden sunlight—a place untouched by capitalist ideals, where technology is virtually nonexistent. Far up in the mountains of El Bierzo, Spain, exists the quant eco-village of Matavenero, a village of only 60 people, who live sustainable lifestyles untainted by the need for money. Instead they choose to be self sufficient, giving them the freedom to pursue the most authentic version of themselves.
Photographer Kevin Faingnaert was fascinated by the idea of choosing practicality over luxury and spent over a month getting back to his grassroots and learning more about the villagers.
“Some couldn’t live with the pressure of modern, efficiency-based society, some just wanted to live closer to nature and the land, some wanted to escape personal problems, some are looking for a peaceful place to work on their art,” he says.
Each person lives off their own self-determination, relying on the land for resources and the sun for energy. It’s a kind of mentality that forces one to start living in harmony with their neighbours and surroundings, far from the conveyor belt mentality of modern society that assumes the food they consume merely grows on the shelves of grocery stores. Faingnaert describes the village as a genuine “co-existence” where minds breathe unpolluted air.
Matavenero has a library, a bakery, a small school, a bar, and a communal sauna, and for many overwhelmed by the blue cast of their LCD screen, seems like a living dream.
Careful not to trip over their glorified vision of ecological utopia, those who wish to live here should understand that freedom requires strength. It requires you to live deliberately, but if a little sweat and blood allows you to escape that isolation chamber you call a cubicle, perhaps it is exactly what you need. No longer defined by your efficiency and consumption, out here in nature, you can begin to define yourself.