While growing up in my native Venezuela, I used to collect family photographs, organize the family’s photo albums and gather friends’ photographs to make little books. On the side, I would religiously buy the National Geographic magazine, which I considered the most amazing window to the world.
Besides my passion for the visual arts, I always had a genuine interest in social issues and human behavior. In fact, I was supposed to study sociology back in Venezuela. I grew up in a middle-class family and neighborhood in Caracas, although, from the age of 13 or 14 I wanted to be outside riding the public buses and metro around the city. While this may be normal in any other Western country, Caracas is known for violence and using public transportation isn’t a common thing for a teenager, especially a girl. I sometimes went by myself to museums and exhibitions in West Caracas and other times I would hang around there with friends. I loved the experience of seeing other people outside my orderly neighborhood. I found joy in the loud music played on the buses, sweating while waiting in line, always being alert for pickpockets on the way and even arguing with the bus driver for not stopping when I requested it. These contrasts made me love my heritage.
When I moved to England I encountered a big difference. Brighton felt so small and safe and it allowed me to focus on my passion for photography. I could walk around with my camera–I was terrified to do that in Caracas! I took tons of photos while traveling throughout Europe, and so I applied to a two-year program to study photography, a course that became a rich foundation in my understanding for photography regarding traditional printing, and analog and digital photography.
At university, I decided to pursue a degree in photojournalism. My interest in social issues continued and I truly felt I could combine two subjects that I was very passionate about; photography and journalism. Aside from my passion for photography itself, I also felt I could contribute positively to Venezuela’s lengthy political turmoil. By becoming a photojournalist, I could give a voice to the overlooked stories. I kept looking for characters and narratives, seeking similar stories to the ones I once encountered on a bus ride back in Caracas. Eventually, in my last year of University, I flew to Santiago, Chile, where I worked with an NGO. Prior to graduation I also wrote my dissertation on Mexico’s different photographic views—foreign and local. The works of Graciela Iturbide, Tina Modotti and Lola Álvarez Bravo inspired me to continue my research in a more contemporary voice, perhaps one closer to my own reality.
Later, I began to contribute to a London‐based magazine, Ventana Latina, which promotes Latin American culture in Europe. I soon realized it wasn’t easy to find women photographers from Latin America. The photographic representations of Latin America have often been documented by outsiders’ views of the continent, and most of the times, those voices have belonged to men. I questioned this contemporary reality, first as a woman and later as a Venezuelan citizen. I wanted to show that local representations deserve equal attention.
The region is commonly associated with negative stereotypes such as violence, poverty and corruption. While those stereotypes hold certain truths, we cannot let them define the country in the eyes of its people or elsewhere.
In January 2015, I embarked on my project, “Foto Féminas,” an online project that promotes the works of Latin American and Caribbean photographers. I hope to offer a wide selection of works, which can contribute to a more horizontal view. It’s important to understand and consider each individual’s reality and interests in order to find a broader understanding of a place.
“Foto Féminas” has already published 36 photographers from 12 different countries across the area. A selection of works has taken part in exhibitions in Argentina, China, Ecuador, and Guatemala. We have also organized talks and projections in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela, the U.K., and the U.S. Most importantly, we have created a community of contemporary, working female photographers. Taking part in “Foto Féminas” has been incredibly inspiring for me. I have learned so much from each individual story and I’ve also learned about the cultures of my neighboring countries. Despite our geographical distances, I believe we share a lot of similarities and I look forward to continuing to find new stories to share with the world.