Esclavas de la Virgen Dolorosa (EVD) is a Spanish congregation of catholic nuns initially founded in 1935 as a residence for women with intellectual disabilities. Two of their centres are based in Galicia, a region in the north of Spain, which is also my homeland. I first visited the congregation in July, 2014.
The motivation behind the work was to reflect on disability as a social construction, determined by a historical definition of the ‘normal’, healthy individual. I became interested in the function that these groups have in a society's collective imagination and the repetition of similar formulas of exclusion throughout history. My impulse was to challenge the structural separation between the women in the congregation and myself, not by being there as a worker, carer or a photographer, but with the intention of sharing a reciprocal space that could result in both encounter and collision.
With the progressive secularisation of the institution, these photographs chart a moment where the habits and daily life of the community are changing. A conversation regarding where the limits lie in relation to social participation, both as individuals and as a group, was opening up within the organisation. In the summer of 2016 I started to find ways to make images in collaboration with the women that live and work there. It was through a series of theatre workshops organised as afternoon activities, that a common space for this encounter flourished. By playing and representing short scenes I realised the performances were usually related to social rituals and conventions that the group was somehow excluded from. With an approach that ranged from the more observational, to performative, the photographs ultimately aim to represent universal ideas, such as love, sorrow, joy or sacrifice.
Gracias Montse, Laura, Camila, Susi L., Susi P., Angelica, Mercedes, Concha, Celia, Margarita, Maria, Julia, Eva, Sandra, Emma, Pili C., Pili B., Dolores, Marta, Begoña, Ana I., Nuria y Vicky