• AREVALO G. Ana Maria

Días Eternos

Since 2017 until 2019 Ana María Arévalo Gosen undertook a reckless project. She photographed women in pre-trial detention centers in Venezuela. They are prison establishments anchored in the first decades of the 20th century. When people were imprisoned in inhumane conditions. Anyone who thinks that this happened a hundred years ago makes a mistake. The images she took with her Leica in detention centers around several cities in Venezuela show evidence of the scandalous violation of the Human Rights.

It is a body of work that gives evidence of one of the root causes of the crisis in Venezuela. The Justice System does not work equally for everybody. On the contrary, it takes away the rights of the poorest and the most vulnerable members of the society, the women.

Deaths due to malnutrition, infectious diseases and riots. Severe overcrowding and extreme precariousness of sanitary facilities. Lack of medical assistance, absence of sports activities and idle time occupation. Cases of violence and torture. There is an spirit of hoplesness inside these facilities. The families abandon the impersonated women once they are inside the system. Or they are detained far away from their homes. This has huge implications in the life of the prisoners. From their families comes the food they eat everyday. Otherwise, they count on the generosity of the other prisoners to share their food. Or die from hunger. In this context of deprivation, detainees are in a very vulnerable situation.

Their stay in these centers should not be prolonged more than 45 days. The reality is that the procedural delays can last for months or even years.

From the XX century, documentary photography demonstrates the power of images to show contradictory facts in a society. Mrs. Arévalo Gosen leaves through her camera a testimony of the injustices that disturb her. That is why, when her work was recognized by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Women Photograph in 2018, she found a way to make visible the misfortunes of Venezuelan women detained in preventive centers. In her work, there are photographs of prisoners lying on skinny mattresses they use as beds. They do not pose for the camera. They spend their time in a deranged inactivity. She catches a woman who uses a bucket of water as a toilet. Or half-naked inmates, including pregnant women, queuing to shower in a makeshift bathroom. She captures legs and arms intertwined. There are bodies with scars left on the skin when self-inflicted physical damage. There are photos of faces of intense sadness, bewildered looks and afflicted gestures. She also focuses on the walls with drawings of hearts as a substitute for noble sentiments. There are backpacks hanging along the perimeter of the prison that seem to warn that their owners are only passing through.

She spends days in the cells with these women. They share their experiences with her, she recounts hers too. She is looking for intimacy and trust. Then, she puts her camera to work.

They are women of modest origins. Their biographies have been marked by family abandonment, sexual abuse, violent treatment. Although they have known love, the life of narrowness has not granted them a moment of truce. They are accused of drug smuggling, robbery, kidnapping, infanticide, terrorism or homicide. Having a second chance in their lives is a recurring idea that almost everyone has in mind.

Faced with this dreadful prison reality, a mandatory task of public debate and political action in Venezuela, as well as in Latin American countries, is to contribute to the urgent establishment of penitentiary institutions that do not violate the Human Rights of detainees. Being a women means to preserve a human uniqueness: the ability to feel empathy, solidarity and understanding for the other.

AREVALO G. Ana Maria

Ana Maria Arévalo.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela 1988.
Based in Bilbao, Spain

Due to the Venezuelan crisis, in 2009 Ana decided to move to Toulouse, France. She lived and studied there 4 years. First, she continued her studies in Political Sciences at the IEP. In 2012, she went to the "école supérieure de photographie” (ETPA) where she graduated from Praticien Photographe.

In 2011 she met a family of Rumanian gypsies in Toulouse. Over a period of two years she learned the principles of documenting the life of other humans with them. "Les Gitans de Toulouse" is the beginning of a work that will mark her style.

From there on, Ana uses photography as a visual narrative documenting long-term stories and in-depth research about humans.

Ana moved to Hamburg in 2014. Since then, she works as a freelance photojournalist.

In 2017, she went back to the place she still calls "home", Venezuela. She started to spend long periods of time documenting the current crisis, specifically the implications of the malfunctioning Justice System in Venezuela and how it affects the society.

The most challenging piece of work she had done is called "The Meaning of Life". It is an intimate story about her husband’s fight with testicular cancer. Which she uses to create awareness about this disease.

Her work has been published in international medias. Reuters Wider Image, The New York Times, Leica Fotografie International Magazine, DUMMY Magazine, Wordt Vervoldt, Libération, El Pais Semanal, Der Spiegel, El Nacional and others.