Treading Personal Geography, a Portuguese Photographer Captures the Grief and Hope of Diaspora

Dec 6, 2016 12:24AM

Two girls—sisters or friends, perhaps, in matching school uniforms—stand side by side on the sidewalk in front of a battered house. In another image, a girl turns away from the camera, surveying a cityscape strewn with rubble.

These girls are the subjects of “Fieldworks,” a series of photographs by Mónica de Miranda, the Portuguese photographer was recently nominated for the Novo Banco Photo Prize and the Prix Piclet Photo Award—testaments to the raw power of the images she creates.

Though she was born in Portugal, de Miranda’s parents are Angolan, and she describes herself as an artist working in the diaspora. She’s a researcher, too, holding a PhD in visual art, and her work centers on what she calls “urban archaeology and personal geographies.”

In the catalog for the Novo Banco Photo exhibition, curator Gabriela Salgado—herself a transplant into another world, born in Argentina but living in London—compared de Miranda’s work to “a travel diary, a patchwork of memories, desires, projected homes and imagined communities in flux that trigger personal catharsis.” There is what Salgado calls an “acute sense of impermanence…suggested by the shifting of places, moods, countries and landscapes.”

As for the young girls, de Miranda doesn’t say who they are, exactly. Gracefully long-legged, with dark hair woven into braids, they appear to be of African descent, like the artist. We can guess at their lives, their memories, the homes they come from. At the same time, we sense the impermanence of things: We can imagine a future for the girls, perhaps in another place, given how their environments seem to be marked by change.

Yet the girls are not just characters in a scene; they’re stand-ins for the viewer, allowing us a moment to think about our own lives. That’s the power of de Miranda’s work. Luckily, we’ll be seeing more of it now that the artist signed with Sabrina Amrani in Madrid, with her first solo show at the gallery slated for June 2017.

—Bridget Gleeson

See more artists from Sabrina Amrani on Artsy.