This project was produced in the island of Ithaparica, Bahia, off the northeastern coast of Brazil. The island is about a forty minute boat ride away from Brazil's third biggest city Salvador, which was once the largest port of slave trade in the new world. For this project I photographed Afro-Brazilian women who lived on the island. Their ages vary between twenty-seven and ninety years old. In this series, titled ‘Maria’, there are twenty-two photographs.
I was very inspired by the African culture and with the personalities of the people in the island. Although Ithaparica is one the poorest in Brazil's rural northeast, people seemed very eccentric and sophisticated.
The women's garments are made out of fabric I bought in local fabric stores and of placenta and other animal parts that I bought in Salvador's São Joaquim market. I was particularly interested in placenta because it’s a female organ that develops during birth. Most of the clothes are inspired from the Baroque era and Portuguese colonial style architecture in Salvador. There is also lots of draping - similar to biblical statues.
I wanted to title the project 'Maria' for several reasons. As a female name it is very commonly used in Portuguese. It is the first or second name of my many subjects. In Bahia, people have extremely long legal Portuguese names - and no one really uses them, remembers them or even knows how to sign them.
The icon of 'Maria' Jesus' mother is ever present in Bahia. Women wear necklaces with her face on them and have posters and cards with her image plastered on the walls of their homes and stores. Obviously none of my models look like these traditional depictions of 'Maria', so I am referring to this religious icon when I call the women 'Maria'. The title is also a commentary on the colonial process of renaming (or creating an identity for) people.