Poupées (“dolls” in french) is a documentary photography project which proposes a reflection on the concept of identity and freedom of young gypsy girls of the suburb of La Cité of Perpignan, France, a district exclusively gypsy considered one of the poorest in the city. With the intention to draw a visual testimony of the young gypsy female of this community, I’ve fixed my gaze on the preliminary steps of their transition to adulthood, in a desire to show the wildest side of their existence, in contrast with restrictions that they will have to shoulder once they lose their virginity and become women.
I entittled this project “dolls” as a metaphor associated with the gypsy patriarchal system. On one hand, the title alludes to the innocence and purity characterizing the universe of female children, which is in close connection with the honour and virginity; on the other side, it refers to the concept of woman-object through the early hypersexualization of these girls while, paradoxically, they have to live with the essential standards of their tradition. Adolescence comes to an end after "handkerchief testing” which will prove the virginity and honesty of the girl at the hands of the ajuntaora. The loss of virginity is a rite of passage that will end in a little world of spontaneity and independence, marking the entrance into a steeped submission and servitude reality. In this context, I share the gaze of the activist feminist Jessica Valenti: "what is the difference between worshiping women for a sexual cause or put them on the pedestal of purity? In both cases, the value of women lies in its ability to satisfy men, modeling her sexual identity in relation to what men want*". So, this is the two sides of the same coin that responds to a social identity associated with the commodification and control focused on women.
Aesthetically, I made the choice to stand out of the dramatic formalism of white and black. I wanted to capture the happy gypsy through the intensity of the light and colors. So, I approach subjects of this kind from an aesthetically neutral point of view, to not fall into the extreme drama, given that women, despite everything, live their situation naturally. This project is important to me to talk “to the side” of the gypsy woman through the prism of a warm and human look, in order to show a cultural reality and dilute the border of otherness of an ethnic group victim of stigma, discrimination and social exclusion.
Poupées is the first part of an ongoing project started in October 2016 in Perpignan, France. Actually I’ve just started a new serie working individually with Eva, a sixteen years old girl from this comunity who has a critical look at her own gypsy culture, with the aim to accompany her in the diferent stages of her life with an intimate and personal approach.__________________
*Valenti, Jessica. The Purity Myth. Berkley. Seal Press. 2009