Alejandra Carles-Tolra

Artist, Educator, Facilitator
The Bears
Location: London, UK
Nationality: Spanish
Biography: Alejandra Carles-Tolra is a visual artist, educator and participatory photography facilitator from Barcelona based in London. Questions regarding what defines our identities and the role the group plays in our search for belonging drives her... MORE
Public Story
The Bears
Copyright Alejandra Carles-Tolra 2023
Updated Jan 2015
Topics Documentary, Female Identity, Fine Art, identity, Portraiture, Rugby, Sports

‘The Bears” is a series of photographs portraying womxn who are part of Brown University’s rugby team. While being part of an intellectually exigent environment, these students have decided to also join a very physically demanding sport. A sport that will introduce them to a community that will not only challenge them to push their limits as athletes, but will strengthen them both physically and mentally. I am drawn to portraying the young womxn who join the team, not only as a sport, but as a way to be introduced to a community with a strong identity where they can find an identity of their own. 

Women who join the sport are commonly pictured to fit a masculine stereotype. But what does it mean to be a woman who plays rugby? The portraits aim to bring a broader understanding of the group identity. Described as a sport of "elegant violence", rugby has a complex identity that is often simplified. Through this work, I'm interested in enhancing the dualities that define the sport and the athletes: violence and grace, weakness and strength, masculine and feminine.

In 2016, for the first time, women's rugby competed at the Olympics level. In addition, after 37 years, last season Brown University elevated women’s rugby from the club level to full intercollegiate varsity status (becoming the 10th university to do so in the U.S. and the 2nd Ivy League). We are now witnessing a historic event that celebrates the persistence and successful effort of female athletes, and challenges the meaning of masculine sports.


Glorious Sport
Redefining Rugby: Alejandra Carles-Tolra discusses her images of tenacious women’s rugby players who are tackling homophobia head-on
By Megan Wallace

Journal of International Photography
Performance, enhancing, gender
By Daniel Tierney

It's Nice That
Alejandra Carles-Tolra captures a women’s rugby team from all angles
By Rebecca Fulleylove

The Guts and the Glory of Being on an All-Female Sports Team
By Sarah Waldron

The Independent
Women's varsity rugby: Getting up close with The Bears
By Rachael Pells

What Life Is Like on Brown University’s All-Female Rugby Team
By David Rosenberg
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Also by Alejandra Carles-Tolra —


WWB Photobook

Alejandra Carles-Tolra / Array

participatory workshops

Alejandra Carles-Tolra

A 2021 Playlet

Alejandra Carles-Tolra

The light coming in

Alejandra Carles-Tolra

The Light Coming In

Alejandra Carles-Tolra

Where We Belong

Alejandra Carles-Tolra

Fall In

Alejandra Carles-Tolra / Boston, MA

Saving Face

Alejandra Carles-Tolra / Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

A Place Like Home

Alejandra Carles-Tolra / MISSION HILL, BOSTON, MA
The Bears by Alejandra Carles-Tolra
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