Brigitte Grignet

Chiloé-La Cruz del Sur
Location: Liege, Belgium
Nationality: Belgian/American
Biography: Brigitte Grignet is a Belgian photographer focusing in a more personal type of documentary photography. She studied photography at the International Center of Photography in New York, where she lived for 15 years. She worked with Mary Ellen Mark... read on
Public Story
Chiloé-La Cruz del Sur
Copyright brigitte grignet 2021
Updated 01/07/17

In 1974, I was six. I was in Belgium and I had never heard words such as “exile” or “dictatorship.” My mother had a pupil, a Chilean girl who had just escaped the regime of dictator Pinochet. Everything about her was unfamiliar to me: her language, why she had to leave her country…even her name. Years later, I came across an article about Chile. I was surprised to see that the country looked nothing like I had imagined. I decided it was time to see it for myself

In 2002, I set off to explore the country. After three weeks, I ended up on an island called Chiloé. When the tower of the church of Chonchi fell on my rental car, I was rescued by some Chilotes and adopted by a family. I ended up returning again and again.

Chiloé is an archipelago 1,100 kilometers south of Santiago. Its isolation has created a strong sense of identity and community. The island has developed its own mythology and culture, reflecting the constant struggle with the land and the sea.

Change has always come slowly to Chiloé. But with the arrival of new technologies, Chilotes are beginning to see changes in their economy and their relationships. Logging, tourism, and the salmon industry’s contamination of the water, have slowly consumed Chiloé’s solitude and traditional way of life. This is why I wanted to collect stories of a way of life that may soon disappear.  

There is tremendous beauty in this life connected to nature and tradition, but it is a life of hardships. In many communities, there is no hot water, no doctor, no cars. On the other hand, people have cell phones, though they might not have electricity to charge them. People survive through farming, fishing, collecting seaweed. Some modernization could make life easier; the challenge is to make a transition while keeping identity alive. 

These are the stories of an island that believes in ghost ships, witches, God, and the power of community. A land of rainbows and potatoes—a place where church towers help fishermen come home.


Also by Brigitte Grignet —


New York-This is not America

By Brigitte Grignet / New York, New York, United States — I said: “New York is not America”. He laughed sarcastically. I hung up. No point. Great timing..


By Brigitte Grignet — In 2016 I set off to explore Poland, after a conversation I had with a Polish friend, who was wondering..


By Brigitte Grignet / POLAND — In 2016 I set off to explore Poland, after a conversation I had with a Polish friend, who was wondering..

The Children of the Sea

By Brigitte Grignet — IBIS was created in 1906 by King Albert in Ostend (Belgium) to offer a home and a maritime school to orphan..


By Brigitte Grignet / OAXACA — After the years spent with Mary Ellen Mark, Mexico only existed in black and white in my world. It was..

Colombia-El Corazón del Mundo

By Brigitte Grignet / La SIerra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia — In the Sierra Nevada, in the northern mountains of Colombia, the guerilla is hiding. The paramilitary is..

The Damned and the Beautiful

By Brigitte Grignet / Aysen, Patagonia, Chile — Aysén, Chile, a region of some 92.000 souls, sits in one of the most remote and undisturbed areas of the..


By Brigitte Grignet / Como Lake, Lombardy, Italy — There is always a persistent noise, somewhere, despite the neverending quest for being fully in the..


By Brigitte Grignet / Palestine, The Occupied Territories, Israel — The sound of the muezzin at four am. Some sheep grazing in the meager fields at the outskirts of the city...

Here & Now

By Brigitte Grignet — Within me, I have childhood memories and frozen moments. From evenings spent looking at family albums, these..

Troubled Life-Northern Ireland

By Brigitte Grignet / Northern Ireland, Europe — « Going to Derry is like traveling to an exotic country, » Anne says. Anne lives in Letterkenny, in the..

Welcome 2016

By Brigitte Grignet / Belgium — WELCOME Since the dawn of time people have migrated. There are now more displaced people and refugees than..
Join us
For more access