• Alejandra Carles-Tolra Photo

    Alejandra Carles-Tolra

  • Location: London, UK
    Nationality: Spanish
    Biography: Alejandra Carles-Tolra is a Spanish photographer from Barcelona who just moved from the US East Coast to London in September. Her work examines the relationship between individual and group identity, and how the latter shapes the former.... read on

#MarchingShoes in London

Monday, January 23, 2017 | News

(Unpublished photo/essay)

Last weekend, Sarah Waldron (as a writer) and I (as a photographer) decided to go to the Women's March in London and do a photo/essay. 

You might be aware of #MarchingShoes on Twitter and Instagram, where women were putting up pictures of the shoes they were going to march in. We went to the march to take pictures of the shoes people were wearing and ask them a standard question about politics. The idea was to showcase the diversity of the women marching in a way that is different from standard protest coverage. 

#MarchingShoes is not street style. It is not posing. It is not a quest for fashion Brownie points or personal validation. While the women (and men) photographed at the march were of all ages, races and nationalities, the pictures taken below better articulate a universality: we are all different but all valid. We are unified. 

Please message me directly if interested to see the whole piece for publication.

Winner of the Jerwood / Photoworks Grant

Friday, January 20, 2017 | News | Awards & Features

Beyond excited to announce that I have been awarded a Jerwood Visual Arts / Photoworks grant!

The award means support for time and space to research and develop new work, with access to a significant production fund and mentoring over a year-long period with great artists and critics. 

More info - https://photoworks.org.uk/winners-second-jerwoodphotoworks-awards-announced/


Der Greif Guest Room curated by Shoair Mavlian

Wednesday, January 11, 2017 | News | Exhibitions | Awards & Features

Excited to see my work from "The Bears" selected by Shoair Mavlian from Tate London in Der Greif Magazin's Guest Room online exhibition. 


Installation of "The Bears" in China

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 | News | Exhibitions

"The Bears" are part of the "On Drawing: Apperceive of Liberation" exhibition curated by Lu Mingjun at the Wuhan Art Museum (China). 

- On view until February 9th, 2017 -

Maison Blanche Prix 2016 / Photography Marseille

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 | News | Exhibitions | Awards & Features


Festival of Contemporary Photography

Thrilled to be among the award winners of the Maison Blanche Prix with my series "The Bears". Opening on Thursday October 13th at 6pm.

Julien Lombardi 
Brenda Moreno 
Nicola Lo Calzo 
Alban Lecuyer 
Alejandra Carles Tolra

From 13 October to 4 November 2016.  



"Face It" Remaining Contemporary Portraits Exhibition

Friday, September 30, 2016 | News | Exhibitions

I am very pleased to announce the opening of "Face It" Exhibition, where I present a couple of pieces from my series "Saving Face".

An expanded definition of photographic portraiture is explored in this exhibition of works by 27 renowned artists curated by Lynn Whitney, Andrew Hershberger & Jacqueline Nathan at Dorothy Uber Bryan Gallery (Bowling Green State University). A catalogue with an introduction by Andrew Hershberger accompanies the exhibition.

In addition, the exhibition will travel to Slocumb Gallery and the Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University in October.  


Interviewed by Broadly / VICE

Thursday, July 21, 2016 | News | Awards & Features

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

Brown University is one of the few colleges that recognize women's rugby as a fully-fledged varsity sport. In "The Bears" photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolra captures the agony and ecstasy of being on an elite college athlete.

Carles-Tolra is on the phone from New York. Until recently, the Spanish photographer was based in New England on North America's east coast. She has now moved to London. But let's rewind a bit: This story starts with a theater-obsessed kid in Barcelona who, fascinated by performance and identity, decides to study it formally at university through sociology.

Read more here!


'The Bears' at Les Nuits De La Photographie in Arles

Thursday, July 7, 2016 | News | Exhibitions

If you're in Les Rencontres de la photographie, Arles my series "The Bears" is being shown tonight at Les Nuits de la photographie as part of a projection by Festival Circulations!

Stop by to see my series and the work of many other photographers!

"Saving Face" Published in World Photo Organization

Friday, June 24, 2016 | News | Awards & Features

 "With most of their faces covered they all become alike, they all become one. ‘Saving Face’ is a collection of portraits taken in the streets of Vietnam that aims to comment on the environmental, beauty and class concerns that are arising in Vietnam’s changing consciousness."


Honorable Mention at Pa-ta-ta Photo Festival in Granada

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 | News | Awards & Features

Thrilled to receive the jury's honorable mention award at
 PA-TA-TA Festival de Fotografia Emergente de Granada for my series "The Bears"! 


"Saving Face" in PhotoEspaña

Thursday, June 9, 2016 | News | Exhibitions

Opening tonight in Madrid! 


09.06 – 23.07.2016

Galeria BAT Alberto Cornejo

No Words is the proposal by Contemporáneos collective, composed by twenty-nine photogra­phers in which the strength of the images makes it superfluous to use words to explain their mean­ing. Ranging from intimate pictures to social por­traits, No Words is the expression of an individual feeling, between the photographer and his work and between the work and the spectator. Strolling through this gallery of images transports one into unsuspected places in the mind, to unusual spots in conduct, to unknown corners of the world and to nostalgic landscapes of memory.



"The Bears" published in The Independent

Wednesday, June 8, 2016 | News | Awards & Features

Women's varsity rugby: Getting up close with The Bears

Alejandra Carles-Tolra followed a group of 30 female college rugby players in order to challenge the concepts of femininity and project the strong identity of women performing in a male-dominated sport

Each college semester, come rain or shine, around 30 of the US’s brightest young women head to the rugby pitch at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, to take part in some “elegant violence”. Face to armpit, gum-shields gurning, The Bears rugby team show physical and mental strength powerful enough to challenge any gender stereotype and have fun in the process.

Read more here

It's Nice That Features "The Bears"

Thursday, June 2, 2016 | News | Awards & Features

Work / Photography

Alejandra Carles-Tolra captures a women’s rugby team from all angles

Words by Rebecca Fulleylove

Photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolra’s project, The Bears portrays Brown University’s women’s rugby team. Having photographed the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps for a previous series, Alejandra wanted to learn more about the experiences of women who perform in male-dominated fields. “I had recently moved from Boston to Providence and after finding out about Brown’s women’s rugby club I began doing research about the team, its history, the group identity and the sport.” Read more here


'Saving Face' Featured in Revista de Arte / PhotoEspaña

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | News | Exhibitions | Awards & Features

Fotógrafos del grupo

Contemporáneos en el Festival Off de

PHotoEspaña 2016

“No words” (sin palabras) es la exposición colectiva con la que la Galería BAT Alberto Cornejo participa en el Festival Off de PHotoEspaña 2016. La muestra reúne los trabajos de veintinueve fotógrafos del grupo Contemporáneo: Marta Areces, Javier Ayuso, César Blay, Álvaro Calvo, Cristina Calvo, Alejandra Carles-Tolrá, Carlos Folgoso, Pedro Galisteo, Rubén García, Nicolás Haro, Oliver Haupt, Andrejs Kovalovs, Jesús Labandeira, Diambra Mariani, Veronika Marquez, Georges Pacheco, Robert Harding Pittman, Rubén Plasencia, Manel Quiros, Fernanda Ramos, Juan Rodríguez, Emilio Roselló, Ely Sánchez, Juan Sande, Gabri Solera, Óscar Vázquez Chambó, Lucia Ybarra, Manuel Zamora y Alfonso Zubiaga.

Read more here
Find out more about Saving Face here 

Video interview with Lensculture about my work

Thursday, May 26, 2016 | News | Exhibitions | Awards & Features

The Bears: Up Close With Women's Rugby

Video interview with

Alejandra Carles-Tolra

Alejandra Carles-Tolra from LensCulture on Vimeo.

Editors' note: We (re)discovered Carles-Tolra and her work at the excellent Circulation(s) FestivalSix years old and going strong, Circulation(s) is a Paris-based festival that showcases young and emerging photographic talents from across Europe. The exhibition will be showing at the 104 in Paris until June 26, 2016. Don't miss the giant, more than life-size presentation of Carles-Tolra's work—truly one of the festival's highlights!

Saving Face published at "Arte a un Click"

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 | News | Awards & Features

Saving Face de Alejandra Carles-Torlá… Una sociedad cambiante

With most of their faces covered they all become alike, they all become one. ‘Saving Face’ is a collection of portraits taken in the streets of Vietnam that aims to comment on the environmental, beauty and class concerns that are arising in Vietnam’s changing consciousness.


I-D Magazine "5 young European photographers to follow"

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 | News | Awards & Features

Thrilled to be included among I-D Vice Magazine

De la crise des réfugiés à la démolition des grands ensemble en passant par le rugby féminin : le 104 célèbre l'engagement de la jeune garde photographique européenne avec le festival Circulation(s).

Read the interview here!

Four Photographers You Can't Miss

Friday, April 1, 2016 | News | Exhibitions | Awards & Features

Move along, there is everything to do at the festival of young photography

From March 26 to June 26, 2016 stands Circulation(s)

Four photographers not to be missed

These ultra-tight portraits in full scrum rugby players, displayed in large format in the nave of Centquatre , question gender stereotypes.Between grace and violence, these young athletes blow up the definition of femininity, giving it back all its ambiguity.

Outdoor exhibition of "The Bears" in Paris

Thursday, March 31, 2016 | News | Exhibitions

As part of the Circulation(s) Festival my series "The Bears" on display at Le Cenquatre (105 Rue d’Aubervilliers) in Paris.   

The exhibition will be up until July 2016. 

Interviewed by L'Oeil De La Photographie

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 | News | Exhibitions

Circulation(s) 2016 : Interview with Alejandra Carles-Tolra

Why did you become a photographer ?

I have always been fascinated with understanding how identities are created and shaped by our surroundings. While studying sociology I felt the need to use a more universal language that would allow me to broaden my audience. Photography became the perfect medium for me to continue exploring and expressing my interests. Questions regarding what defines our identities, the role surroundings and groups we’re part of play, and the threshold between individual and group identity drive and inform my work as an artist

(read more here)

Interviewed by Strange Fire Collective

Thursday, March 3, 2016 | News | Awards & Features

Q&A: Alejandra Carles-Tolra

By Rafael Soldi  |  Published February 25, 2016

Rafael Soldi: Throughout our recent conversation you repeatedly brought up the idea of theatre in relation to your work. What is your relationship to theatre and how does it influence the subjects that you choose to explore?

Alejandra Carles-Tolra: I have always been fascinated with understanding how identities are created and shaped by our surroundings. Growing up I spent many hours taking theatre classes, and for a while that was my way of exploring different personalities, understanding the creation of identities, and the performance of roles.  When an actor or actress performs a role according to a script our perception of their individual identity is shaped through their performance, as they become their character. Similarly, I am interested in exploring and questioning how we perceive people based on the roles they play and the groups they are part of.  In addition, I am visually drawn to theatre’s dramatic lighting, which enhances the performer's’ gestures, and I attempt to bring that into my work.

Read more here -  http://www.strangefirecollective.com/qa-alejandra-carlestolra

ARTE.TV Announces Circulation(s)Festival!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 | News | Exhibitions


Marked by the success of the 2015 CENTQUATRE-PARIS, Traffic Festival (s) returns for a period of three months from 26 March to 26 June 2016.

Dedicated to young European photography, the festival offers to its sixth consecutive year a fresh perspective on Europe through photography from 26 March to 26 June 2016.

Movement (s) is intended to bring out young talents and to show the public the innovative contemporary art.

Following the call for applications distributed to European structures related to the image, over 800 photographers sent their files.Judged on artistic quality, the relevance of their work and personal vision they express, 24 photographers were selected .

More here!

(Photograph from The Bears series)

Featured in Le Bonbon Magazine

Tuesday, December 22, 2015 | News | Awards & Features

Le Bonbon Magazine's new issue is out! Check out the photo shoot I did for their annual Le Bon Look.  


Catalonia’s photographic patrimony now available online

Thursday, December 3, 2015 | News

Now some of the outstanding collections from the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC), the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) and Barcelona’s Photographic Archive, amongst the work of contemporary photographers, are available online at ‘Fotografía a Catalunya’. Out of the 700 photographers that have been selected the work of 77 is now available at the website.  

“This website starts to make Catalonia’s photographic patrimony visible” stated current Catalan Minister for Culture, Ferran Mascarell, and added that by launching this website “a lifelong pending issue has been sorted out”.

The website is the first of the measures set out in the Photography National Plan, approved in 2014.

WPO Meet & Critique

Thursday, November 12, 2015 | News

Excited to show new work at today's WPO Meet & Critique in London led by the British Journal of Photography’s long time editor Simon Bainbridge.

More work coming out soon! (from Saving Face series)


Fotografia Emergente - El Pais

Monday, November 2, 2015 | News

La fotografía emergente

'Contemporáneos. Treinta fotógrafos de hoy', de Rubén García, es una antología que reúne a treinta artistas de diferentes nacionalidades y estilos

Apostar por una nueva generación, intentar dar una mirada fresca a un medio saturado y presentar apuestas únicas e innovadoras. Esas son las intenciones del libro Contemporáneos. Treinta fotógrafos de hoy (publicado por La Fábrica). Con el impulso y la edición del fotógrafo Rubén García, la antología reúne a treinta artistas de diferentes nacionalidades y estilos como fotoperiodismo, reportaje, fotografía de calle, retratos, paisajes y fotografía artística, ofreciendo una vista extensa e inquieta. Entre las temáticas destacan el medio ambiente, las nuevas tecnologías y reflexiones de identidad (...)

(...) Una de las obras que habla de relaciones es la del valenciano César Blay, compuesta por escenas fantaseadas de personajes ficticios como Barbie y Statetrooper, buscando la ternura y los momentos íntimos de las relaciones reales. La barcelonesa Alejandra Carles-Torlá creó una serie llamada The Bears acerca del equipo de rugby de mujeres en la Universidad de Brown (Estados Unidos) en la que cuestiona temas de identidad femenina. “En mis fotografías pongo el enfoque en las dualidades y la elegancia, la fragilidad y la fuerza, lo masculino y lo femenino”, explica la artista.

Read more here

Selected to exhibit at Festival Circulations!

Monday, October 12, 2015 | News

Thrilled to have invited to exhibit at CENTQUATRE-Paris during the sixt edition of festival Circualtion(s) , from 26 mars to 26 juin 2016.

Following a call for applications, 23 young European photographers were selected by a jury of image professionals, led by the godmother of this edition, Agnès B. and the director of CENTQUATRE-Paris, Manuel José Gonçalves.

Discover the work of Bastian Jasper, Mélissa Boucher et Marine De la loge, Hellena Burchard, Alejandra Carles-Tolra, Yoann Cimier, Mark Duffy, Anna Filipova, Teresa Giannico, Pepe Guinea Sanchez, Esther Hovers, Tom Janssen, Laurent Kronental, Brice Krummenacker, Romain Leblanc, Alexandra Lethbridge, Julien Lombardi, Lilly Lulay, Emilia Moisio, Vilma Pimenoff, Mathieu Roquigny, Stefanie Zofia Schulz, Camille Sonally, Katerina Tsakiri, Marta Zgierska au 

Contemporaries. Thirty Photographers From Today by La Fabrica

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 | News

The book "Contemporaries. Thirty Photographers From Today" is now available at La Fábrica!

A volume that gathers together a total of 208 pictures representative of 30 contemporary authors, accompanied by detailed, individualised texts that help us to better understand the artistic techniques of each of them. This book aims to be the first step in a vaster project entitled New International Photography in the 21st Century, which also includes a travelling exhibition around Spain.

Moving to London!

Monday, September 14, 2015 | News

Dear Visura commuity, 

I am happy to announce my studio is now located in London. I am now based in Europe, where I'll be working on new projects. For any inquiries, assignments or just to connect please contact me directly!

Interview with World Photography Organization

Friday, August 7, 2015 | News


"Taking portraits brings me face to face with the subjects that I am interested in learning more about. For me the photographic portrait is a very collaborative and intimate process, and through it I am brought to interact with my subjects." - Alejandra Carles-Tolra

Do you have a photographic philosophy?

Photography is more open-ended than people think. It can be as intriguing as a mystery, as playful as a game, as engaging as a movie, as telling as a book, and as surprising as a gift. When beginning a new project I want to explore something that I don't quite understand, and find answers and a better understanding. I like to approach photography in the same manner as you do a treasure hunt. Keep looking until you find a clue, and then you'll start seeing!

Read more at: http://www.worldphoto.org/community/blogs/as-playful-as-a-game-alejandra-carles-tolra-visura/ 

Contemporaries Book by La Fabrica

Sunday, June 14, 2015 | News

 L A  F A B R I C A 

As part of "Photobook Week" at PhotoEspaña, La Fábrica editorial presented last night the book "Contemporaries. 30 Photographers of Today". A book in which I have the honor to be part of! 

The book is now available in their website

Be Capricious: Photographer of the week

Saturday, May 23, 2015 | News


By Ariel Hahn

Photographer of the Week #81: Alejandra Carles-Tolra

Alejandra Carles-Tolra is a Spanish artist who recently received an MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. We've selected images from her series, "The Bears," a profile of Brown University's women's rugby team. Despite being of staged moments, these photographs have a certain lively dynamism thanks to their sharp focus and concentrated lighting. 

From Carles-Tolra's website: "Her work examines the relationship between individual and group identity, and how the latter shapes the former. Questions regarding what defines it, the role the surroundings play and the threshold between individual and group identity drive and inform her work as an artist." 

She's been featured in numerous publications and has received awards from Lens Culture and Descubrimientos PhotoEspana. For more from Carles-Tolra, please take a look at her website. 

Slate writes about "The Bears"

Monday, April 20, 2015 | News

What Life Is Like on Brown University’s All-Female Rugby Team  

Brown University’s Women’s Rugby Football Club was founded in 1977, eventually becoming a varsity sport in 2013. The active roster of roughly 30 players, many of whom had never previously played rugby, are part of a tight-knit group of student athletes.

Spanish photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolra discovered the Bears while looking to cover a community of women participating in a traditionally male-dominated environment. She was also interested in concentrating on the dynamic of the individual within the collective university setting. Her previous series, “Fall In,” dealt with a group of students enrolled in ROTC and how the military environment influenced their individuality.  

Once she decided to focus on the Bears, Carles-Tolra began to tag along to their practices. Among the many challenges she faced was the fact that she knew very little about rugby, the players had little time to hang out before or after practice because of academic demands, and, most importantly, how to break into the tight-knit group.

Read more here!

Thrilled to be among the 2015 Joop Swart Masterclass nominees

Thursday, April 16, 2015 | News


2015 Joop Swart Masterclass nominees

World Press Photo has revealed the 166 young photographers to be considered for the 2015 Joop Swart Masterclass. Check out the full list here.

My work exhibited at the upcoming Flash Forward Festival

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 | News

Flash Forward FestivalThe Gun Show

An exhibition curated by Maja Orsic, Director of Robert Klein Gallery

The Gun Show brings together photographs of significant visual merit marked by the artists’ inclusion of guns, whether deliberately or incidentally. The intention of this group exhibition is not to say ‘guns are good’ or ‘guns are bad,’ but rather to point out the presence of firearms in our visual and verbal vocabularies and consider their influence on the collective unconscious.

The 13 New England photographers in The Gun Show are not directly engaged in the study of guns, gun culture, or violence. In the context of this show, removed from the artists’ intended series and stories, we look at pictures of guns as pictures about guns. 

National Portrait Gallery - Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Semifinalist!

Thursday, April 2, 2015 | News

Beyond excited to receive a letter from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution letting me know that I have been selected as a semifinalist for the 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition with my portrait "Thomas In The Woods".

Keeping my fingers crossed for the final round of jurying!

Interview with Fotografia Magazine

Monday, March 23, 2015 | News


Who said that rugby is too tough for women? 26 year-old Spanish photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolra has recently completed a series about the women’s rugby team of the Brown University in Providence, USA.

Read on to find out what pushed Alejandra to make this body of work, and to hear her insight into how she approached her project!


Friday, March 20, 2015 | News



Taking inspiration from the story of modern women's rugby and its rise to professional status, Spanish photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolra trains her camera on the team from Brown University, who have taken on the intimidating nickname of 'the Bears'. While attending training sessions that went long into the night she photographed the tackles, scrums and injuries that naturally accompany such a physically demanding sport. Her images give a fantastic insight into what it would be like to be on the field during a match, shoulder to shoulder in a scrum, or squashed between two peoples' thighs in a desperate struggle for control of the ball.

Thread through the series are also sombre portraits of the athletes, who stand dignified against black backgrounds, their mouths stuffed with gum shields and heads encased in head guards. Carles-Tolra says that she is drawn to portraying these athletes in order to "bring a broader understanding of their group identity."

BuzzFeed present The Bears

Thursday, March 19, 2015 | News

This Photographer Captures What It’s Like To Be A Woman In A Male-Dominated Sport

This is Brown University’s women’s rugby club. Photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolra shadowed the team to explore what it’s like being women in a male-dominated field.

“Rugby has a complex identity that is often simplified, and hence the identity of those who play it, especially women, is often also simplified,” she said.

Huffington Post publishes The Bears

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 | News

Powerful Photo Series Shows What It's Like To Be A Rugby Girl

Spanish photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolra captures women in traditionally "masculine" arenas. She has previously photographed female ROTC cadets andmotorcycle riders -- and then she heard about the Brown University Women's Rugby Club.

After introducing herself to the coach and meeting the team, Carles-Tolra attended weekly practices and photographed the players in action. The powerful results show the physical strength it requires to be a woman who plays rugby.

"Through my work, I aim to bring a broader understanding of female athletes' identities, and to what it means to be a woman who performs in a male-dominated field," Carles-Tolra told HuffPost. "I hope the players see my photographs as a celebration of their strength and identity, which I believe play an important role in challenging the meaning of masculine sports, and pushing the boundaries of female identity."

Today in Italian Newspaper Il Post!

Monday, March 16, 2015 | News

Ritratti di rugbiste

Alejandra Carles-Tolra ha fotografato le atlete di una squadra 

universitaria americana, di uno sport considerato convenzionalmente 

"da maschi"

La fotografa Alejandra Carles-Tolra ha realizzato una serie dal titolo The Bears che ritrae le ragazze della squadra femminile di rugby della Brown University di Providence, negli Stati Uniti. I cosiddetti sport “di contatto” (quelli che prevedono appunto un contatto fisico tra persone) vengono ancora solitamente associati ai maschi, nonostante ci siano atlete di talento in tutto il mondo che praticano questi sport: col suo lavoro Carles-Tolra ha voluto raccontare la storia di queste ragazze, che sfidano gli stereotipi per svolgere attività considerate prettamente maschili.

Carles-Tolra ha conosciuto le giocatrici dopo essersi trasferita a Providence, quando la loro non era ancora una squadra universitaria ma un club privato: dopo aver contattato il capitano e aver parlato del progetto all’allenatore, è andata a fotografare spesso la squadra durante le partite, gli allenamenti e negli spogliatoi. Nella primavera del 2013, poi, la squadra è diventata la rappresentativa ufficiale dell’università: in quegli anni sono nate molte altre squadre femminili di rugby a livello universitario in tutti gli Stati Uniti e non solo, fino al riconoscimento e al ritorno del rugby a 7 ai prossimi Giochi olimpici di Rio de Janeiro, nel 2016, con un torneo maschile e uno femminile. Click here to read more!

Bust Magazine writes about "The Bears"

Monday, March 16, 2015 | News

The Female Rugby Players Of Brown University Are Badass Gender Barrier Busting Athletes

Roughly 40 years ago, the U.S. education system took a major step towards equality: We're talkingTitle IX, the amendment specifying that any educational program receiving funds from the federal government cannot discriminate against, deny, or judge a U.S. citizen on the basis of their sex. Because of this, women have been allowed more representation in sports, the sciences, and technical schools. However, gender barriers still exist today and so does the association between testosterone and contact sports—but we didn’t need to tell you that.

 What's interesting is how photographer Alejandra Carles‑Tolra's images of stereotype-busting female athletes from Ivy League teams are helping to change things. Her most recent subject? Brown University’s women’s rugby team. Inspired by the strong women, Carles-Tolra found out about their team while it was still only a club and not yet a varsity sport. Her photographs capture the ridiculous amount of resilience, fitness, and toughness rugby requires while also depicting the femininity of the players. The sweaty injuries and intense stares are a huge component of these p extreme beauty of these players, who are determined to re-write what it means to be a woman.  

Cosmopolitan publishes an article about "The Bears"

Friday, March 13, 2015 | News

18 Badass Portraits of Female Rugby Players Defying Gender Stereotypes 

Alejandra Carles-Tolra decided to photograph Brown University's women's rugby team in celebration of what remarkable athletes they are.

"Through my portraits, I aim to bring a broader understanding of their group identity. Women who join the sport are commonly pictured to fit a masculine stereotype. But what does it mean to be a rugby girl?" she asks on her website. "I'm interested in embracing the dualities that define the spot and the athletes: violence and grace, weakness and strength, masculine and feminine."

The photos are chillingly awesome.

Celebrating women's history month

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 | News


Nearly 40 years ago this month, athletes on the Yale University Women’s Crew team staged a now-historic protest in support of Title IX, an amendment that outlawed sex-based discrimination in education, including collegiate sports. Although we have come a long way since then, varsity sports— especially contact sports— are normally associated with maleness, despite the talented women playing on fields across the world. For The Bears, Providence-based photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolra chronicles the rise of a new group female athletes who are making waves in the Ivy League sports world: Brown University’s Women’s Rugby team.

Carles-Tolra is drawn to women who defy stereotypes to enter into male-dominated activities. Rugby, she explains, is often referred to as a form of “elegant violence,” a sport revered for both the agility and resilience it requires of its athletes. The sport requires a marriage of finesse and force, delicacy and tenacity, blurring the lines between traits that are normally classified either as “feminine” or “masculine.” In her eyes, the Brown Bears cannot be categorized simply as women in a traditionally male world but rather as pioneers who are reshaping the ways in which we view not only contact sports but also conventional modes of femininity. In them, vulnerability and incredible strength exist side by side.

The photographer discovered the team shortly after settling in Providence, when women’s rugby was not yet a varsity sport but a club. After contacting the captain and sitting down with their coach, she became a regular fixture on the field, shooting everything from practice to games. Since the Spring of 2013, they have been playing on a varsity level, and the rest of the world is following suit, beginning with the 2016 introduction of Women’s Rugby in the Olympic Games.

Perhaps more than anything, The Bears is about community, a story of individual women who give of themselves entirely for the good of the team. As these young women grow into themselves, they build a powerful collective that it turn helps to shape the people that they are becoming. Over the course of their four years, they will be tested physically and psychically, pushed to their limits in the pursuit of greatness. “I hope the players see my photographs as a celebration of their strength and identity,” concludes Carles-Tolra.

The Brown Daily Herald writes about "The Bears"

Friday, March 6, 2015 | News


Photographer captures intersections of violence, grace in women’s rugby

Carles-Tolra’s series, “The Bears,” explores stereotypes behind Brown women’s rugby team

By Contributing Writer

For Alejandra Carles-Tolra, photography transforms the world into a theater. It immerses her in otherwise distant cultures and environments, granting her the capacity to capture the story behind an individual’s identity within a two-dimensional space. In her latest series of photographs, “The Bears,” Carles-Tolra simultaneously pursues her fascination with individuals who share a strong group identity and discovers what it would be like to be part of an American university’s sports team: the Brown women’s rugby team.

“The Bears,” which was on display at the Chazan Family Gallery at Rhode Island College from Jan. 28 to Feb. 27, captures the many dualities found in women’s rugby: violence and grace, weakness and strength, masculinity and femininity. Through her photography, Carles-Tolra questions stereotypes of the “rugby girl,” revealing that traditional perceptions of the team as masculine and strong do not necessarily define the individuals within it, many of whom are not just “rugby girls” when taken out of the group context. While Carles-Tolra was exposed to photography from a young age through her father, she only began considering it as a career when studying at the University of Barcelona, she said. As a sociology major, she chose to use photography as a tool to conduct and present her research, she said.

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Artscope Magazine highlights ¨The Bears¨ Exhibition

Friday, February 27, 2015 | News

  • Artscope editors published a write-up about ¨The Bears¨ exhibition in their email blast. Click here to read more. 

The Bears at Chazan Family Gallery 

 in Providence, Rhode Island now through February 27

What does it mean to be a rugby girl? Is there such a thing as a rugby girl? Or are there just girls who play rugby? Photographer Alejandra Carles-Tolra examines these questions and extrapolates the answers in her exhibition The Bears on viewnow through Friday, February 27th in the Chazan Family Gallery at Rhode Island College. The exhibition features a series of photographs portraying women who are a part of Brown University's rugby team. Carles-Tolra works to explore the relationship between individual and group identity, and how the latter shapes the former. Questions regarding what defines it, the role the surroundings play and the threshold between individual and group identity drive and inform her work as an artist. This exhibition features young women who, while being a part of an intellectually exigent environment, have also decided to join a very physically demanding sport—a sport that will introduce them to a community that not only challenges them to push their limits as athletes, but also strengthens them mentally and emotionally. Through these portraits, Carles-Tolra aims to bring a broader understanding to her subjects' group identity. Women who join the sport are commonly pictured to fit a masculine stereotype, and in these photographs Carles-Tolra hopes to enhance the dualities that define the sport and the athletes: violence and grace, weakness and strength, masculine and feminine. Alejandra Carles-Tolra is a Spanish photographer from Barcelona, Spain, living in the US East Coast. She received a BA in Sociology from the University of Barcelonaand an MFA in Photography at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally, most recently at CNNPhoto Center NW in Seattle, Valid Foto BCN Gallery in Barcelona, and The New York Photo Festival. She has received several awards and mentions and has taught photography at The University of New HampshireBryant University and Massachusetts College of Art and Design, among other institutions.

The Bears Exhibition @Juxtapoz Magazine

Thursday, February 26, 2015 | News

Juxtapoz Magazine published a write-up on "The Bears" exhibition currently on view at The Chazan Family Gallery in Rhode Island College. 

Click here to read the article.

Installation shots of "The Bears" Exhibition

Friday, February 20, 2015 | News

This is the last week to see "The Bears" by Alejandra Carles-Tolra.

An exhibition curated by Juan Jose Barboza-Gubo at The Chazan Family Gallery in Rhode Island College.

On view until 2/28.


"Nueva fotografía internacional en el siglo XXI" Exhibition

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 | News

Work from the series "Fall In" is included in this exhibition at the Centro Municipal de las Artes de Alcorcón (CMA) in Madrid. Curated by Ruben Garcia, it shows the work of 25 international contemporary photographers. 

The work will be on view until February 27th. 

The Bears Exhibition - Opening & Artist Talk

Monday, February 2, 2015 | News

Please join us for the opening of the upcoming exhibition, "The Bears" by Alejandra Carles-Tolra, at The Chazan Family Gallery at Rhode Island College. 

The artist will be giving a lecture about her work at 5pm at the Lecure Hall, and attending the opening reception right after. 

Work at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center

Saturday, January 31, 2015 | News

Open Call NNE (North Northeast)

January 10 - February 7, 2015

I am excited to have been selected to be part of BMAC’s latest juried exhibition. Selected by juror Richard Klein, exhibitions director of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, from among more than 400 applicants from throughout New York and New England, the exhibition features 38 artists.


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