Meet Veronica Sanchis Bencomo, the woman behind Foto Feminas, a platform dedicated to improving the representation of female Latin American and Caribbean photographers across the globe. Growing up in Venezuela, Bencomo was always interested in Latin American photography, and particularly, in photographs by her female peers. But on moving to the UK, where she studied photography at Brighton City College, and then photojournalism at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Swansea, Bencomo noticed that none of these photographers had followed her across the Atlantic.
Representation is everything, and throughout time, it has been notoriously difficult to penetrate the fields of art, music, and literature as a woman. Even more so if you are not from the West. For many years, Bencomo felt that the Latin American continent was too often portrayed by foreigners, and by men. “From a young age I did notice it was difficult to come across women’s works from Latin America and the Caribbean,” she says. “With Foto Feminas, my main motivation was for people to learn more about a contemporary Latin America.”
Bencomo founded Foto Feminas in 2014, as a platform initially existing online, seeking to improve the reach of photographic works by Latin American and Caribbean women. Through monthly features, Bencomo promotes the work of these photographers, highlighting and archiving notable projects, and directing people to their websites. She also organises offline events such as talks and exhibitions.
Over the past four years, Foto Feminas has presented its roster of artists at international photography festivals in Pingyao, Guatemala, San José, and Kolkata. And Bencomo has also been exhibiting the growing collection of photographs, archived in the Maria Cristina Orive library, at book fairs, now showcasing them through physical publications as well as online.
“The idea is to create a strong voice, so people can find multiple visions and reflections of this region,” Bencomo explains, “I also hope that as a community we can become stronger. Therefore, there will be more chances for each individual photographer to be noticed.”
Bencomo admits: “Foto Feminas really occurred as an organic response to my own reality.” Although she is a photographer herself, and the initiative is not entirely separate from her own work, her main goal is to improve the representation of a wider collective, broadening the variety of images, and artists, we see around the world. By unifying as a collective, and improving the reach of this community, Bencomo can also increase her own opportunities as an individual.
“I also hope that through my curatorial selection, people can gather different realities and perspectives from our region,” she says. “So often photographs of Latin America focus on violence or poverty. At times, it seems like this is what is expected, but there are many other stories to be told.”
Breaking down these preconceptions and shifting stereotypes is key to Bencomo’s vision, and at the core of all her work. It is also part of the reason why she views photography as such an important medium. “I think photography has the power to make people reflect upon ideas and actions,” she says, “Seeing different approaches to a topic is democratic and healthy to one’s understanding of the world.”
Entries to Portrait of Humanity are now closed. Shortlisted & winning photographers will be announced in May 2019. Learn more about the award here