There are many recurring Latin American stereotypes in the mainstream media: from fiery Latinas, sexy senoritas, and coercive lotharios, to violent depictions of the region itself. These two-dimensional portrayals often come from a homogenous Western perspective, and we see far fewer images taken by those who inhabit the continent themselves.
Daiana Valencia and Celeste Alonso came together in 2015 to change this. Combining their dual expertise, the pair created Rueda Photos – a collective focusing on “themes with social context, referring to the territory, the gender issues and the current affairs that are specific to it”.
Since its inception, the collective has completed a number of immensely successful projects. Their first collaborative work was shot in Haiti, where they covered the presidential campaign of Maryse Narcisse in the 2015 elections. The series, Candidate, follows the Fanmi Lavalas party nominee during a period which saw attitudes towards female politicians change in South America. Since then, three of South America’s biggest powers – Chile, Argentina and Brazil – have been governed by women.
The collective’s most recent work, Morenada Porteña, is a photographic essay shot during the celebration of the Virgin of Copacabana in the neighbourhood of Villa Soldati, Buenos Aires. For this particular project, Valencia and Alonso were outsiders, photographing the Bolivian community in Argentina, and this vibrant celebration of their culture. This series offers a glimpse into the world of the little-known Bolivian community in Buenos Aires, who are one of the largest immigrant groups in Argentina.
“We believe in the power of collective work,” say Valencia and Alonso of their success. “Photography is traditionally a very solitary profession, but the fusion of our knowledge and perspectives, and the ability to debate new ideas with one another, certainly makes us more creative.” The collective is part of a wider network of female Latin American and Caribbean photographers, called Foto Feminas, who are working to disrupt traditional depictions of these regions. Veronica Sanchis Bencomo, the founder of the collective, is also one of the judges of Female in Focus, a new award seeking to celebrate female-identifying photographers.
At its core, Rueda Photos values collective storytelling and the importance of working together to dismantle tired stereotypes. “Union is strength,” they explain. “And certain stories are easier to approach as a collective.” Valencia and Alonso believe that elevating stories from local photographers of varying origins is the key to moving forward: “Let us take the reins of our own narrative, and let us be the ones who tell the history of our territories.”