Born in Cochabamba, Bolivia, photographer Marisol Mendez uses her photographic practice to engage with social and political issues that continue to plague her country. Confronted with the effects that Catholicism, classism, and whitewashing have on the representation of womanhood in Bolivia, and the constant under and misrepresentation of indigenous and mestizo women, she conceived her project MADRE to challenge this embedded machismo, and to celebrate the country’s diversity and complexity.
In the series, family photos act as windows to the past but are deconstructed to subvert meaning and add layers of symbolism. In the portraits, women are depicted as multiple confronted versions of Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary, but repossessed to reflect Andean traditions. Piecing together past memories and current observations the project explores the influence of race and religion in shaping the perception and representation of Bolivian women.
Situated between documentary and fiction, the images describe an existence interconnected by physical and mythological elements, a dance between the ‘Hanan Pacha’ (the upper world in Incan mythology) and the ‘Uku Pacha’ (the under or inner world) where women experience potentiality, change, loss, decline, and death.