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Pilar photographed by Lauren Forster
Approximately 5 million Venezuelans have left the country in recent years; the exodus is one of the largest mass migrations in the world, fuelled by shortages of gas, food and medicines as well as violent repression by the government.
As a result of the ongoing crisis, Pilar’s daughter, son-in-law and grandson were forced to leave the country; 7 months later Pilar joined them in the UK leaving everything behind; her house, car, possessions, the family business and most importantly, the rest of her family.
Pilar has settled well in the UK, but naturally feels divided. In her words:
“When you leave your country and leave your family, your heart is divided. Every time I hug my grandson and feel the love and tenderness from him, I remember the reason for being here."
Central to any work with people is building relationships. My practice usually involves me spending significant time developing relationships with my subjects, getting to know them personally and understand the issues that they are facing on an emotional level.
Taking someone’s portrait is an intimate process, and you need to be able to connect with the person that you are photographing in order to have an emotional exchange.
Due to the pandemic, Pilar and I were unable to meet for some time, but this actually worked to our advantage in a way as we had time to connect and build up a trusting relationship.
We spent time exchanging emails and these conversations are what led to the images that we made. I was able to understand her with a deeper sensitivity and awareness and I knew very early on that I wanted to capture the love that she has for her family.
Pilar is a remarkable woman who is incredibly positive and strong. What has been clear to me throughout this process is the abundance of love that Pilar has for her family, and the sacrifices that have been made for a better life and opportunities. It may not be so important ‘where we have come from’ as much as ‘what we might become’.
For Pilar, communities and home are not defined by borders or geographical divisions. In her words:
“We have a wonderful ability to adapt. I don't think about the geographical divisions, the countries. I only think of a wonderful God who created a perfect world for all of us to live in and be happy. Those small things and at the same time great things are what make us feel at home.”
“I like to walk, see the sky, the trees, the sea, the sand, the mountains, the flowers, the sun or the rain, everything I see amazes me and breathe deeply while I thank God for life. Where do I belong? I belong wherever I am.”