Leticia Valverdes, Dear Ana – Collector Daily

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2021 by Hurtwood Press (here). Hardcover (23.5 x 21 cm), 204 pages, with 85 photographs and archive images. Includes essays by the artist, Octavia Bright and Ângela Ferreira. Design by Billie Temple. (Cover and distribute the plans below.)

Comments/Background: dear Ana is a photo book by Brazilian photographer Leticia Valverdes, and offers an intimate and moving journey to the homeland of the artist’s grandmother. The project began during Valverdes’ residence in Portugal, the place where his grandmother was born, but left in 1921 at the age of one and a half, when the family emigrated to Brazil. One of Ana’s big dreams was to visit Portugal again, and in her later years, confused by the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, Ana began to believe that she still had friends in her place of residence. birth. Eleven years after his grandmother’s death, Valverdes visited the small village of Mundão in northern Portugal, where his grandmother was born.

Ana wanted to become a pianist, but her father only allowed her to be a seamstress, and sometimes she was allowed to be a model without revealing her face. Valverdes was born and raised in São Paulo and was very close to her grandmother. During their visits to local farmers’ markets, the grandmother would often touch various fabrics and explain to Valverdes the differences between their textures. “My grandmother wanted a better life for me. She wanted me to have choices she never had, she wanted me to marry a man I loved, and most of all she wanted me to follow my dreams. The book was published exactly 100 years after Ana’s departure from Portugal, and Valverdes received the prestigious Via Arts award for this series.

The book’s design uses elements that Valverdes associated with his grandmother: old family photographs, various fabrics, laces, and handwritten notes. dear Ana feels like an intimate family album. The flyleaves show ships sailing by, a visual metaphor for Ana’s journey. The visual narrative of the book is also interspersed with poetry and intimate letters, immersing the viewer in this captivating story.

The book opens with a selection of old family photographs, showing Ana and her parents. The use of transparent paper between the pages reinforces the feeling of discovering the layers of this story. A fictional letter from Ana to the artist, printed on lighter paper, tells the story of her life in a poetic and moving narrative. And a few pages into the book, a photograph of a lipstick is placed next to a short poem. “I paint my lips red to / honor you. In the mirror, / my mouth is your mouth. Valverdes then takes us to Portugal, to fulfill his grandmother’s dream.

While in Mundão, Valverdes showed Ana’s birth certificate to local villagers and shared her story with them. She also asked them to each sign a postcard for Ana. Images of Mundão and portraits of its inhabitants are intertwined with archival material and Valverdes’ own reflections and poems. There are photographs of street corners, close-ups of storefronts with fabrics on display, shadows on a cobblestone road, laundry drying outside, orange trees, and more. she imagines how it could have been her grandmother’s house.

The last section of the book combines photographs of the inhabitants with images of the postcards they wrote. A photograph of an old man named Antonio taken in his kitchen appears next to a postcard that reads: “Ana, I am the oldest man in Mundão… Like you, I also lived in Brazil. I really liked being there but I (came back) due to poor health.” When she spoke to the local priest, based on various birth records, he was able to trace some of the artist’s family members who were still alive. The very last image in the book shows Ana’s own birth certificate, and the postcards connect Ana to a life she could have led.

In recent years, a number of photobooks have investigated family stories and archives. You can call me Nana by Will Harris (review here) offers an intimate but indirect portrait of the artist’s grandmother and her pervasive dementia. In A parallel road (revised here), Amani Willett uses her family history as a starting point to explore the larger history of American racial violence. And Naïma El Kadi returns to Morocco to explore her own personal story shared in My Olivier, Memouna (revised here).

dear Ana is a tender, layered narrative and a thoughtful, personal photographic project. It fulfills a grandmother’s dream, while healing transgenerational traumas and reconnecting the artist to the lost roots of his family. Valverdes’ journey to reconnect with his grandmother’s past has blossomed into a personal story with universal dimensions, particularly relevant today given our ongoing debates about the many meanings of borders and national identity. .

Collector’s point of view: Leticia Valverdes doesn’t appear to have gallery representation at this time. Collectors interested in following should probably connect directly with the artist through their website (linked in the sidebar).

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