Requested Portraits

by Margarita Vazquez Ponte

Where to begin with abandonment... why is it so hard to begin?
Every year I work two months in this place, this orphanage full of abandoned children. Some of them have already lived through more than we can ever imagine... negative aspects of this world experienced at first hand. So, second-hand, I know something about the subject of abandonment.
Then I realised what was holding me back, making it hard for me to begin writing this piece. It was the fear of succumbing to the pornography of misery – this is what was blocking me. Such an ugly but seductive phenomenon. To be grateful it didn’t happen to us...
… this orphanage could be a very good place to document it all. A home for abandoned children. Not all abandoned: maybe half of them. The others are here for many, many reasons... none of which could be
said to be great or happy.
I know for sure that I do not want to revel in this misery: they don’t, then why should I? This is also a happy place. Because abandonment does not necessarily mean the end of the world. I work with children and young people and despite the sad, sometimes tragic, circumstances of these children’s arrival I often find – because of them – joyous things to photograph.
And, yes, I know some of these images are sweet, too sweet, saccharine, diabetes-inducing-sweet even... but this is what I see here. And it is beautiful and it is important.
As I said before, when I first came here I knew that I did not want to wallow in other people’s misfortunes.
This made me very wary of my own camera.
To take or not to take the photograph, that is always the BIG question... and sometimes I don’t take the shot, BUT more often than not I am asked to take it by the subjects themselves. Here everyone loves to be photographed...
Do these children feel abandoned? Not yet maybe. But when they get older, when they can reflect upon things, then they will do... of course. But they don’t dwell on this so much: they are too busy being children, surviving, laughing, crying, hating, loving... the usual stuff...
... and they really love to dance. And when they dance they truly do it with joyous abandon.

Margarita Vazquez Ponte is a Scottish/Spanish visual artist working mainly within the field of socially responsible art. She collaborates regularly with Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto and she carries on a long term project for the realization of art labs in India, supported by Fondazione Zegna at the Care and Share charitable trust, India.