Mar Sáez

Vera y Victoria

André Frère Éditions

Please meet Vera and Victoria – two young women in their twenties; wearing jeans, sneakers, piercings, peeling nail polish of different colours from finger to finger. Two young women in love, the lucky ones.

From the very first glance at Mar Sáez’s book with André Frère Éditions, it is hard not to notice how fearless, how proud they were to open the door of their cosy home and welcome the photographer, allowing her silent presence to unveil their life, their naked bodies, their love. Year after year, page after page, depicting the most intimate and tender of their daily gestures. It is only on the midway of the book that we are faced with the nature of their intimate parts. Just one photograph, a bee in the viewer’s bonnet. How does it affect our reading of their story? Here, absorbed by the proudness of Vera and Victoria’s forward-looking gaze, we can barely grasp the difficulties which underlie any relationship experience involving issues of gender.

Back in the 1950s, in Paris, Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm decided to join the transgender community, universally maltreated and marginalised. He photographed those who were struggling for the recognition of their individuality, and he did it from the very inside, by first earning their trust and friendship. Never intrusive or voyeuristic, his photographs – gathered in the ground-breaking 1983 publication Les Amies de Place Blanche – paved the way for a deeper, empathic way of depicting human differences.

Such is the intent of the Spanish photographer Mar Sáez, whose photographic research pursues the goal of portraying the act of becoming one’s true self by describing real life in its sublime complexity. Spanning four years of work, the book is divided into episodes, representative of the photographer’s encounters with the couple, each one completed with a poetic text by Spanish writer Laura Moreno.

The tenderness and empathy suggested by the photographs invites us to embrace the beautiful normality of the two women’s relationship, one which they achieved bravely, and share proudly with their witnesses, be it the photographer or anyone who may encounter this book – a diary which is no longer secret, and which shall not have a reason to be.

Ilaria Speri

Images courtesy of The Institute. © Mar Sáez