May is my last month here in Guatemala and I have found myself working on a portrait project of sorts. I have begun to photograph inside a women's shelter here in Xela. Because of security concerns I am not allowed to show any of the women's faces. But since so much of the human emotion is brought forth through the face, it is presenting me with a challenge that I did not anticipate.
Today was my first day of shooting and, as with many things in life, it did not go according to plan. But I think that might have helped me discover a better way to shoot these "portraits". The women at the shelter seem to be receptive to my presence. They all have terrible stories as to why they are at the shelter; most have children, and some of the children are products of incestuous molestation and rape. The shelter provides a safe place for them to live and heal.
You can feel the sense of community as you walk in. Everyone is lending a hand cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children in the shelter. The shelter is a nondescript building which resides in a secret location in Xela. Nuevo Horizonte, the association that runs the shelter, is in the process of putting the finishing touches on a new larger shelter in Xela's outskirts. But in the meantime, the women still live in this smaller safe haven where I will be working the next few weeks.
With one day under my belt, I'm pretty excited to see where the work takes me. I have the feeling it will not be what I expect.