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Transatlântico – the Santa Therezinha’s souls


By the end of the 1990’s, the Santa Therezinha Hospital, in Salvador da Bahia, was experiencing an exceptional distress within its elder professionals and care-takers, those who had founded the place many decades before or came to join it in its early years.  They were resistant to retirement, insecure to leave the place where they had spent the largest part of their lives. I started to portray those men and women for an homage, remembering their years of dedication. The project would become the starting point of their retirement process.

Prior to the photo-sessions, I began a series of interviews to approach their worlds. The conversations uncovered their long years of services and their deep connexion with the place that became their second home. Sometimes under a deep emotional atmosphere, stories were being told about their lives and duties in the big building that occupies a large green area in a poor region of the city. How they came to the place, people that came and left, reminiscences. From all their memories, there was one that caused me a strong impression, about the build itself: a modernist construction with large glass windows, brightly enlightened during the night time, shining in the middle of the woods. The eyes of Mr. Gilberto, an assistant of the Social Work department, shone: “It looked like a transatlantic!”


The other side of the story is that my father died, many years before, in a bed of that same hospital. And that made it a sentimental assignment to me. I was instantly invaded by the idea that probably those workers, nurses, doctors, technicians, caretakers, had known and dealt with my father, since he lived there for one long year until his death in consequence of cancer.

Even though I was convinced that I would get answers, maybe even memories and stories, I decided to not ask anything. Already in the previous contacts and later, during the development of the whole project, I was surrounded by the simplicity and the humanity of those men and women’s hearts, shaped throughout decades of dedication in a big hospital for chronicle and terminal patients. For that short period, I felt reunited with my father, who died when I was 10 years old. It was comforting to think that he was treated by such compassionated hands. I finally coloured these portraits to matched the espiritual energy that surrounded that assignment to me.


Brazil, 1997

(photographs 1995)


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