Around the world women live very different lives. Many try to balance work and family, while others devote themselves to a singular calling. When Venezuelan photographer Mariliana Arvelo came to New York in 2002, she stayed at the Centro Maria, a residence for young women run by Catholic nuns from Spain and Latin America. Slowly she got to know them and began photographing them. Here are some of her images and thoughts on the project.
“My first reaction was to the contrast between the residence and its chaotic environs in the area of midtown Manhattan known as Hell’s Kitchen. I was planning to stay just a few weeks while I looked for an apartment, but this changed as I got to know the nuns who lived and worked there.”
“These nuns are full of stories, but are generally very closed with respect to their private lives. They work all day cooking, cleaning, fixing things, doing laundry, and praying. At first the nuns weren’t willing to let me photograph them. They didn’t understand why I would want to take their pictures.”
“But after living there a few months and building closer relationships with them, gradually I was able to take more and more photos. The focus of the project was to take the portraits in key spaces of the house, places where they were most, or places over which they felt a sense of ownership.”
Mariliana Arvelo is a Venezuelan photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. She is a graduate of the New England School of Photography, and her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including the Art Forum program from the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University; the New England Photography Biennial at the Danforth Museum of Art; the Photographic Resource Center exhibition DOCUMENT (Boston); the ARC Gallery (Chicago), and the Soho Photo Gallery (New York).
Arvelo has published work in the the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, the magazine ReVista, Harvard Review of Latin America, and the Annual International Photography Awards Book No.6.
She is also the owner of a successful photography business called Stylish & Hip Kids Photography, and for the past five years has led the photography program for seniors at The Hope Gardens Senior Center in New York City. She has served as an artist in residence at The Creative Center at University Settlement, teaching cancer survivors, and in 2013, taught children’s workshops in Calcutta, India.
– Catherine Kirkpatrick