Lugar Común – Common Place
Jess McCabe // 18 June 2010
What is the relationship between domestic workers and women who employ them? How does the hierarchy of this situation play out?
50 pairs of women – domestic workers and their employers – posed for photographs in “equalising” white shirts, with no jewelry, as part of a project by photographer Justine Graham and visual artist Ruby Rumié.
“We were both interested in the issue of domestic employment in the Latin American context, and over time we created this platform to show the points that these women have in common as they share the domestic environment in a hierarchical work relationship,” said Graham, who like Rumié has lived many years in Chile.
The artists used a variety of poses to portray each of the employer-employee pairs: seated, standing, facing forward, facing each other, or facing backwards. They found the women for the project through family members and friends in Santiago and Buenos Aires, and Bogotá and Cartagena in Colombia.
The women also filled in questionnaires which was used to demonstrate what they have in common.
“Each pair had a different relationship; some were much closer, lasting 30 years or more, and others knew each other just three or four months,” said Graham. But for all of the pairs, it was difficult to be photographed looking each other in the eyes, she said.
In Rumié’s view, “in some way, all Latin Americans who have experienced this (being cared for by a domestic employee) feel a debt to these women who have turned over part of their lives to the intimate chores of another family, often even giving up their own personal lives.”