One of two winners of the 2016 SOPHOT Contest

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Mexico / 2009-2015

Bénédicte DESRUS In 2008, Bénédicte Desrus discovered the existence of the Casa Xochiquetzal, a retirement home for prostitutes in Mexico. Fascinated and interested by the story of these women, she wanted to get to know them better, intrigued by this question: What happens to prostitutes when they get old? So she decided to do a documentary on this place, unique in Latin America. Twenty-six women, aged from 55 to 86, have found refuge at the Casa Xochiquetzal. They had nowhere else to go in their old age. Since it was set up in 2006, more than three hundred women have been lodged in this old colonial mansion. Here they have a roof to sleep under, several meals daily and free medical care. For most of them, it is the first time in their lives to enjoy such conditions. In order to have the right to stay there, they take part in workshops and study groups. On the fringes of society, often cut off from their own families, weakened by age and various illnesses, they try nonetheless to recover their dignity. Bénédicte Desrus’ photographs capture the dignity of these women, highlighting their courage and the stories they have to share with a society that has rejected them. This documentary shows that we have much to learn from the most marginalised people around us. These photos encourage the public to reconsider women’s rights and the discrimination and stereotypes surrounding sex workers, making them think again about their preconceived notions on the subject. Her documentary also aims to promote the work of the Casa Xochiquetzal, in order to stimulate similar initiatives elsewhere. Over a period of four years, Bénédicte Desrus photographed the daily life of these women, before inviting the Mexican author Celia Gómez Ramos to discover the Casa Xochiquetzal. In 2012, they launched together the project of a book, Las Amorosas Más Bravas (The bravest of lovers). In March 2014, the book, combining text and photos, was published in Mexico in a run of 1000 copies.
Part of the proceeds of the sale of the book went to the Casa Xochiquetzal, to improve the living conditions of its residents; the project aims also to raise finds through donations. But the main objective is to bring these women out of anonymity and render them visible to a society which has chosen to ignore them for too long. In short, this work is a homage to age and to human dignity.

photographs by Bénédicte DESRUS

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