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Photographer Gives Hurting Mothers the Chance to Be Seen

Between 1939 and the 1990s, children were stolen from mothers across Spain as part of a eugenics program started under the Franco government. In order to offer the victims of this crisis a chance to be seen, Pedro Lange-Churion began a photography project dedicated to sharing their stories.

“It felt as if they were confessing, as if they were experiencing a sort of catharsis in telling me what had happened to them, as if justice began to happen at the moment they could begin to speak about their suffering.”

Video Transcript

Meet Pedro Lange-Churion: visual artist

Valencia, Spain

Centre del Carme

(Photographs of women’s faces)

Pedro Lange-Churion: When I first began to approach this project, and when I met these women, and when I was able to speak with them at length about their pain, about what happened to them, about the crime that the state had committed against them, I couldn’t think of anything more cruel. The children that they went to bear were taken away from them in hospitals and maternity wards throughout Spain. I thought, “Okay, I’m going to photograph them.” 

Between 1939 and the 1990s, children were stolen from mothers across Spain as part of a eugenics program started under the Franco government.

So I began to look at representations of the Virgin Mary. This notion of a very dark background, out of which emerged a subject that was leaked as if it leaked from within, and they would shine, right?

(Women walk through a museum as Pedro shows them his photographs of mothers standing in front of a black background)

Woman: Those two were mothers as well. These are daughter and sister looking for brother, sister looking for twin sister. They’re parents, so they actually claim that their baby was stolen in 1981. 

(Birth certificates, documents, and black and white photographs are on display)

And these photographs were taken at the cemetery. It’s part of the process of searching — places they have to go is the cemetery to look for records. Sometimes they find records, and sometimes they don’t.

Pedro: We rented a studio in Madrid. The victims came to have their photographs taken. I remember being moved by their need to speak about what happened to them. It felt as if they were confessing, as if they were experiencing a sort of catharsis in telling me what had happened to them, as if justice began to happen at the moment they could begin to speak about their suffering, as if justice began at the very moment their voices could be finally heard. So these women who had not been seen, it was very important for me that they be seen.

Woman, speaking Spanish to the group: But mostly, what it generated throughout these years is a much greater consciousness of our historical past, and it took away our fears but not our emotions. They’re still there, as you can see. I just wanted to emphasize this.

(Pedro shows two men the details of a woman’s face in one photograph)

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