On a deserted suburban street in Mexico, a dark-haired woman in pale blue uniform and sturdy open toed sandals bends down to pat the schnauzer at her side, staring purposefully at the camera in front of her with wistful, kind eyes.
She is a housekeeper, an integral part of the family unit and a common figure in the upper middle class urban landscape of Mexico City. The snapshot is part of photographer Monica Ruzansky’s Dicen que… (They say…), a series of portraits of Mexican ‘maids’ and the important and multi-functional roles they play, a subject that is close to Ruzansky’s heart having grown up with domestic help herself.
“Sometimes living together under the same roof, you almost become like members of the same family. Despite coming from such different backgrounds you share almost every aspect of the daily family dynamic—it’s something that’s hard to understand if you didn’t grow up with it” she says. “As I grew older I understood more and more their role and our role towards each other, and how there are so many thin lines that get crossed all the time, because it becomes a complex relationship. I wanted to find a way to find a way to portray these people who fulfil a very specific and difficult role.”
Ruzansky moved to New York from her hometown of Mexico City in 2005, however she is still heavily influenced but the culture of her birthplace as well as a fascination with everyday people and the complex worlds they inhabit and this is reflected in her photography, particularly as she deals primarily in portraiture.
“It interests me to make connections with people, as well as getting a glimpse of who they might be through their body language, their appearance, their clothes and what they have with them. Faces fascinate me, they are incredible endless universes that change day by day, and when I photograph people I treasure the experience of really seeing someone, at a specific moment in time and place that will never be exactly the same again.”
“In all cases I find people in their normal environments. It is important for my work that I don’t take my subjects out of context and also to interact with them in the most natural way possible.”
This is paramount throughout Dicen que… as Ruzansky observes the roles of these women as they walk their owner’s dogs, a concept she finds “bizarre” as she questions “who is walking who”?
It’s a complicated situation, where the human is the one with all the ability and yet it is the pet who has the power. While Ruzansky is not making a social commentary as such, the many layers of her photography are fascinating to observe.Here we see an emotional connection between woman and dog and yet the relationship between the two is embedded in business.
Whatever the connection may or may not be, Dicen que… is unquestionably a thoughtful look at a particular way of life, shot in a beautiful style and sure to leave a lasting impression on those who see it.
All images courtesy of Monica Ruzansky
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