Campus Stellae

Ana Norman Bermudez

2021 - Ongoing

The Camino de Santiago is a set of ancient pilgrimage routes beginning at various points in western Europe and ending in the north-western Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela, where according to legend, the remains of Saint James’ body lie.

While the Camino has traditionally been walked by men, today women make up over half of all pilgrims. Their experience is different, not least because of the small but ever-present safety concerns that they face when walking alone – as recently as 2015 a woman was murdered while on the Camino. Women pilgrims have developed ways of mitigating these risks through online forums, social media groups and blogs where they can offer advice to each other and create walking groups.

In the summer of 2021, pandemic-related restrictions are beginning to ease, and (women) pilgrims are coming back in search of personal and spiritual growth. Some of them have been walking for over a month, some of them have come alone. For many, the decision to do the Camino is directly related to losses suffered during the pandemic. One of the women I met had lost her job, and another had lost a family member. This project aims to explore why so many women are drawn to the Camino and what their experience of completing it is like.

The title Campus Stellae means ‘field of stars’ in Latin, which is believed by some to be the etymological root of the name ‘Compostela’. The project has a personal significance because although Santiago de Compostela is my hometown, I have not lived there since the age of 14. I therefore feel an intense sense of simultaneous connection and alienation to the city which I believe comparable to the complex emotions felt by pilgrims throughout their journey, and particularly when they reach Santiago.

Going forward I plan to document more women and to expand my documentation towards parts of their journey, perhaps participating in portions of their walk. Moreover, I plan to experiment with more creative portrait photography techniques, including double exposures, to represent the complicated emotional relationships between pilgrims and the spaces that make up the Camino de Santiago. An example is included in the submitted images.

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  • Cristina, from Mexico, lost her job last year as a result of the Covid crisis. She took the opportunity to walk the Camino, and spent thirty days walking from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France. She made sure to learn self-defence skills before leaving.

  • Pilgrims and locals cross paths in Santiago de Compostela's streets.

  • The San Paio convent in Santiago de Compostela, inhabited by cloistered nuns since the 15th century.

  • Belinda, from the US, walked six days of the Camino to prove to herself that she could do it, despite suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

  • A pigeon observes Santiago's busy streets from above.

  • Walking, cycling and horse-riding pilgrims line up to get their pilgrimage certificates.

  • Jiggy worked in finance in the Philippines until 2020, when she decided she needed a change and moved to Madrid to learn Spanish. Doing the Camino was a way for her to further explore Spain.

  • A pilgrim's Camino-themed pedicure.

  • Two local women walk through Santiago's alleyways wearing medical masks.

  • Stephanie, from Belgium, decided to do the Camino after losing a family member to suicide during lockdown.

  • Two nuns walk down the steep stairs leading to the Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela's most iconic square and the symbolic endpoint of the Camino.

  • Sharon, from the US, had wanted to walk the Camino for a long time, but never found the perfect opportunity. Preferring not to walk alone, she met Jiggy online and they did the Camino together from the start.

  • Tourists and pilgrims line up to see the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

  • Experimenting with a double exposure of a model and the Galician forest.