Tiago Coelho on Miss Ana

“There was a very emotional moment when a woman in the bus came to Ana thinking that she was her sister. That’s when we realized that we were very close to finding the whole family”

Tiago Coelho, from the series "Miss Ana"

Brazil has a long history of internal migration. An acclaimed movie came out last year on the subject, featuring Regina Casé in the role of a woman from the North who had moved to Sao Paulo to provide a better life for her daughter and worked as a housemaid.

The fictional biopic depicts the cultural and socio-economic dynamics within Brazil's population through the life of a character inspired by a woman such as one whom photographer Tiago Coelho has grown up with, Miss Ana – or Dona Ana, as he calls her.

Tiago Coelho, from the series "Miss Ana"

A rough childhood and harsh professional beginnings in Para as sole baggage, Ana moved to Sao Paulo. Enable to read or write, she lost track of her family who had anyway threatened to kill her when she went away. 40 years passed. Despite multiple attempts, no letters or radio calls would reach her relatives. No matter what, Ana resolved to head north and find them. She had barely enough money for the bus ride, only a hammock to sleep at night, no address, and Coelho decided to follow her.

The result is not a mere record of her physical journey throughout Brazil. Coelho purposely ignored the landscapes to focus on Ana’s feelings, often portraying her asleep, abandoned to anachronistic memories, as a metaphor for the uprooting experience.

Tiago Coelho, from the series "Miss Ana"

“There was a very emotional moment when a woman in the bus came to Ana thinking that she was her sister. That’s when we realized that we were very close to finding the whole family”, Coelho remembers. Yet, that was after many kilometers of anxious gazing through the window. “We went aimlessly, for we knew nothing about them on this trip. It was me, my husband, and Tiago”, Ana recounts - her words complement Coelho’s photographs in a book that will come out in the coming months.

The series brings together two faces of Brazil that rarely meet, in a way that is as unexpected and moving as the moment when the two sisters are finally reunited. “We found the house of Ana’s sister, but she was away. We waited for her for hours and when she saw us she could not believe it. Everybody but her brother thought Ana was dead” - an assumption that, sadly, often proves to be right.

To see the complete story and Coelho's work visit his PHmuseum profile

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