Ana Maria Arevalo Gosen
Ana María Arévalo Gosen (born in 1988 in Caracas, Venezuela) embarked on a transformative journey in 2009 when she relocated to Toulouse, France. There, she delved into the realm of Political Science at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques and discovered her fervor for photography at ETPA, Ecole de Photographie. In 2014, she furthered her artistic endeavors in Hamburg, Germany, carving her path as a freelance visual storyteller. Currently based in Madrid, Arévalo Gosen frequently channels her creativity into projects across Latin America.
Using visual storytelling as her medium, Arévalo Gosen advocates passionately for women’s rights, social justice, and environmental causes. Recognized as a National Geographic Explorer and a member of Ayün Fotógrafas, she merges meticulous research with intimate narratives to create emotionally charged, direct, and honest stories. Her overarching mission is to catalyze lasting social change. She is an educator and lecturer affiliated with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. She is the founder of Ojo Pelao, a free workshop for emerging Venezuelan documentary photographers.
At the heart of her portfolio lies “The Meaning of Life,” a poignant documentation of her husband’s battle with testicular cancer. Arévalo Gosen strives to raise awareness about the disease through this project, annually campaigning for male cancer research since 2018.
Her ongoing long-term project, “Días Eternos,” exploring the conditions of women in prisons and pre-trial detention in Latin America (Venezuela, Guatemala, and El Salvador), garnered prestigious recognition, winning the Leica Oskar Barnack Award and the Camille Lepage Award in 2021. She also secured grants such as the LHSA grant, the LUMIX Photo award, and the Lucas Dolega award in 2020. In 2019, she clinched the POY Latam and topped the category “The Strength of Women.” Supported by grants from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and Women Photograph, she plans to expand this vital work throughout the region.
Arévalo Gosen’s accolades continue to accumulate, with the World Peace Photo Award in 2021 for “Sinfonia Desordenada” with National Geographic. In 2023, she received the Marylin Stafford PhotoReportage Award for “Abuelas con 30,” shedding light on the lives of teenage parents in Venezuela.
Her impactful contributions extend to international media outlets, including the New York Times, National Geographic, and El País Semanal. Her work has graced renowned exhibitions at Fotografiska New York, GBG Arts Caracas, Capitis Gallery Hamburg, Ernst- Leitz Museum, Photoville New York, Helsinki Photo Festival, Manifesto Festival Toulouse, LUMIX Festival Berlin, and Leica Galleries in Madrid, Miami, Taipei, and London.
The fate of incarcerated women in Latin America has been largely ignored, unspoken, and veiled from both national and international public consciousness. Imprisonment not only catalyzes crime and violence but also dismantles families, leaving a profound imprint on Latin American society. This is evident in the manner in which criminals are sentenced, crimes are investigated, and minorities are treated— a perpetual, unresolved crisis in the Latin American penitentiary system. The ramifications of a woman’s imprisonment extend far beyond her own life, reverberating through generations.
This photographic exploration documents the often-overlooked struggles of women, as the mainstream media narrative on male incarceration in Latin America frequently neglects the intensified vulnerability of women. The disproportionate consequences of imprisonment on women, who often shoulder the responsibility of being the primary earners for their families, is a pressing issue that calls for immediate attention. For instance, in El Salvador, women are subjected to severe penalties for abortion, with sentences that equate the act to murder and can extend up to thirty years. In Venezuela, the causes for female imprisonment often seep into the political sphere. Furthermore, in Guatemala, women from indigenous communities are frequently denied fair trials due to their lack of Spanish proficiency, further compounding their predicament.
Detention facilities in Latin America serve as a stark reflection of the harrowing experiences endured by incarcerated women. Suspects often languish in these centers, awaiting trial for extended periods—frequently far beyond what is legally permissible. These facilities are sweltering, dimly lit, and critically overcrowded. Inmates have reported instances of extreme violence and torture, including abuse perpetrated by the guards themselves. There is no segregation based on the type or severity of crime committed, and gender separation is virtually non-existent. Transgender detainees face horrific abuse and sexual violence, as their gender identity is disregarded, resulting in their confinement with male detainees.
Many, including the innocent, plead guilty to escape the deplorable conditions of detention centers, hoping for a marginally better life in state prisons. They are convicted of a range of crimes, from abortion and gang membership to drug trafficking and extortion. However, post- conviction, their situation often spirals further into despair. Women become increasingly isolated, their desperate circumstances marked by a reduction in visits and phone calls— privileges that were allowed in the detention center—along with dwindling cell space and food.
Women inmates receive fewer visitors. External support becomes a lifeline to endure such conditions, not only for the crucial emotional sustenance provided by loved ones but also because they play a direct role in the survival of these women. Material support, in the form of food, clothing, and medicine, compensates for the state’s failure to provide for the basic needs of these incarcerated women.
Despite their harrowing circumstances, incarcerated women form remarkable bonds of resistance, friendship, and solidarity. They share everything: food, mattresses, clothes, and tears.
Upon release, these women exit the prison system traumatized and stigmatized, yet the penitentiary system lacks adequate support for their reintegration into society. Bereft of hope,
employment, and a supportive network of friends and family, these women are likely to return to gang life or commit crimes post-release.
I initiated Días Eternos in 2017 to document the causes and repercussions of female imprisonment within Latin American society. My objective is to bring visibility to the issue of female imprisonment, contextualized within specific historical narratives, providing women with a platform to express themselves.