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“You just have to keep moving forward. There is always going to be risk out there, but you need to carry on, what else are you going to perform? ”
In March 2018, Ameena Rojee began the girl journey along the Camino sobre Santiago, in Spain. Starting in Sevilla and travelling north, the route – also known as the Via de la Plata – winds through the metropolitan areas of Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca, Ourense and finally ends in Santiago de Compostela.
Typically a religious pilgrimage beginning in the 9th century, these days the path is walked simply by thousands of people every year, not really exclusively for spiritual reasons. Rojee made the trip in part to get to know her heritage better – the girl mother is from Galicia in Santiago.
“I wanted to experience [the country] by walking due to the fact you’re more exposed. You need to interact with people to know where you’re going, ” the lady explains. But the photographer furthermore wanted to use this time to reconnect with her practice, walking with her camera and taking pictures without distraction.
Pertaining to 45 days, Rojee went through the arid Spanish country. She stayed in albergues, small hostels dotted along the route. At first, the plan was to create portraits of the hospitaleros, the particular hosts and helpers exactly who worked there. But long days of walking didn’t permit much time to connect with people in the pit stops. Instead, the girl turned her lens to the nature that she has been immersed in every day.
The result is her project, Valley of Paradise . Contrary to the initial plan, there are almost no people within Rojee’s images. “That was obviously a big decision in the photographs, ” she explains. “Partly because I was relishing the particular solitude… I’m quite a simple person anyway, but I wanted to see what it would be like to be remote for that long. ”
Instead, the work is certainly populated by vast, grassy landscapes, sleepy country houses and farm animals. In a single image, the patchy hide of a cow glistens, getting the sunlight on the undulating belly. In one more, a quiet terrace covered with tombstones and crosses lies in the shadow of the fiery, orange mountain.
There is a sense of motion too, and the oscillation between dusk and dawn. “It’s like one long meditation, ” she says of the experience. “Often you end up dreaming, it’s an out-of-body experience and you don’t realise you’re walking. ”
Rojee spent a lot of months reworking the narrative. Then, in March 2021, the news of Sarah Everard’s murder shocked the nation. Everard, 33, was walking house alone in London when she was kidnapped and brutally murdered by a police officer. “It was then that I noticed what this project was actually about, ” says Rojee.
While the function began with a sense of adventure, with time it required on new meaning. Rojee began to consider the act of walking alone, as a woman. She remembered how her loved ones worried for her safety, and the constant mental battles that she had to get over along the way too.
“When I looked at my pictures again, I realised this feeling does come through, ” she says. “I didn’t see it before, yet there’s this slightly frightening, slightly sinister stuff. ”
Along the way, Rojee developed a particular affection for the horses, which usually feature several times in the task. She remembers her moments with these majestic beasts as being a of the most special, and later, illustrative of the meaning she actually is conveying with the work.
“Although all the horses I saw, bar two, were tangled up, that too is symbolic of the struggle between the tension of getting this wilderness available to me, but with the undercurrent of these worries and fears. ” She adds: “You just have to keep moving forward. There’s constantly going to be danger on the market, but you need to keep going. Exactly what else are you going to do? ”