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Spanish grandmothers break stereotypes in gender-bending photo exhibition

A group of senior women, know as the Lideresas of Villaverde, have recreated iconic images from popular culture posing as Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and the members of The Beatles

The Lideresas of Villaverde pose as The Beatles.
The Lideresas of Villaverde pose as The Beatles.

A group of senior Spanish women are taking on stereotypes of elderly women in a playful photographic exhibition by Ana Amado, a photographer and architect from the northwestern Galicia region.

The traditional image of the Spanish señora invites a mix of admiration and mockery. But the Lideresas of Villaverde (Female leaders of Villaverde), a group of Madrileñan women over 65, have this vision on its head by posing for a series of iconic pictures from popular culture in which they substitute the male protagonists.

The Lideresas recreate the kiss between communist leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker in 1979.
The Lideresas recreate the kiss between communist leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker in 1979.
Recreation of Steve Jobs presenting the first iPhone.
Recreation of Steve Jobs presenting the first iPhone.

The photo of the meeting between the Dalai Lama and Pope John Paul II in 1982, the famous fraternal kiss on the lips between the communist leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker in 1979, and Steve Jobs presenting the first iPhone have all been given a feminist twist in this series of portraits called Lideresas – female leaders.

The resulting exhibition will be on display until June 29 in Alonso Cano square in the southern city of Granada as part of the Pa-ta-ta International Festival of up-and-coming photographers.

“The photos belong outside on the street rather than in a gallery because that is where you can make women who are forgotten more visible,” Amado tells Verne by telephone.

The women pose as a number of famous men including Spanish chef Ferrán Adría, Russian chess player Garry Kasparov, scientist Albert Einstein and as the members of the British pop band The Beatles. Amado was looking for a way of combining the issue of gender inequality and negative attitudes towards old age “which is something rarely talked about” when she met the Lideresas de Villaverde group.

The women had been working together since 2013 in Villaverde, a district to the south of Madrid, thanks to a City Hall initiative that got women from various seniors’ centers to come together and organize activities together. Now, apart from a number of projects, they also have their own radio show.

The portrait of Hugh Hefner and his playmates exhibited in the streets of Granada.
The portrait of Hugh Hefner and his playmates exhibited in the streets of Granada.
The Lideresas recreate the photo between the Dalai Lama and the Pope.
The Lideresas recreate the photo between the Dalai Lama and the Pope.

“As soon as I suggested doing these photos, they got to work,” says Amado. “I suggested images that were well-known and that they could recreate. From that point on, they sorted out almost all the production; looking for the outfits, the locations and the set decor.”

Taking control of a project is something relatively new for most of the women in the Lideresas de Villaverde group. Some were widowed early in life and others spent years in abusive relationships. “Gender inequality is a global phenomenon, but the Franco years in Spain – which these women lived through – particularly took their toll,” says Amado, referencing the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, which lasted from 1939 to 1975. “It was hard to get an education and they had very traditional and sexist values drummed into them which often prevented them from developing as people.”

The women are now attempting to make up for lost time and take advantage of opportunities they did not have access to previously, although as Amado says, their lives continue to revolve around other people’s needs. Due to the economic crisis, they are frequently left looking after their grandchildren and, at times, have their own adult children to care for too.

The big dream now, both for the women and Amado, is to have the photographs exhibited on the streets of Madrid.

A passerby poses with the Lideresas recreation of the photo of Barack Obama and his Cabinet members.
A passerby poses with the Lideresas recreation of the photo of Barack Obama and his Cabinet members.
The Lideresas exhibition in Alonso Cano square in Granada.
The Lideresas exhibition in Alonso Cano square in Granada.
A passerby stops to look at a self-portrait of fashion photographer Richard Avedon.
A passerby stops to look at a self-portrait of fashion photographer Richard Avedon.
The Lideresas recreate the photo of Spanish chef Fernando Adriá and his crew of chefs.
The Lideresas recreate the photo of Spanish chef Fernando Adriá and his crew of chefs.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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