Argentina: The Promise
‘Dear Long Hair’ is the title of a project that photographer Irina Werning began back in 2006. In this photo series, she portrays women in various Latin American countries who, with reference to indigenous traditions, are significantly less likely to pick up a pair of scissors or pay a visit to the hairdresser than others. “Cutting hair is cutting thoughts” is a sentiment encountered by the photographer.
In Argentina, the coronavirus pandemic claimed an unusually large number of victims. But through it, Werning also met a girl who gave the subject of long hair a very current meaning. Antonella, like many others, was affected by the often particularly long school closures implemented in South America. As a result, she made a promise to cut her beloved hair the moment she could attend actual classes again.
Antonella’s hair grew apace with her worries about missing classes, losing friends, or eventually not wanting to learn anything anymore. After 260 days, the school finally reopened at the end of November 2021. And Werning was able to take that picture in which Antonella made good on ‘la promesa’, her promise.
Photographer: Irina Werning, Argentina
Irina Werning, born 1976, lives as a freelance photographer in Buenos Aires. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics as well as a master’s degree in History and in Photography from the University of Westminster in London. Her accolades include a Sony World Photography Award in the portrait category in 2012, various high-profile grants such as the 2021 Pulitzer Reporting Grant, which funded her hair project, and a continental win in the 2022 World Press Photo Award.
Werning prefers artistic long-term works, such as ‘Back to the Future’, in which she juxtaposed childhood photos of different people with present-day photos of them in the same pose, clothing and surroundings. ‘La Promesa’ is also part of a long-term study.