The last of the companeros

Shortlist 2018

Marylise Vigneau

Raised in a conventional Parisian family, Marylise Vigneau developed an early taste for peeping through keyholes and climbing walls. Despite her fascination with literature, which she studied at the Sorbonne, over time photography has become her chosen mode of expression, though she does not know precisely why. It may be the mix of precision, immediacy, truth and lies which is behind every image. What attracts her first and foremost is how human beings are affected by borders both physical and mental, this fugitive space where an unexpected, bold and fragile act or glimpse of freedom can arise. She likes to play with opposites: absence and presence, emptiness and fullness, solitude and multitude, the very near and the faraway. Her work has appeared at many photo festivals.

The Problem

The last of the companeros

Climbing the stairways of Havana's crumbling buildings, one not uncommonly comes by odor of urine and the incandescence of a TV coming from a half-open door. It is the sign of the presence of an old person withering away in loneliness and indigence. These men and women, one-time companions of the revolution, have created this country. Today they are tired and struggling. According to Cuba's National Office of Statistics, there will be more pensioners than workers in Cuba by 2025.  Cuba is a developing country with a first-world problem: an aging population. The island is still not ready to care for so many seniors. Pensions average at about $11 a month. In most cities architectural barriers abound, public transportation is inadequate, nursing homes are few and far between and other institutions for the elderly are severely limited in what they can offer. Addressing this reality is one of the country's greatest challenges.  This series of portraits, taken between June 2014 and December 2017, pay a melancholic and tender homage to the companions of a revolution that once inspired so many hopes and has demanded so many sacrifices.