We first discovered this work after it was submitted to the Visual Storytelling Awards 2014. Although it was not chosen as a finalist by the jury, the editors of LensCulture were impressed and decided to publish this feature article about it. Enjoy!

I grew up in Mozambique. My parents moved there just after the country won its independence. They were called by an atmosphere of hope and faith in the future. At my kindergarten, I would stand on the roof with fists pointing to the sky shouting, “Long live the liberation party,” rather than “Down with the armed bandits!” Already, the civil war was catching on.

I spent my childhood roaming the streets with my friends; there were no cars because fuel was impossible to get. I was just as good a dancer as any of the other kids, and yet I longed to truly belong. I didn’t have a family member that had been killed in the war. My parents had chosen to come; and they could chose to leave again.

As a teenager, I moved back to Denmark with my father. My mother and youngest sister stayed in Maputo.

Since then, I’ve spent my summers in Maputo, where I took my first photo course.

In the year 2000, I met two young men on the street. They were blatantly homosexual. Never before had I seen this out in the open in Maputo. I spent the next two weeks with Ingracia and Antonieta, and their intimate circle of friends. I scratched the surface of their lives; the Sisters, they called themselves.

Our time together became a photo series; and without me knowing it at the time, it was also the start of Maputo Diary, which consists of approximately 90 images and text. Over the years, I returned to photograph the Sisters. We became part of each other’s lives. Many have died along the way, and the pictures became more and more about my own life in Maputo.

Maputo Diary is my diary. Since its vulnerable and innocent beginning, it has become a monument of a life lived between two different cultures, friendships, and people that are no longer here. With my camera, I insist on intimacy in the pain. When death is omnipresent, life burns bright and strong.

—Ditte Haarlov Johnsen