Miss Ana was my nanny, having arrived at my house when I was 6 years old. She came from the north (Pará) to the south (Rio Grande do Sul) of Brazil as a 17-year-old seeking better living conditions. She could not read or write when she left the north, and eventually she lost touch with her family.

In 2010, after 40 years of not having news from her parents and siblings, she decided it was time to redeem her origins.

She asked me to take a picture of her family here in the south to show to the family in the north. At the time I was taking the picture I realized that the journey was also mine. I went along with her.

When I published the first version of my photo book about her journey, she complained that there were too many blank spaces around the photos (it was all photos and white space with no text). She complained that I hadn’t told her story properly.

As a compromise, I used an ink pen to make some lines on the pages of the photo book, making it look like a school notebook. I suggested that she write the story herself onto these pages, which is what she did. It’s an amazing story. I have translated some sections of her handwritten text from Portuguese to English, so more people can read and understand the story of her life. I hope to publish the second version, with her hand-written text, sometime soon.

— Tiago Coelho


Editors’ Note: We met Tiago Coelho this month at the wonderful photo festival and portfolio reviews at Fest Foto in Porto Alegre, Brazil.