Daughters of The King
Daughters of the King is a gentle and pure insight into the lives of the Jewish Orthodox women Federica Valabrega met during the course of her four-year photographic journey. She tells the story in a direct and simple way without being conventional, documenting both the contradiction and the emotion.
Her research is careful and pondered; she starts with the largest Ashkenazi, Jewish communities in the world--New York, Israel, and Paris. Then, she decides to travel to Tunisia, in the Arab Maghreb, to photograph the Sephardic Jews; closing her journey in Morocco, where Jewish migration to Europe has dramatically increased.
Valabrega is at her first, important personal work. It is surprising how she accomplished her commitment to show Orthodox women not distant and different, as they could appear to outsiders, but rather strikingly similar to the day-to-day reality in which most of us live, made of rules, ambiguities, cultural norms, and familiar candor. Avoiding the artificiality that often characterizes contemporary photojournalism, the author successfully captures their strong, marked and mindful spirituality, but, at the same time, she shows her women as beautiful and vital, strong and gentle, permeated with femininity like women in the rest of the world.
It is enjoyable to see yourself in the smiles and in the wedding set-ups. It is interesting to comprehend the meaning beyond the use of wigs and head coverings; see women living on a hill in Israel and imagining their lives as girls, wives and mothers.
Valabrega has her own, strong style; she decides to shoot mainly with flash, which makes everything more violently joyous. One of Valabrega’s greatest virtues, I believe, is found in the joy and lightness of seeing, the charm of looking without overwriting. There is an absence of judgment in her work, which never lacks participation, but it is rather a way of exploring and understanding.