Emerging photographers 2017
Sofia De Benedictis
Over the course of three years,Sofia De Benedictis (Italy, 1991) has been documenting the Neocatechumenal Way, an organization within the Catholic Church which operates in small, parish-based communities up to 50 people. Arriving from a similar kind of background, Sofia wishes to explore the impact of the Neocatechumenal Way on a generation of youth as living in contemporary Italy. How do they deal with the commands and restrictions as set by their parish? In what sense are they free, as defined by all the seductions that they are protected from?
The Way, as this itinerary is most commonly called, provides a post-baptismal form of education to teenagers and young adults in order to keep them within the Faith. The community is mostly focused on the social practice of their ethics. The Way encourages virginity until marriage and discourages the use of any kind of contraception, for example. As reflecting from Sofia's images, the inclusion in the Neocatechumenal Way comes with a mixed bag of emotions. On the one hand, the parish delivers a sense of protection and of belonging (to a spiritual family) but at the same time there is also a certain kind of isolation from the rest of the world, the freedom it allows.
The young generation within The Way, as seen by Sofia, is struggling with the understanding of themselves; their identity as arriving from their secluded community. How do they imagine the future will be? Will they remain their faith or will they opt for a more radical decision, which is: to leave The Way and to find their own path in life – including the risk of breaking the relationship with their family, their parents first and foremost.
This documentary project thus delivers a visual expression of a dilemma, as experienced by a generation of young individuals who are confronted with making some fundamental decisions early in life. Sofia has followed them from up-close over a consistent period of time and this has resulted in an intimate portrait of particularly vulnerable group of people, choosing for or against the magnetic force of the mainstream of the culture that serves as a parallel world to the one in which they themselves grew up in. A world that Sofia is very familiar with and therefore can photograph from an insiders perspective.
text by Erik Vroons