PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORIES OF ASILO DE INFÂNCIA DESVALIDA DA HORTA. PORTUGAL
By : Sandro Serpa
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of the Azores; Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences – CICS.UAc/CICS.NOVA.UAc; Interdisciplinary Centre for Childhood and Adolescence – NICA – UAc, Portugal
Asilo da Infância Desvalida was established on December 28, 1858 – the date of the celebration of the the Innocent Saints Festivity of the Catholic Church – and it operated with this name until 1971. Its central objective was to help the disadvantaged poverty of the female “exposed”, and its mission was to assist young girls in situations of neglect or extreme poverty. This organisation, which operated in a logic of community residence, consisted, thus, of an institution for the care of unprotected children and young girls. This book displays several photographs, which are a form of visual communication as a relevant element in the (re)construction of the memory and legitimisation of an organisation. This work always bears in mind that no photograph is neutral, that is, each photographic record presented is always a representation of reality.
Asilo da Infância Desvalida was established in 1858, with the objective of helping the disadvantaged poverty of the female “exposed”. In 1904, Escola de Santo António was made official as a school component of Asilo da Infância Desvalida, which was attended by the asylees. In 1932, the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters Hospitallers of the Immaculate Conception became responsible for sheltering these unprotected or “underprivileged” children and young girls through an agreement with the establishment’s Board of Directors, with the Sisters of this congregation being directly responsible for the Female Home, under the regulatory presidency the Asylum’s Board of Directors. In 1933, permission was granted for the opening of a day school and, in 1947, Colégio de Santo António officially begins its operation with intern, semi-intern and extern students. In 1971, the Asylum was renamed Casa de Infância de Santo António (Serpa, 2020; Estatutos da Casa de Infância de Santo António, 1971; Estatutos da Confraria de Santo António de Pádua e Asilo de Infância Desvalida da Horta, 1933; Estatutos da Confraria de Santo Antonio de Padua e Asilo de Infancia Desvalida “Dom Luiz 1.º. Horta – Fayal, 1912; Estatutos da Confraria de Sto. António e Azylo de Infância Desvalida, 1876).
Visual communication in the form of photography, as an image that endures in history and culture, whether at the individual, organisational or societal levels, is a very relevant element in memory (re)construction (Ferreira & Serpa, 2020). For example, in the case of an organisation, photography can be one of the elements used to legitimise that organisation “in the transmission of a positive external image of the organisation, in the promotion of a good relationship with the surrounding environment, in the fostering of internal cohesion and, finally, in the published image” (Serpa, 2017, p. 23).
As an expression – always approached in a more or less intentional way – for transmitting an idea or representation, photography is also the materialisation of a given representation of reality (Ferreira & Serpa, 2020; Mejía & Álvarez, 2005; Serpa, 2017), which is, itself, always – to a certain extent – socially constructed (Serpa, Ferreira, & Santos, 2020).
The methodology used in this research work consisted of a search and selection of photographs, as empirically collected documentary manifestations, that could provide a fruitful idea of Asilo de Infância Desvalida da Horta, always respecting the personal dignity of the individuals photographed.
The central objective of this selected compilation of photographs is to be an additional contribution to presentations and studies already carried out (Lemos, 1958; Serpa, 2020; Fernandes, 2003, 2004; Lobão, 1998).
For this purpose, this book, Photographic Memories of Asilo de Infância Desvalida da Horta, produced essentially for dissemination, offers some photographs (already old, which hampers the quality of some of them) on the following topics: Church and Convent of Santo António, where Asilo de Infância Desvalida was established; Effects of the 1926 Earthquake in Asilo de Infância Desvalida; Dormitories; Celebrations of the Centenary of Asilo de Infância Desvalida da Horta; and, finally, Physical Space. This work always bears in mind, naturally, the fact that no photograph is neutral, that is, each photographic record is always a representation of reality.