To Have Found a Home

By  |  September 25, 2018
© Sofia Valiente © Sofia Valiente

Artist: Sofia Valiente

Project: Miracle Village

Description: Buried in the sugarcane fields of southern Florida, on the southeast corner of Lake Okeechobee, lies a small community called Miracle Village. Here, fifty-two off-white duplexes once housed migrant workers that would labor in the surrounding fields. Now they house over one hundred convicted sex offenders.

Miracle Village was founded four years ago by a Christian ministry aiming to help post-prison sex offenders reintegrate into society and settle down. Among the lifelong, nationwide restrictions that inevitably follow former sex offenders, finding a home can seem the hardest: they must live at least one thousand feet away from any bus stop, school, or place where children congregate. Therefore, Miracle Village is isolated: five miles from the closest town (population 8,000) and forty miles from the nearest city.

For over a year and a half, Sofia Valiente has befriended, lived among and photographed the residents of Miracle Village. All but one are men, and all are in a process of coming to terms with the lifelong label of “sex offender.” Miracle Village recounts their stories of solitude, estrangement and rehabilitation through a collaborative process that involves personal writing by subjects in response to Valiente’s questions. By combining portraits, vernacular texts and photos of personal objects from the past, Miracle Village considers the daily life as well as the emotional life of its subjects, addressing trust issues, desire for intimacy, fear, psychological isolation, stigmatization, families lost and families gained, and an overwhelming gratitude to have found a home.

Eyes on the South is curated by Jeff Rich. The weekly series features selections of current work from Southern artists, or artists whose photography concerns the South. To submit your work to the series, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sofia Valiente received her BFA in Art from Florida International University in Miami in 2012. In 2014, she published her first photo book, Miracle Village, during a residency at Benetton's Communication Center: Fabrica in Treviso, Italy. Sofia's work has been published in Time, The Guardian, El Mundo, Vice, American Photo Magazine, and numerous other media outlets. She is represented by the Daniel Blau Gallery in Munich and has been exhibited in London, Paris, and New York City.