The Image: Juan Aballe, "Raquel, 2011"

© Juan Aballe, Raquel, 2011

I took this portrait of Raquel in the late spring of 2011. We were with a few friends in a small and remote village in the mountains of Cuenca, a region in La Mancha with an extremely low population density. This house belonged to a close friend's family, but they hadn't lived there for decades and it was hardly ever used, so we started to drive out there every now an then and spend time together away from Madrid. It was a very unique feeling being in that almost abandoned village, there was a sense of great freedom but at the same time there was helplessness.

At some point we talked about moving into the house to live there as a group of 6 or 7 people and we installed a wood stove in the main room (where the portrait was taken) to keep the house warm since the winters there were extremely cold. The time spent in this village became an important part of my project Country fictions. For different reasons, in the end we never took the big step of leaving the city and moving in there, and our little utopia slowly faded away.

From the several portraits I made inside the house, this is one of those which stood the test of time for me. Her expression has a lot to say (different things depending on the viewer) and this image became an important piece in the narrative of the project. I only took this one shot, so I was really happy when I first scanned the negative and saw that the portrait had turned out as I had imagined it.

- Juan Aballe