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First finalist 2017

Constanza Portnoy

Strength of Living, What Love Saves


Jorge is 37 years old and was born with a congenital malformation caused by a medicine with thalidomide, prescribed to his mother, without any form of pharmacovigilance protocol, one year before he was born. He also has pterygium in both eyes which is spreading on the cornea and could mean a complete loss of sight; a pathological condition of the eye which is worsening through the lack of specialist treatments.

Yet he never gives up and has been able to get on with his life. He is currently finishing secondary education in a community school and eight years ago he met and started a family with Verónica.

She was born with a myelomeningocele and has undergone surgery on a number of occasions to straighten her spine. She has also had a cerebral shunt inserted to reduce intracranial pressure. Therefore, she needs regular health checks and rehabilitation treatments, but the Public Healthcare System continues to erect bureaucratic barriers.

Jorge and Vero are two people who dare to dream, beyond the diagnosis label. They want to see their young daughter Ángeles grow up and have a decent life with equal opportunities. Sadly, they are invisible to social services. Through my documentary work, I aim to grant visibility to the reality of neglect in Argentine institutions that people with disabilities and scant financial resources face. I also want to highlight the legal void for those people affected by thalidomide, as well as emphasising the lifeaffirming and healing effect the bonds of love can bring.

My aim is to flout the disapproving ideas and looks that come from many so-called ‘normal’ sectors in society regarding the possibilities of a person with disabilities living a full life in every way. I want to cast light upon the simplicity and authenticity of human relationships, those which are elemental in our society and are rooted in equal rights.


Constanza Portnoy was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has a degree in psychology from the University of Buenos Aires and has a postgraduate degree in disability and early childhood. She is also a photojournalist and documentary photographer.

Portnoy is currently developing a work of doctoral thesis research that merges both disciplines and It deals with the psychosocial impact and resilience of human beings before certain events with potential traumatic generated by causes such as institutional, governmental abandonment or social. In that sense, she is interested to deepen in the construction of family ties and love relationships that positively affect the life of affected people, especially in those minority sectors that struggle for their rights denied.

She has published his work in different Argentine media of independent communication and popular base. She has also worked for international platforms as a correspondent on the struggles for the rights of women and minority sectors.

She won the gold prize in the category “People / family” in the contest International Photography Awards Spain 2017 with the essay “Life force: you and me”. She was invited to open a portfolio on the Lensculture website and reached the second prize in the Argentine City Bank Photo Contest, 2017 edition.

Constanza Portnoy online:
Instagram: @constanzaportnoy
Facebook: @ConsTPorTnoy