Danish Imports: The Psychologist and her son

Due to some technical issues we’re running a little behind here, so let’s get back on track with our Danish Imports exhibition from last year’s photo exhibition. Today we take a look at the life of Chilean Psychologist Paula and her son.


Paula Cavada gives multiple reasons for moving from Chile in South America to Denmark four years ago. Nevertheless they all united in the deep believe that Denmark was the right place to start a new life.

Paula lives on Amager with her ten-year-old son, Ignacio, and is currently studying for a PhD in Development Psychology. “Learning about child development and learning in Scandinavia is a unique experience in itself,” she tells me, “so professional learning was one of the reasons I moved here.”

When it comes to her own well-being and that of her son’s, Paula is in no doubt about what Denmark has to offer. “I don’t feel that my gender makes me a target of material and symbolic violence to the extent that it does in South America.

“I also want my son to grow up in a country that gives us time and possibilities of being, regardless of our origins, income or social positioning. If you haven’t lived outside of Denmark, it’s hard to think that children don’t bike to school because it’s unsafe: traffic, pollution; even the risk of being assaulted.

“I like to think that I follow and share the same values that sustain the Danish Welfare System & this is how I’ve integrated in to society.”

But Paula stresses that this doesn’t mean she isn’t critical of the system. “Denmark is lacking a more cosmopolitan sense in understanding who participates in its society,” she explains. “Many of us bring an extremely rich diversity that goes beyond our race, social layer, income, and so on. Thankfully the gaps to fill are much smaller than the ones back home.”

This last comment seemed to resonate amongst many of the Danish Imports that I spoke to leading up to this exhibition – a feeling of never really being able to fit in, despite their contributions to the country and its society.

And on the subject of contributions, Paula is fully aware of her own. “Besides the direct outcomes of my work, I also contribute by learning and by bringing in elements from my own culture.”

Her biggest challenges have been visa issues, winter darkness and finding the patience to make friends. “It takes time,” she says.

Paula’s plans for the future are simple: “Get another job, polish my Danish, and learn to dance tango!”

Paula and Ignacio speak Spanish, English and Danish. “English is the hardest,” says Ignacio.

Getting the Shot

Even though this image might look relatively simple, it actually took a while to plan and execute. When I first moved to Copenhagen I lived in place called Islands Brygge. My partner and I liked to run, so we’d often just go out and explore the area. One of the best places to go was a place called Amager Fælledparken – a green oasis right in the middle of a redeveloped area on the island of Amager.

On one occasion we discovered what I can only describe as a ‘hill’ and used it for hill training. The views of the city were pretty cool, and I knew it would make a great spot for a photo one day. So it might’ve been an intelligent idea to actually remember how to get there!

Fast forward a couple of years and my conversations with Paula. When she told me she lived on Amager I started using Google Maps to try and find the mysterious hill, but to no avail. Indeed it took me a couple of attempts on my bike to physically locate the structure, but when I did I can assure you that I made a mental note of how to get there.

On the day of the shoot I met Paula and Ignacio and off we went towards the hillock (a much better word). The problem was, the sun was now creating problems for us. I needed the city in the background, but every picture had them squinting in the sunlight, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

So I turned my back on them for a moment to see what magic I could discover in my camera bag, but when I turned around again the pair were having a tender moment together and dancing as if I nobody else was around. They continued to have fun together whilst I slowly raised my camera to my eye and continued to photograph them. In the end I had way too many pictures to choose from, and narrowing it down to the final one for the exhibition was tough.

During the exhibition, Paula came over to me to say how pleased she was with the final image. Now I have to say, that I don’t get too optimistic when I’m asked to do family portraits, but I think I managed to document a very personal and natural mother-and-son moment. And I quite like it, too.