Domestic Bliss is a series of portraits by Alice Mann which highlight the unique domestic environment in Cape Town’s wealthy Southern suburbs.
As a result of high unemployment levels many women are pressed into accepting minimum wage for their services, which is also the reason so many South African households are able to employ domestic workers on a full time basis.
“This subject matter is particularly interesting to me,” Alice explains. “Having grown up in Cape Town I became used to the presence of a domestic worker around my house, and the homes of my friends. My own relationship with the woman who works in my family household was a prominent influence for creating this series, and I took many portraits of her during the early stages of the project.”
Alice chose to photograph the women in their uniforms – a constant visual marker of their existence within someone else’s home, and the defined purpose of their presence in the space. Despite the intimate nature of their jobs and the bond they share with the members of the family they work for, the women’s uniforms serve to depersonalise them into a workforce.
In Domestic Bliss, Alice investigates the complex space in which domestic workers exist. On the one hand, they are put in charge of someone else’s home to perform tasks traditionally reserved for a wife or a mother. Yet, at the end of the day, these women each return to their own homes and families in the outskirts of Cape Town – far removed from the wealth of their employers.
“In each image I aimed to capture an ambiguity in my subjects: the point of intersection between their job, which defines them as low income domestic workers, and their own pride and individuality as females in contemporary South Africa,” says Alice.