This photographer hung out with some Jane Austen mega-fans. Here’s what she saw.

Last fall, The Washington Post partnered with Visura in an open call for submissions of photo essays. The Post selected five winners and three honorable mentions out of almost 300 submissions. We are presenting one of the winners today here on In Sight: Alejandra Carles-Torla and her work “Where We Belong.”

Many of us are probably familiar with the 19th century English novelist Jane Austen after having been required to read “Pride and Prejudice” as an assignment in high school English classes. I imagine some of us either loved or hated that book. But I doubt that many of those who really loved the novel would go so far as to dress up like people from the era. That is exactly what a group of people in England have done. They call themselves “Janeites,” and Spanish photographer Alejandra Carles-Torla encountered the group the first week she was in the United Kingdom after moving there. Intrigued, Carles-Torla set out to find more about these Austen fans and explore their world with a camera.

The Janeites are part of a group called the Jane Austen Pineapple Society. Sharing a passion for Austen, members come together to celebrate that fandom by dressing up in Regency era outfits and performing music, dancing and readings along with organizing games related to the author.

Carles-Torla explained more about her project to In Sight:

“‘Where We Belong’ is a body of work exploring themes of belonging, femininity and escapism through a portrayal of Jane Austen devotees.

The ‘Jane Austen Pineapple Appreciation Society’ is a group of people who share a strong passion for the 19th century English author. The society’s members, who define themselves as ​Janeites, have created a community of like-minded people with whom to celebrate the work of the writer. Since its creation over two years ago, the society has built a solid network of support and sisterhood that has created strong bonds among its members.

Through my work, I explore how the sense of safety and belonging that specific groups might offer can empower the individuals and strengthen their own identity. In my photographs, I use physical and psychological closeness to represent the intense relationships fostered within these communities and to depict the existential need to belong. I am also interested in examining the threshold between fiction and nonfiction, between past and present. My goal is to invite the viewer to question where the performance starts and ends, and to challenge where the limits between reality and imagination lie.”

(Editor’s note: This post originally stated that Jane Austen was an 18th century novelist. It has been updated to correct that to 19th century.)

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