When Brazilian photographer Luisa Dörr first heard about the community of Itabaianinha on TV, her curiosity was piqued.
, located in the northeastern part of Brazil, is home to some 40,000 people, is believed to be the place with the largest population of people with dwarfism in the world. That statistic has led some to call Itabaianinha "a cidade dos anões"— or "the city of dwarves."
Over the years, residents have been interviewed for comedy shows or had their lives documented in mean-spirited ways. But Dörr wanted to give the city's dozens of residents with dwarfism the opportunity to share their own stories.
"Nobody ever did a serious work with them, to tell their story and lifestyle," Dörr told Refinery29. "I feel that this work can build a new perspective of their lives."
Dörr spent three days photographing and interviewing people in Itabaianinha. Through the project, Dörr discovered that the residents' conditions differs from other types of dwarfism in a unique way. Achondroplasia —which causes an individual to have a long torso and short legs — is the most common form of dwarfism. But in Itabaianinha, researchers have discovered a different phenomenon they believe is impacting residents' growth.
According to a 2000 study
from the European Journal of Endocrinology
, the individuals in Itabaianinha have a rare genetic mutation that researchers believe might have originated through intrafamily marriages.
Yet despite some health risks associated with their height, Itabaianinha residents with dwarfism have the same life expectancy as people with normal levels of the growth hormone, according to a 2010 study
by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Ahead, Itabaianinha residents share their stories with Refinery29.