artists

donna indiana transessuale

annalisa natali murri

una ragazza e una lettera

claudia corrent

ragazza con una treccia bionda

rena effendi

pugile bambino

sandra hoyn

stanza semivuota con volto in tralice

daro sulakauri

una ragazza addormentata su un tubo

erika larsen

una mano con dei ricami cuciti

eliza bennett

tre persone in un campo vuoto

nausicaa giulia bianchi

trees from above

betty colombo

woman lying on hospital bed

selected works
curated by
aldeide delgado

woman in orange dress

From the
donata pizzi
collection

sleeping person behind a glass

premio musa

transgender bangladeshi woman

annalisa natali murri

cinderellas

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A photographer from Bologna, after her studies in architecture and urban photography in Valencia and a degree in engineering, she has carried out a series of personal and documentary projects.

The Cinderellas in this story are not like the ones in the fairy tales, but are Hijras from Bangladesh. Once venerated and respected for being part of the “third gender”, nowadays these transgender women suffer in poverty as their rights are denied, finding themselves forced into prostitution to survive. But the tragedy of these discriminations is not what Murri's black and whites show us. The portrait of the Hijras we see here is an intimate one, silent and profoundly respectful that shows a glimmer of these people's souls.

Being transgender in Bangladesh

by Silvia Criara

In a country where being homosexual is illegal there's people that fight together against exclusion and violence. The “Cinderellas” of Dacca, shown in the images of Annalisa Natali Murri, make themselves pretty and go out into the streets with the most powerful weapon, self-irony

bangladeshi transgender woman

“The strength of an image lies in the sensations that it pulls out of each of us, it's made of mystery and of what isn't said” says Annalisa Natali Murri, “you have to recognize yourself in it, it must make you relive those experiences and those universal emotions like fear and solitude that every one of us has felt in our life”. Her Cinderellas are the hijras, transgender women from Bangladesh, who fight everyday standing tall to be recognized. A story of diversity and exclusion that speaks to the heart through intense and delicate photos. It reminds us that a world without prejudice is possible and that we must come together to build it.

How was the project Cinderellas born? I was organizing a trip to Bangladesh and I was looking for an interesting story to tell. Surfing the web I came upon a picture of a group of trans women dressed in traditional clothing, they were hijras. I started to do research to understand who they were and how they could be accepted in an ultra conservative society that is mostly muslim. I looked for contacts on location and discovered that the hijras organize themselves in small communities guided by a leader, so I went to meet one in the suburbs of Dacca. When they come out they're almost always left on the streets because it's a stain to have a transgender person in the house, so they are welcomed by these new “families”. They live together, ostracized by society, without a recognized identity, obligated to prostitution, but their energy, their desire to talk about their lives, their stories overtook me from the start.

Why do you call them Cinderellas? I wanted a title that gave the idea of the beauty they carry inside, I didn't want it to be a dramatic work. Black and white has a very strong emotional impact, but in the photographs I tried to show the intimacy and femininity.

Has it always been like this for them? Once they were an elected part of the social structure and were venerated in all the countries of the Indian subcontinent. Their “diversity” elevated them morally, they were perceived as demi-gods, halfway between the human and the divine. They were called to dance and sing during festivities, to bring on good luck and prosperity during weddings and when a child was born. Then the situation changed with the arrival of islamic fundamentalism and, paradoxically, the media. Once their type o entertaining fell out of use the society also lost the belief that they were illuminated beings and they were pushed away little by little. Nowadays they aren't recognized as the third gender even if there about 35 thousand of them, they can't have their female identity, humiliation is continuous and they are subject to bullying, aggression and murder.

“The situation of the hijras changed with the arrival of islamic fundamentalism and, paradoxically, the media”

What did you not expect? The strength, the pride and joy with which they face the day, even just to go to the supermarket to buy fruit and vegetables or to go to the mosque. I saw smiling people, that don't pity themselves and walk about with their heads high. They're fighting, coming together in associations to change things, and they're doing it. (In October Pinki Khatan was the first transgender person to be elected in the history of Bangladesh, now she's vice president of the municipal council in Kotchandpur, a town in the western part of the country, editor's note).

What struck you the most? Their gestures, the attention they have in fixing themselves up and their elegant manners. And then their lightness, they joke around a lot. They're strong people that don't step down in front of anything, self-irony is their shield to move forward.

How do you show psychological consequences in a photo? Knowing how to show intimate aspects lies in your ability to perceive them and to give them to the spectator. I like that whoever is looking at the image re-interprets it, there's always a halo of mystery and of unspoken words that then becomes the power of an image. You need to recognize yourself in it, even if we aren't hijras we need to relive those sensations and feelings, the discrimination, the fear, are emotions that each and every one of us has felt.

“I like that whoever is looking at the image re-interprets it, there's always a halo of mystery and of unspoken words that then becomes the power of an image”

Why do we need a Biennale of Female Photography? It's happened to me several times that people have told me “You know you shoot like a man?”. In the beginning I was even happy, I took it as a compliment, then I asked myself some questions I thought about how sexist these words were. I grew up with great references of documentary photography: Paolo Pellegrin, Alex Maioli, the Magnum photographers, all men. Now there are more opportunities but there's a need to encourage young people, it's important to show new reference models.

You studied construction engineering. How did you step over to photography? It was a slow process, my passion started when I was studying in Spain, I started following a photography and architecture course. Then there was a major step when I understood that I like shooting to show social emergencies, from that moment on I concentrated on documentary photography. At university I was a researcher and maybe this is the trait that ties the two professions together, the fact that you have to document yourself, that research is much more than half the job.

Silvia Criara

© All rights reserved

silvia criara

silvia criara

Journalist

Journalist, born in Milan. At the age of 5 she asked for a pool for her dolls as a present but she didn't receive one. So she had an idea, she took a wooden drawer from her dresser and filled it with water to put her Barbies in it. From that moment she has never stopped following her ideas and resolves herself to talk about people who bring on the bravest ideas to promote social rights, through contemporary art, photography, culture, and design. Stories of creative resistance that she discovers all around the world. She dreams often, even during the day.

a girl and a letter

claudia corrent

vorrei

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From Bolzano, she studied philosophy, working on the communicative and aesthetic aspects of images.

Exploring the concept of a working life, Vorrei's diptychs present teenage students in a professional training school in Bolzano next to their written words of their dreams for the future. In these photos, the author finds problems in the work system that we are all part of, showing it through the eyes of who is about to step into it. The young students in the pictures are still in a limbo of youth that is full of dreams, energy, but also objectives. Each of them gives the viewer a piece of themselves, of their personality that is shaping, posing for Claudia Corrent with freedom and intensity.

Tip-toeing into the lives of teenagers

by Silvia Criara

A hoodie down low on his face, a smile that throws a challenge, crossed arms, hands hanging by the side, they hide inside pockets, they hold a crumpled piece of paper, a pair of glasses. Claudia Corrent's photos give a voice to teenagers because “they can't wait to be heard”

a girl and a letter

Adolescence can be read in the details, it's hidden in gestures, poses, in the hyperbolic desires written by pen on a piece of paper. Sometimes there's one sentence, just one line, at others there's a river of words. “Photography helps me get into students' lives real quietly, it's just a game to get them to talk about themselves and the emotions they feel”, says Corrent, who in the project Vorrei focuses on more than twenty teens through a series of diptychs. Next to their portrait there's a test where they talk about what they imagine for their future. There's the sixteen year old who wants to dominate the world, another who wants to move to Finland to be in the snow, and another who dreams of dancing and never stopping. The photographer tells us about what she discovered on school desks.

You have a degree in philosophy. How does this influence your work as a photographer? It might not seem like it but there's lots of common ground between the two disciplines, there's the same desire to research, to get to the bottom of things. A picture, as much as it is immediate and visible, in reality reasons with paradigms that are invisible, deep, latent and hidden. This double game brings photography very close to philosophy, both gather the visible forms to reveal what isn't seen. Diane Arbus used to say that photography speaks of mystery and so therefore it's a top philosophical method, because it pushes one to investigate and dig deeper and deeper.

“A picture, as much as it is immediate and visible, in reality reasons with paradigms that are invisible, deep, latent and hidden”

At the Biennale you'll be showing the project Vorrei, which showcases teenagers and their dreams. How did you come up with the idea? I've always worked in the social field, keeping a freelance position next to education, I teach photography workshops to middle and high school students. The project Vorrei took life in the Youth Center in the Professional school of Bolzano, a neutral place where the students felt free to speak about themselves. I spoke with them about the future, what they would like to do later on, not just from an employment perspective, but also considering their dreams. I asked them to write down their wishes on a piece of paper, and then, as a game, to have their portrait taken. I was very impressed seeing that many of them had weak thoughts, without any prospects, they were tied to work, while I encouraged them to shoot high. Some time later I did the same course in a higher level high school. I remember a kid who told me: “I want to save the world from the mafia”. At that school there were more fanciful flights of imagination, so much that I thought more than once that even dreams may be socially determined.

What is not talked about much when it comes to teenagers and what should be known? People talk bad about them, they're stereotyped, in reality they just need someone to listen to them, an adult, who isn't their father or mother, it's what they search for with all their incredible sensitivity, fragility, arrogance, depth, with everything they're made of. They're in search of an adult figure that will relate to them without judging them. Before going to the professional school I was a preschool teacher and everyone told me that I would have a lot of difficulties, that there would be an enormous difference. But really if you treat others with respect, kindly, and communicate with them gently the response will be nothing but positive. I've never had problems even in places that because of social difficulties could have been bombs.

“Dreams are often socially determined, there's people who can allow themselves to fly high because they've had the tools to do so”

How did you convince them to have their picture taken? Most of them were easy-going, light, other were embarrassed, they stayed in one position, then let it go, then went back into it. But what was fundamental for them was the fact that they were protagonists, the fact that I gave importance to their story and their future, that I listened to what they had to say. They just need to be seen and looked at. Ammanniti said that adolescence is the period of great existential doubts, great fatigue and great pain that you feel as absolute and that you will never feel as much in other moments. Because then you know how to mediate, to soften feelings, to analyze. It's a period in which you put pieces together and it's hard, more for some and less for others. It's nice to see how much vital energy is released when they see their own portrait, how many thoughts they have. Through photography I can make kids speak, I use it as a model of inclusion. I use what is their language, Instagram for example, to feed their curiosity, but then I shift the work onto a more analytic and deeper vision. When I held a workshop on the difference between self portrait and selfie, to teach prevention regarding internet use, we worked on the differences. If the first one, which has always existed, was used by artists to discover new aspects about themselves, the second one is tied to showing oneself and ends there. So I asked the kids to take a self portrait and then we talked about how they felt at that time, if they were tired, angry, happy, depressed. Some didn't want to be photographed, so together we found a way to create a story about themselves by using only objects, without being present. Adolescence is a monstrous age and it's nice to be able to pull out that plethora of emotions inside of them, photography drags it out.

What is the role of the photographer nowadays? They must know how to ask good questions, not just show an image, they must bring us further. A photographer must make you reason. It's not necessary to bother, just whisper. Horst Bredekamp, who's an art historian, says that “photographs must arrive like a buzz”.

Silvia Criara

© All rights reserved.

silvia criara

silvia criara

Journalist

Journalist, born in Milan. At the age of 5 she asked for a pool for her dolls as a present but she didn't receive one. So she had an idea, she took a wooden drawer from her dresser and filled it with water to put her Barbies in it. From that moment she has never stopped following her ideas and resolves herself to talk about people who bring on the bravest ideas to promote social rights, through contemporary art, photography, culture, and design. Stories of creative resistance that she discovers all around the world. She dreams often, even during the day.

girl with blond braid

rena effendi

transylvania: built on grass

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Originally from Azerbaijan, Effendi is a documentary photographer who has been active since 2011.

Her images investigate human nature, people and cultures in contexts of social injustice, conflict and exploitation. In Transylvania: built on grass she brings us to rural Romania that seems to be suspended in time. Work in the fields, in the pasture and the farms has been carried on for centuries with traditional methods, it's a world where labor is a collective physical effort in which every member of the family participates. Effendi's view captures the double dimensions of a rural society that still hasn't been touched by the industrialization of work: if on one hand it's like observing the fragments of a fable, on the other the duress of agricultural life can be read in the actions, eyes and faces of the community.

Pieces of farming life

by Silvia Criara

In Transylvania you walk through the countryside and you smell hay in the air, the bees fly around you, the farmers love the earth and they take care of it without exploiting it. But Rena Effendi shows us the fragility of a perfect ecosystem, which nowadays risks being swallowed by factories and the dream of a new life in the city

boy laying on grass

“Taking a picture is an incredible way of seeing, it's a profound way” says Rena Effendi, photo journalist with multiple international awards. For her photographing is a form of meditation that helps her “immerse into the life of people and shed light on hidden stories, where the attention of the media is lacking”. At the Biennale she presents her project Transylvania: built on grass, in which she documented the life of one of the last farmer communities of Europe.

Why did you start making pictures? When I was studying I thought that I would be an artist, I would spend entire days working in my studio. Slowly I started to understand that something was missing in that world that would make it really mine. Painting is an introspective act, you look inside yourself, but instead I needed dialogue, exchange, to meet people. The camera allowed me to have exactly what I was looking for: to get into people's homes and discover their stories. So I started exploring my city's streets, Baku (in Azerbaijan, editor's note), in the neighborhood I grew up in.

What were you looking for? My first photographs portrayed neighbors and the environment I saw when I was walking around, I've always been fascinated by walking towards the unknown, something I don't know. At that time Baku was going through a great transformation due to the explosion of the oil industry, people were displaced to the suburbs to make space for important looking buildings. For me those people were the real stories to tell, the ones that paid the consequences of the booming economy. While I was taking photographs I wasn't totally conscious of the fact that those pictures would be the only documentation of a reality that would disappear shortly after. At that moment I started to understand the power of documentary photography, that can survive in time as a historical document and become proof of what isn't there anymore. Those photographs, taken between 2001 and 2005, showed the last breath of a city before that it changed its roads, faces, homes, stores, forever. If you look at them now it's shocking.

“Documentary photography can survive in time as a historical document and become proof of what isn't there anymore”

At the Biennale you will be showing Transylvania: built on grass. What struck you most about this story? I went to Transylvania because I wanted to document the life of one of the last farming communities in Europe. To tell the story I started from the hay fields, because more than anything they show how people and nature can coexist in harmony. Those fields are like gardens, if you don't take care of them they become a jungle. This is why during summer, the hay season, men, women and children work from dawn to dusk, because then the hay stacks will feed animals during the winter. These communities are the example of how you can nurture nature without exploiting it: the farms aren't industrialized, they do everything by hand, they work with horses even in the fields. It's their nice way of thanking it. In many other countries hay isn't made, because animals are fed with industrialized feed, but in Transylvania you walk and smell the fresh air, bees fly around you, there's a whole ecosystem that is fragile and needs to be protected.
But this culture and this sustainable way of life is at risk because young people emigrate towards Eastern Europe, they want a job in the city, they don't want to stay in the fields like their parents, and it's a tendency that involves all rural areas around the world. That's why I've chosen to tell these stories, because in some way they also nurture us. As if to say: “Pay attention, there's something marvelous here, let's not destroy it, let's not let it go, let's see how beautiful it is”. I met a woman in her 9th month of pregnancy who was moving barrels three times her size, I was shocked by her strength. I tried cutting the hay but I couldn't even do it, while they did it with ease, grace and pride that I will never forget.

What is the moment that you will never forget? I was walking and I saw a woman sitting on the side of the road, her name was Maria. I asked her what she was doing there and she said: “Nothing, I'm just waiting for winter to arrive”. I'm sure she had a million things to do but she had the calmness, the lightness and the joy to say she wasn't doing anything. It struck me because this answer speaks of her life philosophy, really zen, and with her simple words she made me think about true happiness. As if she said “everything flows, I'm happy with my life and I'm sitting here waiting what what will come”, it's a really deep and complex concept but for her it was totally natural, she didn't put that meaning into it. But instead I compared it to our frenetic way of life, to the way we run around all day, we don't have a moment for us or our affections.

“Making a picture is an incredible way of seeing, it's a profound way, for me it's like meditating”

When you start a project do you choose beforehand what cut to give it? I never think about it before photographing, It's an organic process. For me photographing is a form of meditation, when I go around I'm really very concentrated on what is around me. I see, hear and look at everything. When I portray someone I observe every minute expression, how their eyes move, how the corner of the mouth moves, the eyebrows. The same thing happens in the street with faces, the colors of the wall, the geometries of the environment, the trees, the light, the sky. Making a picture is an incredible way of seeing, it's a profound way. Normally when you walk around your peripheral vision is asleep, you walk straight towards an objective and you concentrate on just that. When I was in the fields in Transylvania first I would look at the scene from far away, I would stay on the hill so nobody noticed me. Then I would get closer when the farmers were eating, I wanted to see their faces, their skin burnt by the sun, I wanted to see the children, the texture of the bread they held in their hands. If somebody surprised me before photographing them I would talk to them, I would go see where they lived, with who, how their home was. Making a portrait engages you in a very profound way.

What stories interest you the most? My photos speak of people, I don't want to give philosophical messages. Anything I speak about revolves around people. When I started to tell the story of my city it was those stories that brought me to go on a long trip to document the impact of oil on society. I traveled through three countries, from Azerbaijan to Georgia up to Turkey along the multi-million dollar pipeline that bring oil to the west. I portrayed people that lived in the immediate vicinities when the price of oil was very high, 100 dollars a barrel. It's too bad that along that multi0milion dollar business I met not only people that lived in extreme poverty, but thousands of people that were tricked by the promise of well-being. It was an impressive contrast and I wanted to show it because it represented the human cost of that huge infrastructure project. It's a type story that will continue to be important because projects like these will always have a human, environmental and cultural cost. The governments and companies don't speak about it when they announce them, so for me the imperative, as a journalist and photographer, is to tell these stories where the attention of the media is lacking. I tell about people, I try to spread the message but I'm not a government and I'm not an association for safeguarding cultural heritage. It all lies in the hands of the public.

Silvia Criara

© All rights reserved.

silvia criara

silvia criara

Journalist

Journalist, born in Milan. At the age of 5 she asked for a pool for her dolls as a present but she didn't receive one. So she had an idea, she took a wooden drawer from her dresser and filled it with water to put her Barbies in it. From that moment she has never stopped following her ideas and resolves herself to talk about people who bring on the bravest ideas to promote social rights, through contemporary art, photography, culture, and design. Stories of creative resistance that she discovers all around the world. She dreams often, even during the day.

kid fighter

sandra hoyn

fighting for a pittance

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A German photojournalist, Hoyn has been working on projects tied to human rights and social and environmental issues since 2005.

Through a series of black and white images, Fighting for a Pittance documents the harshness of child boxing in Thailand and the exploitation connected to it. The photographs show us not only the violence in the ring, but the psychological pressure as well which goes hand in hand with unleashed competition. Boys and girls go through strict training, bringing their bodies and mind to the limit, as they wear the clothes of adult fighters.

For a handful of Baht

by Silvia Criara

Sometimes clients commission her “boring jobs” just because she's a woman and they even tell her how to make the photos. Even if Sandra Hoyn holds a third place award at World Press Photo and a long history of courageous reportages. At the Biennale she shows us what goes on in the rings of Thailand, where parents bet everything they have, on the backs of their children

kid fighter lifting a weight

The volume of voices raises until it explodes in screams and bad language, the betting tables are covered with whiskey bottles and the tension escalates. There's a boy on the ground. The reportage Fighting for a pittance by Sandra Hoyn points a finger at the physical and psychological violence that young Muay Thai fighters endure. They start very early, for money and fame, while their families see a solution to poverty in the rich prizes.

What brought you to the rings in Thailand? One day I was close to Bangkok and, by chance, I came upon an arena, where there was a Muay Thai match. It's too bad that it wasn't two adults fighting, but two children surrounded by a crowd of men that were betting on them. It wasn't really a proper place for their young age. Furthermore they had no protective gear on and there wasn't anyone there to give medical help in case of an emergency. I was astounded by how much pressure they had on them. The reason for all that anxiety is simple: they fight for money. The children are afraid of the contests because their parents could lose everything they bet because of them. They're small money making machines, winning is not an option, it's an obligation. At first it was hard to get close to the trainers and the children, nobody spoke English. So for about a month I walked the children home after training and matches.

At what age do they start fighting? They start at 6 or 7 years old and most of them are boys, but in the reportage I also photographed two girls. Their families often live in poverty and they see a way out from poverty in the rich prizes. They train at dawn and right after school and even if they're dead tired they're often forced to take on matches at eight o'clock at night. And so very often it happens that they skip school because their parents prefer they become great fighters rather than good students. The truth is that very few of them will become professionals and be repaid with fame, glory and money, also taking into consideration that a boxer's career is over in their mid-twenties.

“One day I saw a trainer hit a child with a stick before a match to force him to continue training”

Are the matches legal? The matches are legal, but the bets aren't, but nobody seems to pay any mind, starting from the families.

Are there any activist associations fighting for the children's rights? There are some on an international level, but not on a local one, Muay Thai is defended because it's a cultural institution. In reality many Thai children practice boxing from a young age, but they do it for fun, they don't participate in matches. If they aren't forced to train by their parents they have lots of fun. It's the national sport, so everybody likes it. But for those who are in matches it's different, I saw a trainer hit a child with a stick before a match to force him to continue training.

What touched you the most? The ambition. The children follow a very harsh calendar, they're constantly under pressure, but they don't give up on their training even if they're tired, they would like to play or, simply, do something else. One day a child had lost a match and he was lying on the mat. His mother was screaming with anger. I asked her if she was worried, because her son had been hurt, but she was angry because they had lost a lot of money because of him.

“You need a lot of time to really get into a story, get to know people, get into their lives and their feelings. Every time someone opens up to me I do the same”

What does photography mean for you? It's a way of life, I wouldn't do anything else. I like working on my own projects, which speak of human rights and denounce social injustice, I don't want to depend on magazines that want everything and don't pay anything. Photography gives me a way to push over the limits. It's important to find a balance between the need to earn money and the need to follow stories that you care about, because you need a lot of time to really get into a story, get to know people, get into their lives and their feelings. Every time someone opens up to me I do the same, it's an exchange.

Silvia Criara

© All rights reserved.

silvia criara

silvia criara

Journalist

Journalist, born in Milan. At the age of 5 she asked for a pool for her dolls as a present but she didn't receive one. So she had an idea, she took a wooden drawer from her dresser and filled it with water to put her Barbies in it. From that moment she has never stopped following her ideas and resolves herself to talk about people who bring on the bravest ideas to promote social rights, through contemporary art, photography, culture, and design. Stories of creative resistance that she discovers all around the world. She dreams often, even during the day.

empty room and sidelong face

daro sulakauri

the black gold

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Sulakauri studied cinema and photography in Tbilisi, Georgia, to then obtain a degree in documentary photojournalism at the International Center of Photography in New York.

In the town of Chiatura, Georgia, gold has the black color of manganese. This is the nation's largest manganese reserve and the local community is for the most part employed in extraction work. The black gold brings us to the heart of Georgian miner's working conditions in Chiatura. Every day men walk towards the mines, working in harsh and dangerous conditions for 8 to 12 hours a day for a salary of about 270 dollars. The project is accompanied by a video installation.

In the heart of the earth

by Silvia Criara

They travel squished in tiny trains with rusty cabins, they work with old machinery, the same ones from the fifties. And to earn a living they're forced to place mines in the belly of the mountains, right under their own homes. Daro Sulakauri went into the mines of Chiatura, in Georgia, to denounce the inhumane working conditions of the workers

miner inside a tunnel

In this area they call manganese The Black Gold, because it's the black gold that has fed thousands of people for decades. It's too bad that unlike the people that pull in the profits, the miners work in extreme situations and risk their life for a handful of dollars a day. They don't have labour unions that safeguard their rights, but a new law on work could change things, even if it's been difficult to get it approved. Sulakauri, a young Georgian photojournalist that has earned a Reuters award, followed them “where you walk and you can't breathe” to tell their story to us, in Mantova.

When did you discover photography? I started as a child, when I came back from the United States, where I had lived for a while, in Georgia I couldn't remember a word of our language. At the time Russian was the main language, many of my friends spoke only English to me. That's how I discovered photography, it was my way of speaking. Before going out I would put on socks, get dressed and pick up my camera, which was always with me. And it's still my way of expressing myself.

You were drawn to social themes right away. Why? In my country there's a lot of problems that people don't talk about, in every region there are hidden stories and when you learn about them you have the obligation to do something to expose them and have as many people as possible know about them. A few years ago I made a reportage on child brides, we have the highest percentage in Europe. In the beginning it was like a slap in the face for the government and public opinion, people started talking about it, journalists started writing about it and the situation is slowly changing.

In Mantova you will present The Black Gold. How did it come to be? Everything started because I was really fascinated by the small cabin trains that bring the miners inside the mountains. One day I met a writer from Chiatura, who introduced me to a far cousin of his that lived in the area and knew everyone. He took me to the miners and together we went on the train leaving for the belly of the mountain. Obviously when they asked us if we had the permission to follow and photograph them I said: “of course we do”, lying. I'm a photojournalist, nobody would have let me see what really happens there. The most absurd part is that with the mines they blow up the same terrain they built their houses on, on top of the mountain. They make their own foundations explode.

Weren't you scared? We went in for kilometers, it's incredible to think that most of them spend their whole lives there. For the first fifteen minutes I couldn't breathe, I was a bit worried because there's very little oxygen and horrible ventilation. But you just have to get used to it, humans get used to everything. The situation in those days was even more extreme because they were setting off mines, but this allowed us to see the whole explosion process. I trusted them, they told me not to worry. That's the only way you can see how their life really is. During the day they eat only a piece of bread, some ham and a small piece of cheese. Unfortunately in Chiatura it's the only work there is, there are entire generations that have lived in the mines, it's the only way to bring the bread home. The miners protest, unite in groups, they fight to have more rights, but they don't have a lot of options. They will probably be able to have a new work article approved that will better their conditions, but the debate has been going on for a long time and not much has changed, it will take years. But it's still important for them to protest, without the fight nothing will happen. I went back to that mine another time, then with the pictures I gathered, I made a first exhibition.

Has anything changed since the exhibition? The spokesperson for the manganese extraction company called me asking me why I had spoken about that story, we fought for the whole phone call. Immediately afterwards they closed all the mines and they put guards in front to make sure nobody came close or took pictures. Many miners asked me to not show their faces because they were afraid of getting fired, this is why in two pictures their faces are illuminated by a light that makes them unrecognizable.

What will you never forget? You walk in the tunnels for hours and hours and see the miserable conditions in which these people work, that disgusting air that you breathe and that attaches itself to you and you can't forget it. To think that they do it everyday changes your life. When you get out and feel the air in your lungs it's a marvelous sensation.

What are you working on now? In 2018 I won the Reuters award for photojournalism, then I became pregnant and they gave me a lot of time to complete my project. It's on the border between Georgia and Russia, where most of our territory is occupied by Russian military. My story talks about the people that live in those border territories, who are pillaged every day and often kidnapped.

What is a Biennale of Female Photography needed for? I think it's important to be seen, I've never felt excluded because I'm a woman but many of my female colleagues have felt this, men still dominate in many fields. The Biennale is a way to make this topic more visible. We're in 2020 and unfortunately we're still talking about it, we shouldn't need to.

Silvia Criara

© All rights reserved.

silvia criara

silvia criara

Journalist

Journalist, born in Milan. At the age of 5 she asked for a pool for her dolls as a present but she didn't receive one. So she had an idea, she took a wooden drawer from her dresser and filled it with water to put her Barbies in it. From that moment she has never stopped following her ideas and resolves herself to talk about people who bring on the bravest ideas to promote social rights, through contemporary art, photography, culture, and design. Stories of creative resistance that she discovers all around the world. She dreams often, even during the day.

girl asleep on a pipe

erika larsen

quinhagak
works between 2015-2019

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American photographer, she uses multi media language to investigate and show cultures that have strong ties with nature.

One of her more famous works is the reportage on the Sàmi people entitled “Sàmi, Walking with Reindeer”, which culminated in a book in 2013. As of 2017 she is a National Geographic Fellow, and is carrying on a project for them that captures the connection between animals and the indigenous people of the Americas. Her photography reveals invisible bonds that tie the places and cultures linked to them, including belief systems. She is currently working on a project in Alaska regarding salmon: these images are still unpublished and will be shown at the Biennale.

Dance with the Youp'ic

by Silvia Criara

In Alaska a special photographer saw the story of ice come to the surface and thanks to the eskimos discovered that nature remembers everything. And even if we've forgotten it, we can always find it again inside of us and in the people around us

woman standing behind a kiln

“Mine is a selfish job, I don't travel just to document the lifestyle of indigenous people with a series of photographs, but because I know I have a lot to learn from them”. These are the words of Erika Larsen, who in the project Quinhagak. Works between 2015-2019 presents four years of life in the Yup'ic community of Quinhagak, Alaska. Economy there is of subsistence and, day by day, you encounter distant times and ways to live, different from those of a city. “I needed to find that feeling again, reading and interpreting the signs of nature that mankind doesn't remember anymore, that's why I went back and forth for four years, to immerse myself in the community and in their stories” she says.

What did you learn from the Yup'ic? I discovered that the earth records everything that happens, it has a memory of the processes that governed it, everything is written: erosion, seaquakes, ice melting. But I'm learning that there's also an ancestral memory, which constantly reminds us that we and nature are inseparable, we're part of her and she's pert of us. The Yup'ic live on the Bering Sea which hits the coasts with violent storms, so much that it eats aways at the coastline with impressive speed. The villages are sinking, while the sea advances relentless. The elder of the community had already figured it out in the nineties that the earth was sinking because of global warming and the melting away of permafrost, that layer of permanent ice that covers the ground. They live it as a natural evolution in the history of Earth, but they know that climate change has accelerated the process. The village where I was moved eight times before becoming a permanent settlement. Now it's in its ninth incarnation, but the houses have already been moved by the erosion line, because they were sinking again. This fate is common to all villages in western Alaska and it's an enormous social problem. A house costs 70 or 80 thousand dollars, then you have to take care of moving, you need a lot of money. How will people deal with it? Who's going to pay for it?

We have an ancestral memory on us, which constantly reminds us that we are part of the environment and it's also part of us

What would you have never imagined? Nowadays, with ice melting, there's entire villages full of archaeological evidence popping up in Alaska. Like Nunalleq, close to Quinhagak, where there's an archeological site in which scientists are bringing ancient artifacts to light. In Quinhagak everybody knew about Nunalleq thanks to stories told through the generations, but at a certain point it wasn't mentioned anymore because over time it had become covered in ice. Oral tradition said that the village was destroyed during the Bow and Arrow War, a war between natives where everybody died. Only now have those oral testimonies found a physical evidence. All this is changing the lives of many people and it makes you understand how important it is to preserve memory of what has happened. Kids go see the findings, they rediscover their history, they listen to their forefathers' songs and ask the elderly to dance. In the last seven years they've started doing the Yup'ic dance again. In 2018 I went back with a Russian photographer, Evgenia Arbugaeva, and we did a reportage with 25 children. They were the ones that used the cameras and they documented their daily life, the digs, they told the story of their village and their images will be part of the cultural center's archive.

How did you introduce yourself into the community? Friendships are built over time, taking care of people, this is part of human beings and their relationships, photography has nothing to do with it. I went back to the village many times, when I was there I lived in Sara's home, but I spent lots of time with the whole community, which is very small and I rediscovered the value of bonds and the importance of the people we have around us. I'm not the photographer that goes there to tell a single story, because the story itself is a collective and intimate work, of stories inside other stories. Storytelling is always a collective effort, you can't do it without a public and without the people that belong to it.

Friendships are built over time, taking care of people, this is part of human beings and their relationships, photography has nothing to do with it

Do people in Alaska feel like their guests of nature? The inhabitants know very well that if something isn't in season they stop having it. And when you accept that you don't have it, you understand that you are really part of the natural realm. Of course, there's always a shop in town where you can buy a frozen pizza, but they pay a high price for it and purchases don't even reach 50% of their needs. When we're in communion with the earth we understand that every action we carry out has consequences and that we need to be more cautious.

Is there a message for the public in your work? I don't have declarations, but I know that showing people these ways of living in harmony with nature places that memory that's part of us right in our face. That's why I say that my work is selfish, because it's a process that I need to study for myself and I know I'll need a lifetime to recuperate this memory. And it's because of the fact that the people that I've portrayed in photographs are different that they'll teach each of us something different, they'll resound in many different ways according to each person's life experience.

How do you keep up with work, travel and your son? I've traveled a lot since my son Paulo was born, he's six years old now. He knows that when I travel it's to learn something new about the world and myself, and when I come back what I've learned doesn't stay in photographs, but the experience also spreads to my family at home. Years ago I was far from ready to have children, then during the project on the Sami in Scandinavia I learned that the community can raise them in a positive way, something that in general doesn't belong in our culture, which is more individualistic. So I had to study again and learn from them. My mother, my father, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, all of the people around me raise my son when I'm not around. So, to be “human” for me means to rediscover the value of the community that surrounds you.

Why do we need a Biennale of Female Photography? I never thought about a reason, but I know that every person brings the world they grew up in along with them. The fact that I'm a woman influences my point of view, it influences the angle I give to my stories, how I mold them, but also the way in which the people I work with perceive me. If I go to certain communities being a woman automatically gives me the possibility to be presented to certain people, to open up worlds that would be forbidden to men. Therefore, why not have a Biennale with this focus? There will be a collective energy that will be unleashed, the kind that is created when you put a group of women together in the same room.

Silvia Criara

© All rights reserved.

silvia criara

silvia criara

Journalist

Journalist, born in Milan. At the age of 5 she asked for a pool for her dolls as a present but she didn't receive one. So she had an idea, she took a wooden drawer from her dresser and filled it with water to put her Barbies in it. From that moment she has never stopped following her ideas and resolves herself to talk about people who bring on the bravest ideas to promote social rights, through contemporary art, photography, culture, and design. Stories of creative resistance that she discovers all around the world. She dreams often, even during the day.

embroidered hand

eliza bennett

a woman's work is never done

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A British artist born in 1980, Bennett MAFA City & Guilds of London Art School, initially studied and trained in Fashion design at Middlesex University. Her early experience of working in low paid ancillary roles as both a care worker and seamstress provided the catalyst for the project.

Embroidery is traditionally associated with the idea of female work, intended as a meticulous and agile job, far from the physical fatigue of male work. In A Woman’s work is never done, Eliza Bennett subverts this juxtaposition between male and female work, using the top layer of her skin as a canvas for embroidery. Using a technique that is considered female, the artist gives a representative image of the hands of women busy in ancillary occupations invisible to society. The intent is to show how the work of women is far from easy and light.

Protest in embroidery

by Silvia Criara

“That's a job for a woman”. How many times have we heard these words? In Mantova the English artist Eliza Bennett tries to overthrow the stereotype with an extreme ritual: to embroider her hand just under the skin

embroidered hand detail

It's a tribute to women but also to those who take care of all the “invisible” people, those who take on ancillary work every day, which is considered to be servitude, but fundamental for society. Not recognized, often underpaid and without tutelage. In the series A Woman’s Work is Never Done Bennett uses her own hand as a canvas and on her skin she artfully sews the typical calluses of those who do heavy work.

When did you decide to become an artist? Throughout my childhood family trips pivoted around antiques fairs and centres, as my parents were involved in antique restoration. I think I was initially attracted to textiles because of the collector’s fairs that we frequented, amidst the treasure trove of fascinating objects I was always drawn to the textiles stalls. There was an intimacy about the remnants of past women's lives that wasn't so apparent in the other objects of interior adornment and utility. As a result, early on I began working with fashion & textiles. Costume and scenography gave me a greater understanding of creating 3-dimensionally and the processes I learned informed the creation of my own artistic work. My practice has evolved so that I now focus almost solely on my artistic output. I retain aspects of the elements that drew me to costume design, often focussing on the skin as a device for a wider exploration into ‘being’, acknowledging how clothing forms a protective and communicative skin.

In Mantova you will show A Woman’s Work Is Never Done. How did the project come to be? I first recall applying the technique to my hand under a table during a home economics class in school. I was totally amazed to find that I could pass a needle under the top layers of skin without any pain, only a mild discomfort. I recall the teacher’s reaction of disgust being disproportionate toward me, as the only girl in the small distracted group of hand stitchers. This was not to be expected of girls, I remember being indignant about that. As with many childhood whims I hadn't thought any more about it until reflecting on my experiences, over a period of several years of employment as both a Seamstress and care-worker. Working in these 'low status' jobs made a deep impression. The idea for the series arose during a heightened period of media reporting on individual worker failings within the care sector, whilst very little media attention was given to the inherent failings of the system itself. I decided to apply the process to my hand to make it appear calloused and work worn like that of a manual labourer, as a means of processing and expressing the complex feelings that arose during those times.

Some people called it a feminist protest. What do you think about it? I’ve been incredibly humbled by the wider public response and the rigour of individual peer reviews for illuminating aspects of the work which had previously been invisible to me. For me the piece is primarily about human value, after all, there are many men employed in caring, catering and cleaning, all jobs traditionally considered to be ‘women’s work’. Such essential work is almost invisible in the larger society. With this series I aim to represent it.

“In the field of the arts ‘class’ is the primary social issue that needs addressing. It is where the biggest inequalities to accessing culture and its rewards exist”

What does being an artist mean to you? This precious gift enriches my life. I need authentic experiences of my own and the act of creating makes this possible. I try to interrogate my experiences in life and my relation to things. A melancholic aspect is often apparent. Not to privilege it over happiness, but I acknowledge pain and sadness as part of life, so that I might overcome my own fears and learn not to turn away from challenging encounters out of discomfort, shame or disgust. I accept that there are parts of my nature that are hidden, and am open to what may be revealed through artistic experimentation. By making contact with myself in this way I believe it makes the possibility for sincere contact with others more likely.

Why is there a need for a Biennale of Female Photography? I did wrestle with this question when invited to exhibit at the biennale, I see the value in the intention of celebrating and sharing our passion for the diverse talents of a range of female photographers and their breadth of approaches to the theme of ‘work’. It is of course important we hear from marginalized voices and a biennale of female photographers goes some way to addressing that historic imbalance. However, I am concerned that such differentiation can result in alienating those not identified, and we miss the opportunity to raise awareness where it is most needed. I hope that this is not our case, and the biennale finds encouraging ways to engage all genders and ethnicities from the wider public.

Are women still undervalued in art? From what I see when visiting galleries and cultural institutions in the UK, there are a great many women artists being recognized and rewarded for their talents, whilst many equally as deserving, struggle to continue. This happens regardless of gender. Given the subject of my project on show at the biennale it may come as a surprise that I am not solely preoccupied with feminism and its tropes. In my opinion, in the field of the arts ‘class’ is the primary social issue that needs addressing. It is where the biggest inequalities to accessing culture and its rewards exist.

Silvia Criara

© All rights reserved.

silvia criara

silvia criara

Journalist

Journalist, born in Milan. At the age of 5 she asked for a pool for her dolls as a present but she didn't receive one. So she had an idea, she took a wooden drawer from her dresser and filled it with water to put her Barbies in it. From that moment she has never stopped following her ideas and resolves herself to talk about people who bring on the bravest ideas to promote social rights, through contemporary art, photography, culture, and design. Stories of creative resistance that she discovers all around the world. She dreams often, even during the day.

three people in an empty field

nausicaa giulia bianchi

women priests project

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Bianchi is a documentary photographer profoundly oriented towards themes on spirituality tied to the feminine and the divine.

In the Catholic world the ordination of female priests is still not allowed and as such represents a taboo for the Catholic community around the world. Whoever disobeys this rule is punished with excommunication. Nonetheless, in the last few decades, there has been an international movement of women who have decided to disobey, becoming ordained priests and starting a profound process of spiritual and religious innovation in the Catholic communities where they live. With Women Priests Project Giulia Bianchi collects the stories and images of the women bringing on this unprecedented change. In her evocative images we can find pieces of places that are as familiar as they are charged with innovation thanks to the transformative role of female spirituality.

Will it be the Church of the future?

by Silvia Criara

A movement of disobedient and battling religious women claim the access of women into priesthood and the right to have a voice, spaces and equal power. The testimony of a brave photographer who has gone into the depths of their stories and discovered that their allies, very often, are priests themselves

woman priest

Before starting to shoot, Giulia Bianchi always puts on a shirt and buttons it up to the top. These small gestures done slowly, over time, have become her personal ritual, because, as she says: “Photographing is something very serious”.
A photo, in fact, can have us float on the surface of a story, keeping us on the outside, without scratching us. A portrait can graze a person without having us come into contact with them for even an instant. But photography, if it wants, can dig so deep that it provokes us and makes us think. “It's a duty to ask the viewer questions, not confirm what they want to be told, not reassure them of the fact that the world is where we're all the same, beautiful and healthy”says Bianchi.
Her Women Priests Project, which she will be exhibiting at the Biennale, has changed many people's point of view. With reportage and portraits she tells the story of a revolution brought forward by about seventy disobedient women, on the first line inside a movement that claims gender equality in the Catholic Church and asks for a radical change: to give the go ahead for female priesthood, which is prohibited, even put in the same category as pedophilia. The pictures testify in a vivid, poetic and intimate way the life of these women, their spirituality, their ambivalence, the communities that welcome them and their allies, who very often are priests themselves.

“Photography, if it wants, can dig so deep that it changes our minds”

How do you photograph what can't be seen, such as spirituality? In my projects I search for the sense of life, what can be found by digging deep. Most of what we see around us are just packages, there's no intensity in eye contact, in the living body, the soul. You often see faces that are only surfaces, that become slogans, propaganda, stereotypes. Nowadays our challenge is to tell the story of those people, their complexity and their secret. It's to poke at who's looking, because photography, if it wants, can make you change your mind.

Can photography change the balance of power? Sure, but to do so it must show the people who don't have that power. If I shoot something with intimacy, empathy, you, the viewer, will feel very close to the person portrayed.

What makes a story unique? When it's important for many people and if it asks you to change the world. It must be a social commitment.

How did you become a photographer? Did you have a revealing moment? I was traveling in Burma, in 2008. The same day I arrived in Yangon I risked my life because of a fall. It was night, I couldn't see much and I accidentally slipped into a sewer. I hurt my leg and a finger, but the real problem was finding a way out of that black, dark hole hidden in a semi-deserted street. In the end I made it, I had so much adrenaline in me that I pulled myself up with the strength of the my shoulders and pretty quickly too, me, who at the gym doesn't even lift five kilos. The moment I saved myself I thought that I didn't want to dedicate my life to anything else except my passion, photography. So I quit my job, I was s software architect, and I followed my dream. This change pushed me to become a researcher, to overcome my shyness and throw myself into adventure. Photography is a clock for vision, it allows me to meditate, reflect, try to understand things by looking at them in the face.

“The beauty of life lies in the awareness of what you do and look at”

What do female priests say about your Women Priests Project to the people who see it? They want to completely overthrow the stereotype that a priest has to be a man, dressed in black and white and who is superior to you. Instead they're soft, open, curious, they're mysterious and feminine, they don't say that they get between you and God, but they want to help you, they hold out their hand, they want to bring you to a land that isn't made of dogmas, but of mysteries. Female priesthood in the catholic Church is a right that belongs to women, the right to be a spiritual leader and deliberate in theology. Notwithstanding this in my project there aren't only women, I've also photographed their male allies.

What's the idea that people have of them? They're courageous, they challenge the power of the Church and ask for it to transform. Most of them used to be catholic nuns and missionaries, that to be ordained priest were willing to be excommunicated, to do it they also have to find a disobedient bishop also willing to be expelled. They are profoundly devout women, they're part of a generation in which the world was different, many are old because they joined the Church in the seventies, after the Vatican Council II, when it seemed that change was possible, but then it didn't happen because ultra-conservative popes took lead one after the other, even if they were very much loved. This is why young women rarely join convents, because they recognize the limits of this experience. We can't talk about a global movement, but two years ago four thousand nuns asked the Pope to reconsider female deaconship, the first level of the holy order. Symbolically women have been given “high standing” roles, but in matter of theology nothing has changed, it continues to be taboo. There are studies that say there's a better chance they'll ordain married men rather than allowing a woman to become priest. There's a shameful misogyny, people still think that women aren't good, that if they arrive it'll be a mess because they'll want to change things, or at least do them differently, to have their own say. Therefore, why invite people that will be bothersome to the table of power, who will want change, who will say no to cardinals with brand name shoes?

Who impressed you the most? I photographed all over Italy, in Canada, in Columbia and the United States. But the person who impressed me the most is an African-American woman, from Chicago, who was 86 years old. She was a mystic, a woman full of mystery and freedom. She and others taught me to be open, to disobey. Female spirituality lets us peek into the Church of the future, of inclusion of all genders, all races, minorities, social classes. What they do in religion we should be doing in politics, take action instead of complain.

"In a historical era in which it's easy to think that we have no power, women priests remind us that every one of us can choose to try."

How did you connect? I stayed with each of them for at least two weeks, because I wanted to dig into their personal lives, understand their complexity, I wanted to leave a historic document, photograph them, their albums, the church, the community. Lots of coincidences happened at that time and when so many happen you feel you're going in the right direction. It seems like the world is speaking to you. It was like each of these women presented me with a different piece of reality, truth, mystery. And this magic made me a believer.

What effect does it have on the public? I've seen people get angry, leave, but I've also seen people become emotional and cry. Many people told me they would like to meet the religious women, I received unexpected recognition from many people, even very humble and simple. I remember a farmer in Columbia telling me: “Wow! I don't see anything strange, if you think about it Jesus dressed as a woman, with a tunic”.

Why is there a need for a Biennale of Female Photography? Because we need to see through the eyes of women. I can already hear the chorus of male colleagues complaining because we've created an event exclusive to us. It's too bad we aren't recognized in the same way and that we are lacking spaces where we can be seen. It's time to do it. Absurdly enough, us women have interiorized a male gaze on the world, the most popular one, the gaze of the patriarchal white male colonialist. And you can see this in pictures. If you try to do something different they look at you disdainfully: “Oh sure, you do these things tied to emotions and how you feel”.

Silvia Criara

© All rights reserved.

silvia criara

silvia criara

Journalist

Journalist, born in Milan. At the age of 5 she asked for a pool for her dolls as a present but she didn't receive one. So she had an idea, she took a wooden drawer from her dresser and filled it with water to put her Barbies in it. From that moment she has never stopped following her ideas and resolves herself to talk about people who bring on the bravest ideas to promote social rights, through contemporary art, photography, culture, and design. Stories of creative resistance that she discovers all around the world. She dreams often, even during the day.

trees from above
With the support of
  • logo save the planet
  • logo canon

betty colombo

la riparazione

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Betty Colombo is a photoreporter who works for various Italian and foreign publications, and is involved in the Local Testimonial Project by Canon. Her images have been purchased by the Centre Pompidou, the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern art in Stockholm. Her main work is travel, as an encounter of places, people and photography.

The relationship between mankind and nature is at the core of the four series presented by Betty Colombo, an exchange depicted in its controversial and stupefying aspects. Humans destroy the planet and then heal it, both harm each other to then repair each other. The conflicting symbiosis between people and the environment reveals itself in various ways: from a land hit by fire then reborn thanks to human intervention, to the saving of an animal wounded because of the same destruction generated by its saviours. Natural change can mean life, but also death. The struggle between these forces becomes here a cycle pervading the body of the earth, its trees, and the human body. The woodland destroyed by the fire changes its skin, and so do human beings by seeking salvation in medical interventions aimed at regenerating and avoiding death, the fate of all living creatures.

Your whole life ahead

by Silvia Criara

They tried to dissuade her at the beginning of her career, but she didn't stop. And when they told her “being a photo journalist is a man's job” and that “a woman shouldn't go to certain places”, Betty Colombo went anyway. Now she goes on forty trips a year and in her exhibition in Mantova, she brings us to strange places, to help us discover how prestigious life is

operazione chirurgica al torace

In order: she walked for kilometers in the regional Campo dei Fiori park and had a drone fly over it to see what happens to a forest, something miraculous, after a devastating fire; she observed a lung transplant in the operating room “when the chest is open and you see life pulsing”; she went into an experimentation center for cancer research, where mice are venerated and even have “biologist mothers” that take care of them. And then she brought together pictures of vegetation, of the interventions and the test animals in the personal exhibition La Riparazione, which she will present in Mantova in Palazzo Ducale, from March 5th through the 29th, to talk about the ability of mankind, nature and animals to renew themselves, but even about the ambivalent relationships that tie them together.

What do a burnt forest, an operating room and a center for cancer experimentation have in common? The concept of repair brings them together. Sometimes nature can be damaged because of humans or because of internal processes, but if it's true that it can be damaged it's also true that it has the ability to renovate itself, thanks to itself or thanks to humans. And it's exactly the same thing that happens to humans and to animals in the operating room, that's why I put pictures of burnt nature taken after the Campo dei Fiori fire (Varese, editor's note) next to ones of a chest operation, an operation on a cat's femur, reconstructive plastic surgery on a burn victim and those of mice in a center for cancer experimentation. There's humans taking care of animals and animals helping humans save themselves from cancer; nature that regenerates after a fire, the new skin after an intervention and a lung that breathes again after a transplant. Even if every single project can be enough on its own I liked the idea of this connection between nature on fire, humans getting burnt and both of them being born anew.

“If you look at the forest from above today, it's hard to see what's burnt, there's lots of colors, ferns, branches and masses of leaves. Everything lives again”

What would you have never expected from the forest that actually happened? That nature is able to renew itself in a marvelous way and in such short time, it's been only two years since the fire and there are ferns two meters tall. Next to the burnt trees there's dozens of new ones. This happened because the seeds that were on the ground flowered thanks to the heat generated from the combustion and just a few weeks after, thanks to this phenomenon, there was lots of low vegetation. If you look at the forest from above, it's hard to tell what's burnt, there's lots of colors, ferns, branches and masses of leaves. Everything lives again.

And what struck you the most in the operating room? I expected a gruesome environment, but instead the mood is relaxed, sometimes romantic, and it's this feeling of peace that I wanted to communicate in the photos. I felt a great security and great faith in the people (the doctors and surgeons of the Lorenzo Rosso team at the Policlinico of Milan and the Davide Melandri team at the Center for Burn Victims in Cesena) and in what I was doing. It's an incredible feeling, when they open the chest you see the pulsing life of a person, you see the lungs inflating and the heart, in the middle, beating. You don't think about the blood. Even more emotional is when the surgeon replaces the sick lung with the healthy one, they need a lot of time to reconnect all the parts and allow the new one to live tied to the body. When it arrives, by helicopter, it's inside a fridge, it's opened and it's full of air, which is the last breath of the person that donated it before dying. Then it's prepared, put into a bowl with ice and then a cut is made at the base of the bronchi and the lung deflates, it's then put in the hole where the other one used to be and it's slowly connected. When the lung inflated and started breathing everybody in the operating room looked at each other and smiled. There was absolute silence, but it was as if they were saying: “Ok, we did it, we gave you something”.

“In the operating room I expected a gruesome environment, instead the mood is relaxed, sometimes romantic”

They say that nature doesn't do anything by chance, do humans? I remember one time when I was in an orange field in Sicily and I discovered something interesting. The owner had me notice how the grass was covered by three leaf clovers. She told me that they pop up when the oranges become heavy and the branches bend, so they're there to soften the fruits' fall, so they don't bruise. When all the oranges are gathered, suddenly that green blanket, as if magically, disappears.

Why is photography needed? When I was studying in Brera a teacher preached that photography is needed to communicate the whole scene on its own. I, as a photojournalist, do not agree. If you use words to tell the story behind it, the situation changes for who wasn't present and I want people to perceive exactly what it was. For example, in the part dedicated to experiments on animals, the one on test animals in the cancer research center, I can't say where I took the photos to protect the researchers; often people can't make a separation between the animal they have in their home, the ones they eat and the mouse, which can save their life. We have to be more aware of the fact that, for our survival, there are studies that must be carried out, even because in the field of cancer research there is no western country that allows researchers to experiment a medicine on a human that hasn't first been tested on animals. You can't do tests on people that are already ill. For those that imagine mice living in situations that we see in certain photos, I'd like to say that in the lab I visited they even have “mothers”, as the two biologists are called that take care of their well-being. But I'm not bringing an opinion to the exhibition, I'm just bringing a fact, a story that each person can interpret freely.

How would you like the public to come out of the exhibition? I would like people to ask themselves some questions. To develop thoughts and discuss them with one another. The images I've chosen are strong and bring along decisively different emotional reactions. This is what I'm looking for by putting them in front of a public in Mantova. I'm not bringing magic, I'm a photojournalist: my work is reality for what it is, with its energy and its weaknesses. With the pictures taken after the fire in the regional park, I would also like to push people towards a reflection on the relationship of cause and effect that ties us to the earth. Humans should try to live respecting the ground they walk upon and the other species that share it with them. This is why I've become the Italian ambassador for Save The Planet: to show the public the good and the bad of the world through images and stories, I aim at stimulating awareness and consciousness. We can't just live in the present, we need to have a farsighted vision.

Silvia Criara

© All rights reserved.

info Betty Colombo started shooting twenty five years ago. Now that she is 44 she's a Canon photographer and Ambassador for Save The Planet and Interplast Italy, an association that brings reconstructive plastic surgery to the third world countries. She works for major Italian magazines. During the opening days of the Biennale she will do portfolio reviews and hold a conference on photo journalism along with Chiara Zennaro, photo editor for Condé Nast, while during the weekend of the 14-15 March she will hold a workshop around the center of the city and will give photo tips to participants along with two Canon Academy instructors.

silvia criara

silvia criara

Journalist

Journalist, born in Milan. At the age of 5 she asked for a pool for her dolls as a present but she didn't receive one. So she had an idea, she took a wooden drawer from her dresser and filled it with water to put her Barbies in it. From that moment she has never stopped following her ideas and resolves herself to talk about people who bring on the bravest ideas to promote social rights, through contemporary art, photography, culture, and design. Stories of creative resistance that she discovers all around the world. She dreams often, even during the day.

woman laying on hospital bed
selected works curated by

aldeide delgado

the new woman:
Gender discourse in the development of Cuban female photography

Aldeide Delgado is the founder and director of Women Photographers International Archive (WOPHA); an organization to research, promotion, support and education about the role of women, and those identified as women in photography. She is the author of the online archive Catalog of Cuban Women Photographers, as well as the namesake ongoing book. The project collates, for the first time, the works of Cuban women photographers from the 19th century to the present.

How did photography evidence the construction of the “new woman” in the Cuban imaginary? How did women represent themselves regarding the development of Socialist society? The New Woman: Gender Discourse in the development of Cuban Female Photography, features six women artist whose photographs provide a glimpse into diverse stories crossed by gender. The exhibition is part of the launching activities of Women Photographers International Archive (WOPHA).

Exhibited artists:
Niurka Barroso, Anna Mia Davidson, Kattia García, María Eugenia Haya, Sonia Cunliffe, and Gilda Pérez.

woman in orange dress
From the

donata pizzi

collection
le fatiche delle donne

Donata Pizzi has worked as a photo researcher, as a photographer for the publishing and industry sectors, and as a photo agency director. Since 2015, she has been creating a collection of Italian photography, centered on the work of female photographers and artists active from the 1960s till today.

In this selection, Donata Pizzi brings to light the evolution of the representation of work from the 1960s, as seen through the eyes of Italian photographers. While initially work is intended as labor, this view expands to include an ironic critique of gender myths.
At the same time, in photojournalism, the authors' focus concentrates on the campaigns for the right to abortion, the feminist marches, the ongoing fights. And yet, work is also made of invisible occupations, such as motherhood and the complex mother-daughter relationship. The dynamics surrounding women and work are replicated beyond the national borders and if Southern women from the 60s bent on the laundry look like they belong to a bygone era, we can in fact find their stories today, only lived by other women in other continents.

sleeping person behind a glass
With the support of
  • logo premio musa

premio musa

curated by Sara Munari

The Musa award is dedicated to the production of photography portfolios, and it is open to all women photographers, both amateurs and professionals. The participation is open to photographers living across Italy and who express themselves in this area, with no limitations in terms of their chosen artistic language.

maria grazia beruffi

chinese whispers

On the East Coast of China, in the megalopolis where the future is the past and the past seems to be of no more interest, people are re-elaborating their life style. These pictures come from occasional encounters during which the difficult verbal communication has not been an issue at all. On the contrary, through those looks, often shy and delicate, we could establish a kind of empathy and sharing truth. Fleeting moments that are not meant to tell a story or describe something, but just leave a trace, light and undefined.

claudia amatruda

naiade

This project starts from the necessity to deal with a reality that is difficult to accept for a 24-year-old girl. A reality made of hospital wards, the continuous search for a diagnosis, pains, medicines, physiotherapy, many unanswered questions, and constant deterioration. Naiade expresses the condition of invisible suffering, the darkness of an incomplete and indefinite diagnosis. It also shows what photography and water can do together when coupled with determination and the will to fight.

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