All my pictures originated from an international project, Mnemosine, which invited all participants to create works on specific themes, such as identity, origins and the fight against prejudice. My starting point for this project were origins and identity.
I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone build his identity depending on economic, political, social and cultural circumstances and subjective life experiences.
The country of origin and other environmental factors not always define our personality, but nowadays, although internet and other media give the possibility to quickly access to an universal knowledge, a lot of people are still subject to several prejudices because of their personal data. Than I thought “Which official documents let us travel and certify a person’s identity at the same time? The answer was “Identity card and passport”. I decided to interview some elderly people, depending on their life experiences and their different origins. I asked them about their lives and I created a story putting together all the different pieces of information.
The result of the interviews surprised me, because the answer to my question, “do you have an unfulfilled dream?”, was often positive; the majority of people said they have had a satisfying life although war and poverty. Anyway, I’ve exhibited these pictures because I wanted to show interviewees’ faces, their identity documents and stories. I won’t specify which are the true stories, because we cannot only identify a person from his “biological characteristics” and biographical data.
Each person is also made of dreams, hopes and life experiences.
Documents often give us mispresented and stereotypical information about people.
I think it’s really unfair to consider only a person’s origin and background when describing his personality. We cannot judge a person because of his origin and social class, we are all people, characterized by unique features and that’s most important thing.
Researching identity. Mine is not a work of art, but a research of a specific concept, which is usually trivially debated and hard to define.
Identity is a complex concept, because it includes heterogeneous aspects and several meanings; as a big umbrella it holds together and connects different elements.
We cannot exactly define what identity is, maybe only the dictionary can do it, but in a limited way.
Therefore, my research began from the problem of defining both individual and collective identity.
Nowadays our identity cannot be steady as many years ago. All the certainties have fallen down and everything is changed from a quite steady world to a precarious one, so our identity can change in a few minutes too. Consequently defining our identity is more complex today: our life experiences continuously change because of an increasingly social dynamism, influencing both our self-awareness and the “other-awarness”.
Considering the complex matter of identity and what different people may have in common, I thought the only feature that characterises all of us is the species: we are humans.
For the majority of people identity is usually a matter of gender, a concept which has been increasingly disputed in recent years because of a cultural revolution, race, religion, ethnicity and skin colour.
Actually these deep-seated prejudices mask something else: people’s desire of defence, personal advantage and offense.
I continued thinking about this matter, but it wasn’t clear to me why people are not able to accept others and recognise that we are all humans. So I asked my interviewees to explain their identities to an imaginary alien, while looking at themselves in the mirror. None of them has described himself as an human, but as a boy, a girl etc…but an alien might not know who is an human! I’ve continued with my questions, then I tried to photograph interviewees’ souls, letting them choice the picture they preferred.
I believe people can go beyond stereotypes, maybe it will take some time, maybe it’s an utopia, but if we begin to consider others as humans and not as black or white, woman or man, we can manage to do it.
Claudio 1) I see a self-confident young man, but I never define properly who I am. I’m 25 years old, I’ve recently begun to work, I’m a dark-haired boy with beard. 2) Because the word “human” is too vague, whereas boy is clearer. I would never say I’m a human. 3) Identity is the way of being we show the others from several perspective. 4) I think prejudices aren’t strictly due to identity, but to our personal characteristics and ways of being, which however are parts of our identity. Human being is a natural part of identity that all people have in common, but I don’t consider it the fundamental part to overcome prejudices.
Elena 1) I see a girl. It’s hard to describe what I’m seeing: eyes, a nose, a mouth, my face. Saying “My”, I mean me, Elena, a person and a woman. 2) I don’t know why, maybe I’ve taken in for granted. Anyway, I would never say it describing myself. 3)Identity distinguishes you from the others; it’s a subjective way of being unique. 4) I don’t know, it may require a hard work, because we should completely rethink the idea of self-consciousness and our culture. Nowadays, more than ever, it’s difficult to speak about these existential questions.
Eleonora 1) That’s an ordinary question. I’m a young blonde girl with fair skin, I’ve pale-blu eyes, not really pale but blu, and I often blush when it’s too cold or hot. 2) That’s true. Being human is the only thing all people have in common, but I didn’t say it, because I’ve taken for granted the alien knew what is an human. 3)I think the first step to identify a person is to describe his/her appearance. Identity is made of both appearance and personality, it’s how the others see you and how you show yourself in front of others (you can decide to open up to the others or not). Furthermore identity itself is nothing, an identity exists only in comparison with other identities, and it can change. It’s a difficult matter, because we cannot give a complete definition of what identity is, both from a general conceptual point of view, as it includes several aspects, and from a personal point of view, as it continuously changes. 4) If we consider the results of the “gender revolution”, we can say this process has already begun. In my experience, I’ve noticed that nowadays more women attend engineering university than before. A collective desire of freedom brings to all these changes; everyone wants to fulfil his dreams. The desire of freedom deals with the matter of identity: self-awareness is the first step towards freedom and personal achievements. Everyone has the right to do it, regardless of gender, religion etc.. Obviously, this social change requires long time, but I’m sure a little girl will be able to play with toys, usually considered for boys, without any problem in the future. I’m lucky, because I’ve played with toy cars.
Gianni 1) I’m a common person, a tall man with beard, dark hair and a tired-face from work. It’s not easy to describe myself while looking in the mirror. 2)I didn’t think about it. I’ve taken it for granted as everybody usually do, maybe because of our anthropocentric culture. 3) Identity is a kind of personal profile, an identity card, which shows our data. We are all humans, but everyone has unique characteristics. 4) Yes, it will. If people begin to think about this matter, they will understand we are all the same despite skin-colour, age, race, religion and origin. There is a long and difficult road ahead, but it could be a starting point.
Giulia 1) I am a woman, a female person, I’ve eyes, curly red hair, a nose and a nose piercing. 2)I didn’t think about it. Maybe I would have said it in few minutes, as I’ve specified my gender. I am aware that probably aliens don’t know who is an human. 3)It’s a difficult question, maybe identity deals with self-awarness, the capacity of recognise ourselves and our ever changing personality. Thinking about that, I’m not sure about my identity, I cannot give a definite answer, as I’m 26 years old and my identity will change depending on life experiences. I’m probably beginning now to understand my identity and be self-aware, but it’s a long-term cognitive process. 4) Yes, it will. It’s a matter of reflection about ourselves and the others, which is useful to understand that we are basically all the same. For example thinking about rockstars and celebrities, people usually forget they may have had life experiences similar to ours. That’s because people usually take for granted the others’ past and life experiences without considering them our equals.
Gloria 1) Could you describe your reflected image to an imaginary alien? Would you be able to explain him what you are seeing? I see me, calm, with a tired face. I see me, and saying “me”, I mean I recognise myself in what I’m seeing. I see a girl, a person, an individual who thinks and speaks. 2) Why haven’t you introduced yourself as an human? Isn’t it our “race”? Because I haven’t considered important to say it, but you’re right, I described myself as a girl and not as an human. That’s because when we introduce ourselves, we are used to say “Hi, I’m Gloria, nice to meet you” taking for granted we are humans. 3) What does identity mean for you? It’s a tricky question. On the one hand, it’s not proper to describe ourselves speaking only of gender, as many people do, but on the other hand, appearance is objectively relevant when dealing with identity. In conclusion, identity is not only a matter of appearance and gender, but also of religion etc.. 4) In your opinion, will a greater consideration of “the human side of identity” be useful to overcome the barrier of prejudices? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s really a complex matter. It seems to be the right way, but today’s world is going in the opposite direction, so it will be a great obstacle.
Ilaria 1)Could you describe your reflected image to an imaginary alien? Would you be able to explain him what you are seeing? I am a young girl, I’ve big light blue eyes, fair skin and a thin nose. 2)Why haven’t you introduced yourself as an human? Isn’t it our “race”? I honestly haven’t thought about it, because people usually take it for granted. 3) What does identity mean for you? Identity means self-awareness, and being self-conscious is useful to understand and respect others. 4)In your opinion, will a greater consideration of “the human side of identity” be useful to overcome the barrier of prejudices? It may be a solution, but it implies a great commitment, because we’re going through a difficult period, during which it’s becoming increasingly difficult to communicate and understand others. A lasting cultural revolution and people’s determination are necessary to succeed.
Meheret 1)Could you describe your reflected image to an imaginary alien? Would you be able to explain him what you are seeing? I see me: I’ve hair, a mouth, a nose, a neck, beautiful eyes, eyebrows and ears. I am a seven-year-child. 2) Who is a child? I’m a child and my name is Meheret. 3) What does identity mean for you? I don’t know, it’s a difficult word to define, but I will ask to my mum. She certainly knows it better than me. 4) Do you know who a human is? Yes, I do. We are all humans, you too. Obviously, I used an easier register for this interview, which gave me the opportunity to understand two incredible things: firstly, we are used to identify ourselves in a gender, maybe because of the education we receive since childhood, and secondly, children are able to surprise everyone (I refer to the answers three and four). Meheret’s last sweet answer makes me realise that it would be useful to introduce educational courses from childhood, in order to teach people the respect for others. We are not all the same, but there must be equal rights for all.
Naiara Naiara 1) Describing ourselves is not easy, it’s a very difficult question. However, I have a pale face with large forehead and half-closed eyes for the sun, I wear a green jumper, I’m chuckling while seeing myself in the mirror. 2) Saying I’m a female human being makes me laugh. Anyway, I didn’t think about it. 3) It’s another difficult question. An in-depth analysis of the matter would be necessary, before answering. The concept of identity is too vague and it’s quite impossible to define it. People usually think about gender when dealing with identity, because our culture influences our way of thinking. 4) There are too many distinctions and social groups, as religion, in which people are used to recognize themselves instead of developing and focusing on their self-awareness. Furthermore it will be quite impossible to manage it, because it’s a work which separates and not unites. However, it might work with a long-term engagement and maybe in hundreds years, because we are not ready for such social change. We discuss a lot about identity, social and cultural differences, but we concretely do not enough. We usually don’t accept others, because they are different from us, so how can people say “we are all the same”? In some extreme examples, when dealing with criminals, it’s even more difficult to accept others identity. How should we behave in those cases? Should we accept them anyway?
Purificacion 1) Two eyes, a nose, a mouth, hair, some wrinkles, a smile, a woman. 2) Because people take for granted that everyone know who is a human. We feel omnipotent, as we have been created from the Omnipotent. We incorrectly consider humans as a superior race, and that causes the lack of human sense of belonging. 3) Identity is being ourselves. I identify me in myself, not in a race, in a nation. 4) Maybe. Identity might have been created by mankind in order to have control over the others. That’s only a mental category, full of superfluous distinctions or structures which build our identities. These superfluous structures were simpler before, so prejudices could have been easier overcame, but nowadays everything is more complicated. It would be a significant achievement, but there are too many impediments. Empathy and understanding the others may be the first step, but the empathic way will be blocked by impediments too.