Going under the skin, where “inner” nature surfaces and shows as a presence, revealing traces of an inward journey, crossed by wounds and dreams of change, emotions and desires. Snapshots by Giovanna Magri cannot be called portraits, since they don’t come as the work of an outer look simply photographing and interpreting faces. The definition would rather be “self-portraits/portraits”, because they stem from a relational shared route: from the friendship among women, where the author knows how to step back to show and enlighten the intimate feeling of the subject telling her own story and describing her internal growth.

Some years ago, when the author entered the Female Section of Montorio Prison (Verona), she met many women who were living through a process of self-awareness, digging in the depths of their own self – thanks to the work on personal growth already started by the Association  MicroCosmo Onlus. Instead of capturing their faces in quick, rapacious snaps, Giovanna Magri followed her new mates throughout their regeneration journeys. She welcomed and supported them, let them grow and become visible by means of a slow optical bench (using polaroid films) which allowed her to build images together with the prisoners, to blend and combine one shot on top of another, in time and dialogue.

Images like metaphors, floating in an ambiguous time dimension, that of memories and consciousness-soaked-in experiences. These photographs are evocative and obscure, like a permeable skin, absorbing hidden stories and emotions, mysterious just like our own psyche. A woman hiding her face behind a drawn compass; another one cradling her own head in her womb, in the act of showing her own rebirth, her need for self-care and regeneration. At the end of the day, don’t we all need to learn how to find “our own” direction, to respect  and take care of ourselves?

Works by Giovanna Magri tell the stories of the women she met, but, at the same time, they also speak of us and of the chance that we have to change in time, and how important it is to listen to ourselves and be listened to, so that we can start moving onward on our own. They reveal how photography can reach beyond resemblance and documentation, beyond the skin and the masks that we wear to play our part with ourselves and in public. But it only happens when photography is guided, supported by empathic look and feeling, through the awareness that that identity is not one but manifold, not given once for all, but made up of people we meet, stories, memories, chances, dreams…  Images by Giovanna Magri lead us along the way.

Gigliola Foschi

Many thanks to MicroCosmo Onlus – Verona, especially Erica Benedetti, Dannia Pavan and Paola Tacchella, for their support and openness.