A pretty good wife—with a great therapist, otherwise I would’ve screwed this one up way too many times.
A mother—I think this one I do best except between the hours of 6:15 and 7:30pm and certain whole days at a time.
A daughter—I was a pretty terrible daughter growing up but I’m starting to get the hang of it now that I’m a parent.
A good sister.
And lastly a friend. To some, the best and to others, impossibly guarded.
I’m forty three years-old and I’m trying to grow as a person but so is my skin. I’m not that interested in holding onto my youth. My life is far greater now. But letting go isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some days I don’t recognize this person who looks back at me in the mirror. She is older, has responsibilities. She has had to learn that sometimes God has a bigger plan for her life than she does. On the outside, she strives for peace but inside there is a turbulence of holding on too tightly to all these things that have finally brought that peace and true joy.
With HER, she turns away from the mirror and turns the camera on her own life—examining the psychology of her age and her gender in black and white, through surreal interpretations and exaggerated gestures, reminiscent of Italian cinema, creating photographs that reflect the universal idea of womanhood and assure HER that she is not on this path alone.
Marjorie Salvaterra’s pictures are loaded with reference, humor, and one person’s struggle to make sense of this crazy world. We wanted to find out more about the making of this series—assistant editor Alexander Strecker reached out via email.
Your project seems to be telling your story—as mother, sister, friend—but also, as you say, “a universal idea of womanhood.” Can you talk more about trying to balance a personal perspective with a universal one?
Individually, this is how the project began: On the surface, things were going great. I was married with children and exploring a new career in photography. But I found myself holding on tightly to all my new titles, the new joys and and trying very hard to be all things to all people. It wasn’t working. I was struggling to keep everything going.
One day, I saw the idea for “The Weight Of Water” [slide 20] in my head. Water can carry you or weigh you down. It’s a choice. From there, the ideas kept coming. It was then that I realized what kind of photographer I wanted to be—someone who tells stories with pictures.
After I had made my first few photos in this series, I was sure people would think I was crazy. They are surreal and I thought I was the only one in the world who felt the way I did. But when I started showing them to others, I was stunned by the reaction—so many people could identify! It seems like we all go through the same emotions, feelings, struggles, dreams and yet alone, in our own heads. So the struggles are individual but at the same time universal.
This duality between alone and together was really brought out in the making of the series. In bringing together all these women to make my photographs, we were able to let go and connect with each other. I mean, when someone arrives to the beach at 6 AM and walks into the ice-cold ocean for you before they’ve even had a cup of coffee or lays naked in the grass and ends up with a rash for a week—that’s when you know you have a true friend.
Another example: Linda is my wonderful, very proper friend. I was shooting “Eve Unraveled” and I really needed a half dozen women who would be willing to show their bare bottoms. I had to shoot in the early evening, on a school day, so many women were busy. I BEGGED my friend Linda to come. She seemed fairly horrified by the idea but I promised her she would remain anonymous. Finally, she agreed to do but only “as a friend…and only for me.” Then, during the first exhibition of this series, “Eve Unraveled” was hanging on the wall. During the opening, I looked over and I saw Linda, standing next to the photo, smiling and pointing to her own behind. She stood next to the photo as her daughter took a picture (of her picture).
In the end, I try not to take myself too seriously. Some crazy things have happened to me, so given that I’m still here, I just try my best to enjoy it all.
—Marjorie Salvaterra, as told to Alexander Strecker