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Self-Portrait as My Mother in School Uniform
A Photograph by Silvia Rosi
Her small tray bears a pyramid of chewing-sticks, balanced so perfectly she could be said to have worn a hat. The fingers of one hand are curled around books, and the fingers of the other are balled so tight the knuckles gleam. The mood and backdrop are grey and unadorned, so that the white of her eye is the shiniest of surfaces, the prick of light reaching us from the past.
Silvia Rosi: “This portrait is a way of creating a memory that doesn't exist…in my head.”
This photograph was taken in London.
It was shot in the solitude of what at the time was my studio. I had put up a backdrop made of heavy thick cotton and set up the camera to shoot. Some music was probably playing from the speaker while I was loading the film to the back of my camera. It is a self portrait in which I'm wearing a school uniform that I brought with me from Lomè and I'm holding on my head a tray of alo sticks from the Assigame market .
I'm impersonating my young mother before I met her, when she was a school girl and working as a market seller in Lomè. This portrait is a way of creating a memory that doesn't exist—at least not in my head—that comes from someone else's recollection and sharing of that memory.
I like this photo because it speaks about a past that I did not live, through which I learn about my mother's memories.
I make images that are mostly staged and prepared for the purpose of a single shot. I'm often frustrated by my inability to capture a particular moment as it happens in front of my eyes, and so staging becomes a way of taking control over time and space.
Photography allows everyone to capture their stories. It's quite accessible. I work with a lot of images that come from personal archives and albums of friends and family—images that are not made to be, or considered as art, but they are an essential influence on my art practice.
Two other photographs by Silvia Rosi
Silvia Rosi, born in 1992, lives between England and Italy. Both photographs were published in the New Yorker, a portfolio by Graces Wales.
Last Week — Light Oriye
Photography is impactful in many ways. But to summarize: it creates relationships, it is used as evidence of events, it draws empathy from its viewers, and it has a compelling power to create change.
Read more: Style and Pattern
Support Silvia Rosi
Thank you for reading and sharing this feature. More details about where Silvia’s work has been featured can be found via this Linktree, and you can follow her on Instagram. She’s been featured on Twin Factory, as well as in Elephant, and in both occasions she speaks about Encounters, a series that includes the featured photograph.
Support Tender Photo
This is the 28th edition of the newsletter. Every week I feature one photograph and the photographer who took it. You’ll read a short caption from me, and a statement from the photographer. My goal is to set up conversations with the work of early to mid-career African photographers. If you know of any photographer whose work is deserving of attention, please email me with their name(s).