life . Portrait . street

Madison, WI


Fontana Giusti

MARCH 2023

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

This month prompt didn’t resonate with me at first. I always considered myself free, or at least very good at escaping situations where I didn’t feel in full ownership of my free will.

I also had no drive to pick up a camera. None whatsoever. 

But I was still busy, I found myself revisiting old work I’d made in the fall when I took the final decision to cut my mother out of my life.

For this prompt I found myself printing and experimenting in the darkroom with re-exposing the paper to light while it’s being processed. My goal was to create a solarized print in the manner of Man Ray, to convey that I was working on a projection of the mind and not on an absolute reality, an undeniable truth about what it means to be free.

It did not work. I’m still keeping that technique in mind for future work, also because I want to learn it and master it, but in this particular instance, I only managed to fog my prints. 

And that fogging is lovely.

Also, it looks like smoke, a toxic cloud I’m trying to get away from, and that was fitting, because the reason why I cut my mother out is that she’s incredibly toxic, an incorrigible narcissist who’s been damaging me my entire life – for some reason I do not understand, I’m the thing she’s fixated on, and while she damaged my siblings as well, the dynamics played out differently for them.

Le prix de la métamorphose

On the morning we were scheduled to share our work for this loop, I still wasn’t entirely sure which print I wanted to share, I’d made three of three different images, but at the very last moment, I decided to burn this one up, because to me cutting my mother out was an act of freedom, but an expensive one.

There’ is nothing light in cutting off a root and shunning the person who brought you into the world. It’s a very difficult decision to make, and one society does not understand. 

I’ve felt so much guilt over this decision, and that was not new. In fact, it echoed feeling I’d felt years ago when I chose to step away from that same relationship in ways that were available to me at that time. 

When I was 15, I decided to go live in Italy with my father rather than stay in France with my mother, and that was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself, but the judgement from society, from my friends, from people I trusted (teachers, coaches, etc.) was sharp, it was painful, and while it never made me consider backing off, it made me feel like I was not adequate in some way.

But in spite of that cost, I’ve gotten stronger. And this time I’m getting stronger as well. It’s a metamorphosis.

So this image expresses all that, and it also celebrates the fact that, despite the guilt, despite the social judgement, I stayed true to myself, I followed my drive, and it turns out that I am, indeed, still rather good at escaping situations in which I’m not in full ownership of my free will.


These were the other prints I considered sharing for this month prompt:

Three versions of “Tourments” 

Straight cyanolumen
Fixed in Ilford rapid fixer
Overlayed with a turmeric anthotype of a letter

“Les sirènes continuent de chanter, mais je ne les écoute plus” 

– “The sirens still sing, but I no longer listen”

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