Martina Zanin – I Made Them Run Away
I Made Them Run Away is a first-person narrative as the title suggests. It is indeed a story about an “I” and “Them”, a subject and a direct object, author Martina Zanin and a mysterious them which we are soon getting acquainted with, although through their absence. The book cover paper is ripped, it manifests a laceration, an abrupt event which informed Zanin’s identity and life experience. Soft to the touch, the cover still breathes through the tenderness and warmth of the author’s wound.
“It was summer and as many children did, I spent my days in a summer camp. One night I was very excited when I came home and after having had dinner with my grandmother I went upstairs, where my mother and I lived, with the intention of going to sleep. As I entered, I saw my mother and a man sitting on the couch watching television. My mother asked me how my day had been and I couldn’t stop myself from showing both of them what I had learned. I started dancing and singing in front of the television for about 10 minutes, until the man interrupted my performance by saying ‘it’s late, I’d better go.’, followed by mother’s glare towards me. Having said goodbye to the man, my mother came back in the house yelling at me: ‘How is it possible that you make them all run away?”
Zanin made them all run away: men. Consequently, there are no men present in the diary, as they are always cut out of the family pictures, letting us focus on a narrative of love without men. Whether it is a mother-daughter relationship or passionate love, these are narrated through some letters inserted in the book as watersheds of the author’s emotional growth and acceptance. These letters were written by Zanin’s mother Giulia and come from a diary she wrote entitled “Lettere ad un uomo mai avuto” (“Letters to a man I have never had”).
Contemporary photography still aims to search for traces of what is invisible, and it does so here through the most nostalgic of practices: the recontextualization of the family album.
Ripped photos linger between the present and past, yet become present through the act of juxtaposition and resignification of different kinds of images. Contemporary photography still aims to search for traces of what is invisible, and it does so here through the most nostalgic of practices: the recontextualization of the family album.
Images can manifest the subconscious, more than words can. They can be a means of self-discovery, as in Zanin’s practice. Indeed, patterns emerge from the visual narrative depicted throughout the book: patterns of beliefs, doubts, and research topics abiding around what the author longs for, that which is left unveiled, yet imaginable. The red thread of the narrative is the quest for what it means to love and be loved. Zanin and Giulia – who is present through the old letters – are the ‘seamstresses’: protagonists of a story which unfolds and brings the two distinct characters to cross paths and identities, as mothers and daughters often do.
Images can bring to the surface and formalise what is absent and what indeed is desired. Maybe that is what keeps photographs alive for us, that glimpse of human aspiration to connection and love after all. Connection to the self and other human beings, creatures, nature, everything other than the self, all at once.
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