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Diambra Mariani

Born in Verona in 1982. She graduated in Law at Statale University of Milan, and in Venice with a master in Photography and digital imaging.
Her photographic research focuses on “the defining moments”, either through individual stories of life, and through collective stories of people who have been faced directly or indirectly some of the main events of the twentieth century.
Her meditation is about the interlacements between history, memory and the function of photographic representation.
She travelled in Central and South America, in East Europe, Palestine, Afghanistan.
Her pictures were exhibited in Italy and abroad and published, among others, on The Sunday Times Magazine, Liberation, MarieClaire, D La Repubblica delle Donne, Internazionale, Sette, L’Espresso, Vanity Fair, Corriere della Sera.
Amongst her recognitions are: Tokio Photo Competition, Honorable Mention at Px3 Paris, Cortona New Visions Prize, Streamers/Celeste Prize, Inail Prospekt Award.
Since 2012 she lives in Barcelona, Spain, where she works as a freelance photographer and photography teacher and where she runs, together with Yaiza Hernández, the art gallery “Espacio Véntalo”.


My psychotherapist recently died.

When I realized that I wouldn’t be able to talk to him ever again, I was attending a self-portrait workshop run by the photographer Cristina Nuñez. 

Pushed by curiosity about her method more than by a real will to work on myself, I decided to participate. I wanted to compare her teaching practice with mine, being a photography teacher myself to eventually learn something new for my students’ sake. It turned out that I really enjoyed being a student again.

After two years working as a self-portrait teacher I had forgotten how it felt to be on the other side and to be asked to talk about myself, even though it’s exactly what I ask my students all the time, so it was kind of shocking at the beginning.

My first reaction was: of course, I do it every day, do I need to prove anything?

Yes, I had.

Nuñez considers herself a social activist and she believes in a practice which is basically the opposite of how we are provoked to act by using social media. Instead of being preoccupied with how other see us, she says: never try to pretend to be “cool”, and then further: never even try to pretend to be “normal”. Clearly, I agree with it: “normal people don’t exist” quoting Spanish director Isabel Coixet.

I have to admit that it was especially difficult for me to clearly show my face in my pictures. I have always practiced self-portrait in a different way, using my body just as a tool to express something, the same way I use words to explain a concept. I was never interested in showing my “real” self in a photo.

Nothing new to be honest: in the history of female self-portrait practice, women often had the tendency to show their bodies freely but to hide their faces as something to be ashamed of. Almost like that the act of (finally) uncovering the body led to a feeling of liberation, while showing the face would permanently unmask the one who was doing it.

Also, my self-portraits were mostly created for personal and private bodies of works, and suddenly I was completely exposed to an “audience”.

It is known that it could be particularly easy to open oneself in front of a perfect stranger, but when one starts to think that his/her weird neighbour or the bully girl from high school might be among viewers, everything starts to be awkward.

Nuñez’s perspective about art was really challenging for my work during the workshop: according to her, art should not be uncomfortable only for the artist but for the viewer as well. The starting point of my practice used to be exactly the opposite: I wanted my students to feel absolutely comfortable, I wanted to be perceived as a pleasant and trustworthy person as I wanted to create safe environment. Not only related to my work, making other feel uncomfortable would be against the way I was educated and socialised. Suddenly I was asked to tell something uncomfortable and to say it loud while showing my face.

As a consequence of this request I decided to surf on the border between the comfortable and the uncomfortable, between my obsession for aesthetic and the need of a rawer truth.

I finally decided to focus my project on my psycho-therapist´s death, compiling a resume of what I have learnt from him about life and about myself.

I accepted to make public some uncomfortable stuff and some “raw” self-portraits, but I didn’t completely get rid off my need for control.

It was a great, difficult experience that left me open questions.

Do I completely agree with Cristina? Should art always be uncomfortable?

Was I trying to please the viewer too much or to please the teacher instead?

I will try to find an answer while working on the video that I started during the workshop, which title is “My psychotherapist is dead” which I’m hoping to be able to publish soon.

February 1, 2021

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Diambra Mariani

2020 has been the strangest year since I moved to Barcelona back in 2012. In the previous years I was mainly working abroad or for international clients, and in 2020, for the first time, I have created a professional project that would connect me deeper to the social fabric of the city. On 20th of March, together with my friend and colleague Yaiza Hérnandez, I should have celebrated the opening of our art gallery in the beautiful neighborhood of Gracia. We were thrilled. The 15th of March the lockdown started. At the time I’m writing, almost 7 months later, the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain is still critical. At the beginning of September Spain became the first EU state to record more than half-a-million cases since the beginning of the outbreak. Due to the measure to fight the pandemic, twelve years after plunging into a protracted economic crisis, Spain is dealing now with a new and unexpected economic shock. According to El Pais, in August the number of households with no working members has risen to 1.14 million. In Barcelona many bars, restaurants, clubs and shops are closed for good, many friends of mine are looking for a job unsuccessfully, the real estate prices are still unsustainabily high, the uncertainty is increasing day by day and the city is creepily empty (though beautiful in a way). As a consequence, I have started to notice that more and more people from the huge international community are leaving the city to go back to their countries. I am in the same process, considering to move back to Italy, unless the situation improves. That’s why I’ve recently started a new photo project, that might be called “The last day in Barcelona”, which aims to tell the story of a new migratory trend : from Barcelona back to homeland. It is a revolutionary change for a city whose almost half of the residents have been born abroad and one out of five is of foreign nationality. The first person I have had the chance to portray is an artist called Alek. Born in Teheran, Iran, when he was 13 years old, due to the Islamic Revolution, he moved to Armenia with his family. When the war started in Armenia, they moved to Poland. In 2002 he settled down in Barcelona, where he developed his career as a painter and photographer, at least until COVID-19 started. His flat contract was going to expire, job opportunities were scarce, so he decided to leave Barcelona and go back to Armenia. The 21st of September was his last day in his flat in which he had lived for 18 years. Being artistically devoted to nude photography genre (he made thousands of pictures of naked women while living in Spain) he decided to spend the last hours at his place by using the completely empty apartment as a set for his last photo shooting. Soon after he finished, I asked him to pose naked for me in a sort of ironic nemesis: the “photographer of naked woman” was finally portrayed naked by a female photographer in front of the his model. 2020 is the strangest year: the day after he arrived in Armenia, a new unexpected war started.

October 7, 2020

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