Maschi e Maschere. Of Masks and Men, an exhibition of 21 images by street and documentary photographer Francesca Magnani, is on view from April 12 through May 7, 2023 at the Galleria Samonà of Banca d’Italia in Padua Italy.
“The two words, men and masks, which in Italian sound similar, invite us to reflect” Maurizio Fiorino writes in the show presentation, “the subjects are friends, passers-by, or celebrities more or less famous, captured at three hundred and sixty degrees: from behind, frontally, from the side, with or without sunglasses. Some are smiling, pontificating, photographing, defiantly observing the lens or looking away, absorbed in their thoughts. Photographer and photographed are inextricably linked by the streets of the city. These are streets of a city mythologized beyond belief in the imagination of all of us and in this regard, it is worth noticing that Magnani continues to photograph and see things in a horizontal perspective, contrary to what one might think of New York, one of the most vertical cities in the western world.”
For over 25 years Magnani walks around city neighborhoods and progressively learns to see how people wear their feelings and expressions, at the same time exploring and deciphering her own. During the pandemic she walked every day – in parks, on the subways, during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, in restaurants, across the bridges. With a background in classics and anthropology, she has long been interested in issues of identity and self-representation and how people live.
When possible, she talks to the people she photographs: “Because I usually do not plan my portraits, each one reminds me of a specific route I walked; it marks a point in time and history and a spark of a connection that helps me feel grounded and human. For this show, I simply did what I do every single day, take a walk – explains the photographer – but we did it together. There was an agreement, a pact, before taking the photos. It is another dimension of street photography.”
A few of images from the series have been acquired by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History as part of the first set of multiple pandemic-related museum’s digital acquisitions. Upon acquiring the images Shannon Thomas Perich, Curator, Photographic History Collection, wrote, “Your eye for interesting people and color in NYC is wonderful. You understood and could see how individuals were responding to and making mask-wearing something they could incorporate into their personality and personal expression. Your work, which reminds us of how people adapted to this new way of moving through the world, is historically important.”
Two Covid-19 related photographs were part of New York Responds. The First Six Months recently on view at the Museum of the City of New York; and one (May 10) mask was part of the #ICPconcerned group show, now online.
About the Artist
Francesca Magnani is a Brooklyn-based Italian photographer, writer, teacher and translator. Born and raised in Padua, she arrived at the City University of New York, Graduate Center, as a Fulbright Scholar in 1997. Since then, she has been telling in words and images the stories that move her while she chronicles at the same time her own life.
Follow her on @magnanina and www.francescamagnani.com
Francesca Magnani : Of Masks and Men. Portraits in New York
April 12 – May 7, 2023
Galleria Samonà of Banca d’Italia
Via Roma, 5735122 Padova PD, Italy