My parents lived in Brazil for about two years because of work-related reasons. This stay, as we all knew, would be my father’s last working trip, as he was close to retirement. He regularly worked abroad and my mother followed him on more than one occasion.
For various reasons — like my lack of interest in hot weather, having to make a long plane trip by myself, and the fact that I could easily see them during holidays stays in Italy, in my hometown — I decided I would never go there to visit. Which is why I gave my mother a camera. My only regret was that I wouldn't have been able to photograph Brazil myself.
In March 2011 I related the news to my mother: she was to become a photographer!
I explained to her everything about the camera (a small, compact, film camera) and gave her suggestions about taking pictures. My mother was never the family photographer; her photos were immediately recognizable because they were such a constant failure.
I wanted to revive her relationship with photography without giving her the added pressure of making a good photograph. I simply told her to take pictures of things she liked.
I also told her to take pictures of everything she would have wanted to show me: moments during her daily life, the light, a friend or a person she would meet, etc.
All the photographs are on film and in black and white. I knew I wanted to work from her photographs and that I would add color myself, in complete freedom.
The distinctive feature of her photographs is that they were all taken from a different point of view: my mother can’t walk because of an illness; she gets around in a wheelchair, and the simple act of taking a picture is a real physical effort.
During every holiday when they were back in Italy she would give me the film rolls that she’d taken, which I developed in Paris. I printed the photographs and showed them to her during the summer of 2012. I asked her to tell me the story behind every photo and also to tell me some of her impressions about the photographs themselves.
In 2013 I started to work on this material, beginning with a sketchbook on which I tried to find a way to rework the subjects of her photographs, and to give them a more “Brazilian” feeling in some stereotypical way, such as by adding flashy colors.
I never work from photographs, and certainly not my own photographs. But once I started this project I began thinking of my mother’s photos as basic images, and as the starting point from which to build something different and more personal.
Other photographs have been taken for this project. For example, I collected and took photos of all the objects my parents brought back from Brazil — their souvenirs, which weren’t that many, since the trip was not at all for touristic reasons.
The last souvenir I photographed is a fictional image of the tropical fruits they used to bring in their luggages every time they would come home.
There is another photograph that I took in November 2011, a few days after my parents went to Brazil. It’s a photo of my cellphone screen and of the first message my mother sent to me from her Brazil cellphone. It’s a message with no letters, as they’d been replaced by strange symbols, like crosses, squares, and question marks.
The one casualty is that I took this photograph in black and white, which gave me the impression that my role in this story would be to add color and, therefore, to twist things around in order to give them a new life. I replaced the symbols on the cellphone with simple images of palm trees, tropical fruits, and suns.
The name of this project became the name I used to register my mother’s Brazilian cellphone number.