With HER, photographer Marjorie Salvaterra turns away from the mirror and turns the camera on her own life — examining the psychology of her age and her gender in black and white, through surreal interpretations and exaggerated gestures, reminiscent of Italian cinema, creating photographs that reflect the universal idea of womanhood and assure HER that she is not on this path alone.
“I’m forty three years-old and I’m trying to grow as a person but so is my skin. I’m not that interested in holding onto my youth. My life is far greater now. But letting go isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some days I don’t recognize this person who looks back at me in the mirror. She is older, has responsibilities. She has had to learn that sometimes God has a bigger plan for her life than she does. On the outside, she strives for peace but inside there is a turbulence of holding on too tightly to all the things that have finally brought peace and true joy”.
What is your background and how did you become involved with photography?
I first became interested in photography in high school. We only had one photo class and I took it. And that was the end of my photography career. Or so I thought.
After I was married and had a few other careers, my husband was sent to Morocco for 3 months for work. I went with him, bringing along a little digital point and shoot camera we had just gotten for our wedding. While he was working, I would travel around and shoot — mostly the people, enchanted by the faces…I was hooked.
There was an amazing, American photographer named Richard Cartwright who was working with my husband at the time. He took me under his wing, gave me his fancy cameras to shoot and then hooked me up with the teacher Julia Dean, when we got back to Los Angeles. At the time, Julia, who is a documentary photographer, was teaching black and white film. I fell madly in love and took every class she taught.
Her Last Supper
Who and what inspires you the most in your photography?
I’ve learned that if I take from my own life, my work will always be unique to me. I find the more I live my life, the more stories I acquire for my work. I’m not a person who shoots art every day. There may be a selfie or more likely a photo of my kids, but I take a good amount of time in between my art images to really see the image in my head, know what the image is about, order everything I need and then find the right location. Oh yeah, and gather a handful of willing friends to play dress up! (or dress down depending on the image). Right now I’m waiting for snow and 12 friends willing to play in the snow.
What are the main influences in your photography?
I love stories. I love theatre. I love movies. I love art. I love fashion and magazines. I’m a clothes whore and I love nothing more than a good mall! I love old Vogue, when it was black and white. One of the nicest compliments I ever got was calling my work “Irving Penn on acid”. I love people’s faces. I love my family way too much. I love to watch people. I like to think I know what people are thinking. I love psychology. One of my favorite books is the DSM. I love dress up and not keeping secrets. I remember coming home from my kids school one day and thinking about the mean moms. I thought “keep being mean, bitches. I’ll turn you all into art.”
Her In Bloom
Could you tell us more about your art project “Her”? What is the meaning and the underlying message?
Her is my story. And her story. It’s about the many roles we play as women – as wives, mothers, daughters, individuals, friends… and trying to balance all those roles – somehow while still looking unflappable. Or so we think. It’s a reflection of the universal idea of womanhood and assuring HER that she is not on this path alone.
Letting Go Of The Way You Think Things Ought To Be
How would you describe your women in “Her”?
Surreal and non-specific.
The Weight Of Water
What are the emotions you try to convey with your photography?
I try to be more of a story teller rather than telling people what to think. I once took a creative writing class in college. Each person had to write a line of a poem then pass it to the next person to add a line. By the time the third or fourth poem came to me I had run out of clever things to say, so I looked up and saw the girl sitting across from me. She had filthy, bleached dread-locks with dark roots. I wrote “The yarn on her head has roots”. When it got back to the original writer, they had to read their poem aloud. The girl read “The YAM on its’ head has roots”. The class howled, crying brilliance. Everyone wanted to know who wrote that so I raised my hand. Although it was obviously more dazzling than what I had actually written who was I to take away this wonderful experience for them.
Eve Unraveled 2
What is your favourite piece from “Her”? Could you tell us more about it?
Hmm!!! I have a few faves. But maybe if I had to pick just one I would pick Eve Unraveled 2. It is the photo of the naked women lying face down in the grass – though they are wearing lovely heals and their hair (wigs) are done. Again, it’s again about trying to be all things to all people and sometimes forgetting the little things you need to do for yourself. Plus, all my friends had rashes for days after that shoot so I’m incredibly appreciative.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, how do you empower women through your photography?
I believe in equal pay for women doing the same jobs as men. But on the other hand, (and this will probably not be a very popular answer). I believe women were better off in relationships and marriages when each person had their role. I’m not saying women have to be feminine. They can be the masculine energy. You just don’t want two masculine energies or two feminine energies in the same relationship or we’ll all be competing to be respected or cherished.
The Weight Of Waves
Where can we see your work?
For another few weeks, you can see my Her series at JDC Fine Art in San Diego, CA. And a few pieces as part of Lenscultures top 50 Emerging Artists in the world, at Gallerie ValidPhoto in Barcelona. Or my website of course.
When The Universe Has A Bigger Plan For Your Life
What are your plans for the future?
Raising happy, healthy, smart and talented kids! Being a good wife! These both take a good amount of hard work, creativity, patience and therapy.
And creating new and powerful work that makes people think or touches people. Right now I am just starting a new series called ICE, based on the idea that we can fall apart or turn to ICE. I don’t know how sane it is, but at this point in my life, I choose ice.
The Politics Of Being Real