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Collective Identities

Several years ago my husband and I moved together from Rome to London. The demographic differences were immediately evident. For my husband, Andrea, who comes from the largely homogenous country of Italy, London is a people watching paradise. Early on he joyously pointed out the lofty mohawks, outrageous facial tattoos and colourful ensembles that crowded the streets of our new home in the London Borough of Camden. In a city where over 40% of the population is foreign, the cultural, religious, political, sexual, sub-cultural and psychological identities are myriad. And yet, as Andrea and I often remark to one another as we pass a group of 20 year old women clothed in identical pink cardigans and exaggerated false eyelashes, friends look alike.

When I began to make prints I found myself gravitating towards these groups with highly apparent collective identities. What does it say about us when we travel with a tribe? Some tribes are the result of deeply shared values, others of cultural upbringing and still others are the signs of an effort to associate oneself with an economic class or social group. In the latter case, how deep does this commonality really go? Do we choose to identify this way or is it out of our control? By contrast, what happens when our essential identity – national, sexual, religious – that which can hardly be changed, makes us vulnerable?

My series Collective Identities reflects upon the different degrees of this phenomenon as it relates to women. My subjects are selected both from my own observation of the city streets and from stories of women whose intrinsic identity is confronted with extreme circumstances, forcing them to exhibit incredible strength.

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