contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the Month / June 2020

Self-portrait with my mother
Anna di Prospero

Digital photography, inkjet print on Canson Infinity paper
100 cm x 67 cm
Edition of 6 + 2 P.A.

The photo “Self-portrait with my mother” by Anna di Prospero shows two women through a window. One woman – in a black and white bouclé blazer – stands right laterally behind the other and covers her eyes with her hands. The woman in the front, dressed in a bright red dress with small white dots, has laid her hands on the hands of the other. Both faces are slightly directed slightly to the upward left. On their right is a white floor-standing lamp, whereas on their left stands a sago palm. Reflected in the background, but also on the protagonists, is a garden with white flowering bushes and trees.

As the title indicates, the women are the artist herself and her mother. By their appearance is to deduce that the woman in the back is the mother and Anna is in the front. The scenery might be interpreted in different ways. Does the mother covers her daughter’s eyes to prevent a view at something, perhaps the future to hold her back? Is it a protecting gesture? Is the mother seeing something in particular, with which she wants to surprise her daughter? However, the photo transmits an intimate, trusting relationship. While the mother looks upwards with wide-open eyes, the daughter seems to remain relaxed in this quasi embracement. She even underlines the gesture in laying her hands on her mother’s hands. Or is she even the one who guides her parent?

In any case, the intimate atmosphere is underlined by visual means. The twosome are blanketed in a soft orange light. This effect arises by Anna’s reddish dress and the skin colour of her mother. Additionally, there are soft orange reflections on the mother’s clothes. These reflections, caused by the shot through the glass pane, are rather white highlights in other areas of the image, which softens the scenery. Only directly above the couple and at the very right picture edge the soft orange shades are repeated. This anchors the protagonists in their environment. The reflection of green grass besides the mother and the dark green of the sago palm contrasts the colouring of mother and daughter. While the sago palm and the red dress nearly form a complementary contrast, the orange shades on the clothes of the mother and the green grass are more a false complimentary contrast. Nevertheless, both colour confrontations, underline the tender presentation of characters and with that the intimacy of the two.

Remarkable within the composition is that the mother is positioned in the centre of the image. Even though the self-portraying artist is in the foreground, the importance of her parent is accentuated by her location. Moreover, Anna leans slightly into her direction and the sage palm with its fronds supports this posture. In the other picture half, there are diagonal lines, perhaps from a curtain in the background. They are also leading the eye of the onlooker to the mother. While the reflected tree seems to grow out of the artist’s head, its branches dodge above the mother’s head like a halo. Therefore, the mother is not only in the geometrical centre of the image, but also highlighted by the composition. Even though, the colouring and the composition turn out to be calculated, the scenery appears as a natural moment, a recorded intimate instance.

“Self-portrait with my mother” is part of the series “Self-portrait with my family (PART I)”. Anna made these photos in 2011, after her return from a semester abroad in New York. Before she had focussed on self-portraits in her environment. Then, after her first long-term absence from her family, she engaged on her beloved. Hence, the importance of her accompanying relatives. During her work, she discovered until then unknown aspects of the relationships.

The here presented photo, soon became the somehow identifying feature of Anna di Prospero. She was granted several prices and the edition was sold out quickly.


Anna di Prospero

Born in 1987 in Rome, Italy, Anna di Prospero studied photography at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome and at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Already at the age of 15 years, she undertook first steps as photographer. At her school, she won the first price of a competition in the category “Home, Encounters and Journey”. However, at first she was more interested in painting.

When she moved with her family to Sermoneta, she photographed her new environment to discover it and regularly posted the pictures on Flickr (2007-2009). With her self-portraits at home and later in Latina Anna attracted first attention from a larger public. Noteworthy is the fact that even though self-portraits, the images show the artist, but her face remains always invisible. This was important for her, because she wanted to depict an anonymous woman, which could be any woman of the world. At the same time, this photographic research was also a self-discovery of the young creative. Regarding her artistic conception, she was impressed by stage photography, seen in an exhibition by Gregory Crewdson in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome.

During her studies in Rome, Anna received a scholarship for New York. After her return to Italy in 2011, she opened a new dimension in her work with “Self-portrait with my family (PART I)”, including other people. As part of this series “Self-portrait with my mother” was extraordinary successful, so that it is still today one of her identifying features. This photo is our Artwork of the Month / June 2020.

Subsequently, the artist extended the group of co-portrayed with friends and finally with strangers. Hence, the result is the long-term project “With you”. The latest series from 2019 and still ongoing is called “Self-portrait with my family (PART II)”. Here she returns after eight years to her relatives, but now Anna depicts her husband and her son. Also her early series of self-portraits in surroundings found successions. During several journeys, she anchored herself in temporary houses (2010-2013), in urban spaces (2010-2015) and in the other Space (2013-2018). These works are summarised under the title “I am here”. Further projects are focussing on architecture like “Palazzo Ducale Mantova” (2018) and “Istituto Italiano di Cultura Madrid” (2018). Additionally, the artist created the series “Divine”, which is inspired by the Italian-French painter Giovanni Boldini. It depicts herself in romantic landscapes. In 2019, these photos were exposed at the MBL Gallery in Ferrara, the hometown of the painter. Most recently, Anna reflected with “The quarantine days” on the lockdown due to the Covid-19-crisis. Here she returns – evidently forced by the circumstances – to the homely environment. However, this series refers to the beginnings with “Self-portrait at home” from 2007-2009 and give these images a new currency.

Since 2008, Anna had several solo exhibitions in Italy and France and participated in many group shows, also in the United States, England and Belgium. Her works are regularly presented at international art fairs. She was honoured with numerous prizes, inter alia the Sony World Photography Award (2014, rank 2nd in the category portrait), the People Photographer of the Year by the International Photography Awards (2011) and the Discovery of the Year by the Lucie Awards (2011). For her work, the artist undertook many voyages in various European countries and the United States. Moreover, she made residencies in Madrid and Marseille.

Anna lives in Latina and works mostly in Sermoneta.