Twenty Weights, Please is an intense journey through images in which Sonia Marin portraits two important women from her childhood and life: her maternal grandmother and her daughter, emigrated to London in the 50’s, whose strength for surviving with sincere dignity has inspired her work for years. This project, which began as a dedication to a shared past that was so moving for the author, now becomes a self-portrait narrated on several levels. C41 presents a story/interview in conversation with the artist.
Sonia Marin was born in Padua on February 25, 1971. She is a Milan based professional photographer and author. Along with her career she is also a longtime resident lecturer at IED, European Institute of Design, for the photography and fashion departments. She colaborates with influential fashion, accessories and interior brands and companies, and her work is featured on several international and national magazines. She played an important part as a speaker at Advertising Photography section during the 6th International Orvieto Photography Convention in 2004. She won 1st prize Best Fine Art Picture in the Commercial Field at the 10th Master edition of the 2006 International Photography Festival in Moskow. In 2014 she worked on a Project for UniCredit shooting pictures with 120 film format: her personal view became the beautiful book Sketches of Milan, an Artist’s View of the UniCredit Tower, published by Skira.
About Twenty Weights, Please – words by Sonia Marin:
Luca, do you know that the first time my mother took me there was in the winter time during high school, and I remember that the woollen gloves I wore had picked up the smell of the iron from the tube, that pungent smell, you know, which is quite common in London or at least I relate it to that place a lot… Do you know that I kept them and never washed them ever again?
When in 1994 I won the first prize as the best portfolio in Italy, with the Italian Foundation for Photography, and won some pennies as it was a cash prize, I reckon it was worth 2 million lire at the time, this award allowed me to actually think about working on a project or rather a short story that I had in mind, and that I wished to dedicate to my mother and my grandmother. So, the idea was to travel alone for the first time, to go to London on my own, with my camera to find and retrace the places that my grandmother used to mention in her stories: the houses of the Ladies where she served, the factories where she worked with her daughter, the bookshop where my mother found a job when she was 14 and just arrived in England, and this was a way to return to what for me has always been important and had nurtured my imagination, while at the same time I wanted to give the two of them the value and meaning of those English years that, although so important, they couldn’t grasp to the fullest.
I’ve been doing this job for 28 years now, a job I began devoting myself to the artistic and non-commercial side of photography and during all these years I’ve carried this personal project on, through rush and pauses, till it paralleled the career I was starting as a professional editorial photographer. And during all those 25 years of work I never for once thought of letting it down, to detach myself from this project, because it’s tangible presence through which I relive that passion for England, that admiration for my mother and my grandmother, and moreover it corresponds with my idea of making art, with my conception of photography, that is a passion to devote yourself to. I have always worked hard, with strong belief and dedication, effortlessly as I never felt forced to create, instead I always approached things instinctively in a spontaneous way and with a great deal of perseverance. And this is something that I learned from them, because even though they were there for survival – to send money home, to support their family, and maybe also to show others they could have a future, that they could build up their own house brick by brick – although theirs wasn’t an artistic choice like mine, I always felt that same urge to achieve something more or, in any case, to improve one’s life, and this to me has always taken priority as well as having the possibility to express and create something of my own, that spoke about me.
The images I surely treasure the most, those that always stood out through the several editing I have made, are certainly the very first ones took in the first trip they are a set of around ten photographs that actually represent the whole story. In 10 shots you basically have the story, and to those pictures I then added some new ones every time I travelled to London, but those 10 are my absolute favourites. I especially remember one late afternoon when I went up the hill from which you see the city skyline, Primerose Hill, and there was a fashion shooting going on there of which I stole a shot that I consider representative of generations, as both the stylist and the model are pictured, one is seen from behind and then you have this silhouette of a very young woman, and this shot, taken on the top of the hill, symbolises exactly the story that I somehow wanted to tell, and it is one of my favourite images together with another one…
Since the very beginning, I thought that the optimal shape for this body of work could be that of a small book, like a travel notebook, and the more I went on collecting pictures from the many trips to London I thought that in addition to the book – which is quite an intimate object – it could be interesting to contaminate the story with a broader vision that would somehow involve the space so that the story could be read through the pictures on the wall, hence an exhibition where the images follow one another as if they were the many pages of the book while leafed through, and this is something that triggered me much because it allowed me to preserve the authenticity of the black and white photography, of the negative I started from, then the handmade baryta print, along with the making as it’s typically done for exhibitions, so every image framed and hung on a support.
I then thought of combining images with the printed matter, the latter being a beautiful object representing the craftsmanship and the artisanal side of photography I very much care about, to try to translate this imagery expanding and containing my experience for a more complete vision. So for the first time, a body of work of 25 years of black and white receives colour and moving images. Once again there’s no human presence, at least not a material one, but once you enjoy the work in its full display you will have a complete vision through different levels since, in addition to the sight, sound and sense of smell, will be also egged and thanks to this, my story – which didn’t just last 25 years but that roots in my childhood – will possibly involve those who haven’t lived this type of memory, or those who haven’t lived this type of memory, or those who have but haven’t shaped it yet.
C41 Magazine, Cultural and Media Partner
Produced by Luca A. Caizzi and C41
Sonia Marin, Editor and Writer
Giovanni D’Anniballe, Director and Editor
Lorenzo D’Anniballe, Sound Engineer
Carlotta Cattaneo Carter and Robin Sara Stauder, Translations
Alice De Santis, Subtitling