When you hear hoofbeats think of horses, not zebras is a first-person project, a hybrid of photography and performance that speaks to the body with the body. The starting point is the transformation that a rare disease brings about in my immanent self. The clinic is probably the first attempt to establish a science on the perceptive field only, a practice of the mere exercise of the gaze. Science presupposes an exterior visibility made up of symptoms, placed within a relationship in which the patient and the doctor are facing each other. Within this relational space, they become form. The symptom is the only form in which the illness presents itself. Of everything that belongs to the human, the only thing that seems to exist is only what is visible, what can be experienced, and it is this exterior nature that makes the disease penetrable by perception. The visual instrument allows me to explore the body through self-portraiture, re-appropriating not the relational belonging between symptom and doctor–but my identity as a disabled person. What if, precisely because of its outward nature, the symptom was hidden and not visible, what would happen?  In this project, I reproduce reality as if it were a theatrical performance in which the props are the instruments of help that gradually become part of my everyday life. The people, actors who stage concepts, events or states of mind. Water, a fundamental relief, a metaphor for flowing and therapy: in the absence of gravity I can move again without pain. The constant is the search for femininity, for the harmony of the body. It is a historical moment in which the freedom of expression of the uniqueness of bodies, which leaves the private sphere and becomes shareable and understandable, begins to have a voice.

The work is composed in chapters: the first is Naiade, a photographic project/book in diary form published in 2019, in which snapshots and documentary vision (the first viscerally intimate and narrative, the second cold and descriptive) collaborate, accompanying me in the discovery of illness. In this second chapter, I no longer use photography as a therapeutic and acceptance tool, but as a simple medium: I want my body to become an instrument of narration. The title of the project refers to a principle coined by Prof. Theodore Woodward (University of Maryland), who instructed his trainees as follows: “When you hear the sound of hooves behind you, think of a horse, don’t expect to see a zebra”. Zebra, in medical jargon, means arriving at a surprisingly rare medical diagnosis when usually a more common explanation is more likely. This principle has been repeated to me many times by my doctors, but in this case, I am their zebra.

Claudia Amatruda (1995, Foggia IT) is a visual artist with a degree in New Art Technologies. She is currently attending a Master in Photography and Visual Design at NABA in Milan. Her photographic research is disrupted by the discovery of a rare degenerative disease and finds in the medium of photography the possibility of redemption. In 2019, she publishes the photographic book Naiade, presented with talks and group exhibitions to raise awareness of invisible diseases. Naiade is exhibited in a solo show at the Museo Storico in Lecce and wins the 2nd prize of Musa Donne Fotografe, to be then screened at the Biennale di Fotografia al Femminile in Mantua in 2020. Her new project When you hear hoofbeats think of horses, not zebras wins the Open Call of the PhEst–Monopoli Photography Festival in 2021 and is published in Gaze Magazine France. In 2022 she wins the Open Call of the Athens Photo Festival by exhibiting her work at the Benaki Museum in Athens. She was then selected by Gup Magazine among the 100 Greatest Emerging Photographers of Europe and included by Vogue among the 25 best talents representing the Italian contemporary art scene at the PhotoVogue Festival 2022 in Milan. At the end of the year, she was selected by the jury of the Premio Francesco Fabbri per l’Arte Contemporanea to hold an exhibition curated by Carlo Sala and won the Special Mention for the Emerging Contemporary Photography Section. In March 2023 she will exhibit her work for FORMAT23 Festival in Derby (UK) and in June for Les Mesnographies Photography Festival in Les Mesnuls (FR).