Some 20 years ago
in Mark Greenberg's agency, I met Donna Ferrato for the first time.
A cheeky sparkle in her eye together with an irresistible smile enchanted
me. Donna was on the point of undertaking a large project concerning
violence in the home, which eventually became the book and exhibition,
Living With The Enemy. Either Donna does not know or does not
remember, and I do not know if we discussed it during a close friendship,
but she was the first person to teach me how to "read" photographs,
imagining the soul, the heart and the sentiments of a person taking
the photo. This is a rare gift and it often evolves in a turbulent way.
I have come to know photographers after having seen all or only part
of their work and I found in them a strong link between their expressive
language and their character and state of mind. I felt I had known them
Donna's photos are distinguished by a profound empathy and I would say
almost delicate but strong intrusion into the other person's state of
mind. An intrusion, which addresses itself purely to affection and love
in all dimensions.
Donna Ferrato's work shows us momentous social phenomena: sex clubs,
violence in the home, teenagers, problem children, love among the elderly
and many others. If many photographers have dealt with these themes,
no one in my opinion has managed to give them a single language, and
above all, maintain a new concept (with a severity that conflicts with
her beautiful smile) on amorous relationships in the world. Let me explain:
in the face of violence, from pedophilia, orgies, wife swapping, to
fanaticism, Donna wants to show that all sexual, sentimental, emotional
distortions are distortions of unfulfilled love, of social uneasiness,
emotional difficulties, from the denial of passion which stifles sexuality
and sentiment. Love is always present, downtrodden, distorted, unfulfilled,
rejected, ready to be reborn to relieve the negative variant.
her tender and violent language there is the desire for the recreation
of souls and an invitation to free sexuality in order to enjoy sentimental
erotic fulfillment. While the photos draw us to a liberal sexuality,
they also transmit a message to the heart of the problem: sexuality
is our life's motor and has thousands of expressions, but in order to
be totally gratifying it must in any case be accompanied by tenderness
and affection. Donna registers these emotions and reflections in different
situations: family life, casual meetings, sexual relationships, private
clubs, along the streets of the world, meetings with children and adults,
scenes from everyday life. And to this add a universal message: free
our internal sentiments to bring us nearer to each other. Only in this
way can we avoid being alone.
Among these photos are family snap shots: if you do not know Donna it
is difficult to distinguish them from other photos. Why did I want to
mention this? Because I am convinced that the talent of this photographer
is due not only to her technical ability, but to her unprejudiced and
open approach towards the intimacy of others, and managing to break
down embarrassing and contorted barriers.
A few years ago in New York we thought, while looking over some of her
photographs, that it would have been marvelous for Donna to dedicate
her time to an important project on love as a liberal theme, and maintaining
her approach on the theme, and editing her past photographs and adding
them to a new project. This work became a large fresco on variants of
affection, love and sexuality at the beginning of the new century, and
the photos we are presenting are an extract of Donna's work in progress.
The photos of love comfort us and invite us to enter the myriad paths
of the constant search for the fulfillment we all so desperately want.
by Donna Ferrato
Twenty five years
ago my life as a photographer began on the streets of Paris. I spoke
little French but that didn't stop me from following people as they
left boulangeries with hot baguettes under their arms. I think it was
the way they carried the naked baguettes, nibbled at them, flirted with
them that inspired my fascination.
In those days I was a fancy free young American, living out of a suitcase
with a red and green Leica always under arm. Not many years later, as
I toiled on my first photo essay about the libidos of rich suburban
couples, something occurred which changed my path as a photographer.
One night, in a drug induced rage, a husband beat his helpless wife
while, in horror, I got it on film. It was time to take the blinders
off my eyes.
I began to use the camera to understand how women survive abuse as well
as what drives some men to beat women. Eventually, Aperture published
my book, Living with the Enemy. When people see my work on battered
women, they ask how it has affected me personally. I talk about how
important it has been for me to keep a sense of balance in my homelife.
With this new book, AMORE, I offer a look into the world that keeps
AMORE, is a catalogue of my life and the people that I cherish. It was
published in Italy by MOTTA thanks to an agent who is a champion and
a dear friend, Grazia Neri. AMORE is a collection of ordinary
moments as well as the other stuff which keeps us hopping as a species.
Most of all, it is a book I was able to give with pride to my daughter,
My next book will partner with APERTURE in the fall of 2003. It's about
the phenomenon of swinging American style, documented over the last
In the face of rampant immorality among the leaders of church and state,
I believe that amorality among consenting adults holds a ring of honesty.
Women and men who live to be free sexually is a sight to behold.