Maybe it’s because I’ve been working with male photographers for so many years that I have a special love for women photographers: I love their way of facing reality, even the more difficult one, without the apparent need to use their objective as an offensive weapon for the viewer, for those who have been in portraits, for those who prefer to turn their look elsewhere.
Lisetta Carmi was born in Genoa in 1924 in a Jewish family; expelled from school due to the racial laws she dedicates herself to the piano study and soon became a good performer. In 1960 though she discovered photography and decided to abandon her previous career to explore this new visual media. After a first experience as a backstage photographer at the Duse theater in Genoa, Lisetta Carmi focused on social themes. Apart from portraiting the most interesting cultural characters of the genovese cultural life of her time, she used her camera to narrate the hidden sides that her city preferred to forget: the heavy work of the dockers, the clandestine life of the transvestites, the silence of the impressive cemetery of Staglieno.
None of her images gives you the impression of an intrusion, she never kidnapped an intimacy that belonged to someone else: if she took that picture, the subject had agreed to be there, with the awareness that he would have been the protagonist and no abuse would have been perpetrated against its weakness.
She traveled the world from Latin America to Israel, Palestine, and Afghanistan but India and her meeting with the Guru BabajiI was a crucial point of her existential experience: in 1979 she definitely abandoned photography to establish an Ashram in Cisternino, a small village in Puglia. For the second time she turned her life as she did in 1960 when she dropped her piano concert performing activity to devote herself to photography.
Genoa has dedicated to this little known artist a nice exhibition that has been set up in the Ducal Palace, one of the cities most prestigious Venus; even if the exhibition just ended a few days a go but I invite everybody to check out Lisetta Carmi’s work and appreciate her lifetime effort to impress love and participation in the most uncomfortable everyday reality.
Lisetta Carmi – The dock workers video interview: