Princese

L. Carmi, J. Benassi, 2015

Curated by Carlo Madesani
16.01.2015 — 13.02.2015

A study about a world that seems choreographic and histrionic but that was captured, through photographs, in all its timeless and painful dignity: the universe of the en travesti dressed people, who would consciously dare the society in the ’60s and still do nowadays.[Read more]

A study about a world that seems choreographic and histrionic but that was captured, through photographs, in all its timeless and painful dignity: the universe of the en travesti dressed people, who would consciously dare the society in the ’60s and still do nowadays.

On New Year’s Eve 1965, the photographer Lisetta Carmi participated in an event with a group of Transvestites. They were in Genoa, by the promenade and a new year was about to begin, it was a feast day. So she asked to take pictures of them.Starting that day, for 7 years Lisetta, who had grown up in a middle-class family, hung out at the “carruggi”, the alleys and streets of the old port city, the Jewish ghetto, while building an intimate and personal relationship with the Transvestites. They are the “heroic travellers through a world of new identities”, and she is a woman who is looking for her own identity.

Genoa is a tough town; the Second World War changed its aspect and soul, leaving wounds that are yet to be healed. Genoa is a port city, a transition point, a commercial hub full of boatyards, an industrial pole characterized by a chaotic urbanization and a high immigration rate. Here the first acknowledged Italian gay and transgender groups were born, together with the first associations in defence of prostitution. It was the economic boom era, drugs were not there yet.

The “carruggi’s” social fabric is quite varied and the area houses the poorest social classes. It is a good habitat for Transvestites, here they can live among genuine people, intense faces and hard lives, among misfits, marginalized people who ran away from their original identity and who found shelter, protection and a sense of equity in those streets full of life and contradictions. They are human beings, mostly immigrants who came from all over Italy, mainly from the southern regions. These people are simple and friendly, and they all have their distinctive habits, routines, hopes… Their clients are occasional sailors, inhabitants of the area, workers, married man, fathers, young unmarried men, sometimes even priests…Following that work, in 1972 the book I Travestiti (Transvestites) was published. The book struggled to be distributed at first and was about to be destroyed, only to became, years later, a photography cult, considered a reportage of a lost world, of an obscure Italy, that nevertheless still kept its values alive.

Carmi herself could not fully accept her feminine condition, as it was linked to the subordinated role the society would assigned to women, and was looking for her own identity in those photographs. This work was fundamental for her, it was a psychoanalytic therapy aimed to satisfy her deep need to understand others and herself. Thanks to I Travestiti (Transvestites) she learned to have a life without a role, to fully accept being a woman, while refusing the very female role.

Almost 50 years later, Jacopo Benassi retraces those lives and streets, and meets the survivors of those consumed and yet unchanged paths. Benassi had already studied the world of prostitution and the gay universe from many, also personal, perspectives. Among those working pied-à-terre, Benassi met, interviewed and photographed Rossella and Ursula, the only survivors of the fabulous ’60s. He explored the carruggi with them, as they recalled the details of a town now transformed. Benassi got to know that town thanks to them, the new protagonists of “the oldest profession of the world”. The resulting work is amazing, as it shows the world through the eyes of people whom society fears, but who still are fundamental for the system’s survival. It is a document that completes Carmi’s work and finds out that if you do not change anything, nothing will ever change…

[Close]
Lisetta Carmi

Born in Genoa in 1924. She lives in Cisternino, Apulia.

Jacopo Benassi

Born in La Spezia in 1970, he still lives and works there.

Carlo Madesani

Born in Milan in 1967. He is an independent curator and a gallerist at camera16 contemporary art, a gallery that specializes in photography. He lives and works in Milan.