Photo Journal Monday: Marie Tomanova
John Berger wrote, “To emigrate is always to dismantle the center of the world, and so to move into a lost, disoriented one of fragments.” Like many others, emigrating to the United States has been the most significant decision of my life. Displacement, place, community, self, and memory became the key themes in my photography work, first in my self-portraiture series and then in the Young Americanportraits that allowed me to connect with others, to see myself in the context of a new environment and society, to find my place in the American landscape.
To look deeply at the Young American portraits is to see them looking deeply back at you. This is the essence of this work. It is about the hope of youth, the power of youth, and about the bond between people—the profound humanness that we all share. It reflects my vision, as an immigrant, of the freedom and identity of an “America” still rife with dreams and possibilities. The portraits visualize an America in which individuality is valued as uniqueness and not judged as a lack of sameness. It asserts and acknowledges a sense of self not in terms of some idealized standard of gender, sexuality, or beauty, but as exactly who we each are as unique individuals.
As photographer Ryan McGinley writes in his introduction to Young American, “This is a future free of gender binaries and stale old definitions of beauty. In Marie’s world people can just simply be. I wish all of America’s youth culture looked like Marie’s photos of Downtown, diverse and inclusive.”
Generally shot on 35mm film with a Yashica T4 in a landscape format at a range of less than two feet as the photograph is taken. This closeness is more than a literal or practical observation about my photographic process in the Young Americanportraits. Rather, this intimacy is really the heart of the work itself. At such a range, the emotions of being human are all that matter. Young Americanis about connection. It is about the psychological and emotional reverberations to which we can all relate that are made visible and tangible.
The idea of an affirmative space, particularly around the concept of belonging, is paramount in understanding these portraits not only with respect to the subject, but also to myself. In these portraits, the subject is precisely, precisely, precisely who they are, and so am I. We both claim our right to be ourselves, present, visible, and seen. The portrait is a testament to the fact that we matter. I like what Susan Sontag writes inOn Photography, “To photograph is to confer importance.”
To see more of Marie’s work, visit her website here