My America, a documentary exhibit of photographs by Alice Di Certo, opens Oct. 10 at the Woolworth Building, 11th & Broadway. In this collection of gelatin silver prints, the Italian-born photographer records quintessential scenes of American life on travels from the Deep South to the Pacific Northwest. Di Certo employs her camera in some instances with the objectivity of a magnifying glass; at other times, the exuberance of a kaleidoscope that refracts a multiplicity of different but related images of her adopted country. “In some cases the images reflect the stereotypical America I imagined before coming here,” she says, picking out a photo of a band setting up on a flatbed truck draped with an American flag. “In other instances, they represent something more universal,” such as in children playing.
Di Certo shot most of her photographs with a 35mm, Canon F1: “A very old, heavy and reliable camera.” She found her subjects in locations including Atlanta, New Orleans, Birmingham and Sequim, where she would spend days walking around “to really explore and experience the places I was visiting….I was not looking for something specific; it was a pretty spontaneous process, a sort of automatic writing á la Surrealist.” A more selective and deliberate editing process took place in the darkroom, finally resulting in the My America exhibit commissioned by Spaceworks Tacoma.
Di Certo also experiments with non-traditional portraiture. In another project, Skin & Flesh, the Tacoma-based photographer transcends cultural preconceptions by analyzing the relationship between human beings on the physiological level. For this series, Di Certo shot bodily forms, abstracting the fleshly landscape and highlighting “the irrelevance of physical differences in color and shape between people.” These photos communicate the linkage of individuals to each other by nature, on a level where racist attitudes cannot intervene. When confronted with a generic map of human flesh, we “are unable to distinguish what before we could see as diversities.”
Currently, Di Certo is working on Heritage, a series in which she projects images of historical architecture of her native Italy, and natural treasures of the US (the homeland of her husband), on her pregnant body, to explore the possible benefits and perils of their two children’s mixed-heritage legacy. “Though I intend to investigate additional issues pertaining to myself – still using my body – I ultimately anticipate expanding my visual research to other people, starting with other immigrants like myself.”
My America, the Woolworth Building, 11th & Broadway, Oct. 10, 2010 – Jan. 5, 2011.