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Words and Pictures: “365D, Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Days of a Woman”

“365D, Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Days of a Woman” at the Icebox Gallery may seem like an exhibition of photographs of 365 Italian women. Indeed, there are 365 photos pinned to the walls of the tiny gallery in the Northrup King Building in Northeast Minneapolis. But the original intent of the project, the brainchild of creative director Marzia Messina, was to present an alternative view of women through their “photographs and words.” And therein lies the problem with the Icebox exhibit—we get the photos, but only seven of the stories told by the women are accessible for the viewer.

Originally shot in Rome, this project was a collaboration between Marzia Messina and fashion photographer Sham Hinchey. The two have worked together for about a decade, creating Marshamstreet, a fashion and advertising photography agency with big-bucks clients like Banca Intesa, Renault, Bulgari, Pucci and Cappucci. The 365D project was sponsored by Johnson and Johnson, and Susan G. Komen Italy, to whom will go proceeds from the sale of the project’s book: 365D Trecentosessantacinque Giorni da Donna (365 Days as a Woman).

The photos are meant to counter the exploitation of women’s bodies in politics, media and advertising. In an interview with The Italian Insider, Messina stated that she wanted “to tell the story of the real women who live in my country.” The artists weren’t after physical perfection, provocative poses or high fashion. Hinchey photographed each woman with the same camera, same background, and in the same light, and didn’t Photoshop the images.

Yet, there’s an aura of inauthenticity about the photos that is somewhat disturbing.

Some of the women are clearly posing or mugging for the camera. Others hold props, like boxing gloves, a bicycle wheel, a balloon. They come from diverse professions, socioeconomic backgrounds and ages, yet we have no clue about their personal or professional lives, and have no context in which to understand them. The missing “words” for this project are not just a convenient explanatory device, but a necessary and integral part of the aesthetic.

Icebox is offering the smaller versions of the photographs for sale, and states on its website that, “This gives the buyers the unique opportunity to pluck the photos off the gallery wall on whatever day they choose to purchase them. In other words, the earlier you attend the exhibit, the better chance you have to see it in its entirety.” However, possibly because the gallery thought better of using such a crude commercial ploy, a note at the gallery asks buyers to please leave their purchases on the wall until the end of the show, which is April 28th.

But it’s unclear why anyone would want to buy just one photo. The “show” is the totality of these images—all 365 belong together and would lose whatever power or aesthetic value they have if shown individually. Purchase the book if you understand Italian because, for this exhibit, the photos are only half the show.

For more information contact the gallery:

The project’s book, 365D Trecentosessantacinque Giorni da Donna, (365 Days as a Woman) is available at the gallery, in Italian. Note that the artists and their sponsor, Johnson & Johnson Carefree, are already soliciting women for a 2013 edition of the book.