Contemporary man lives in fear.
It is an insidious feeling, a gust of cold air that suddenly catches us within the walls of our house, right where we thought we were safe: without making a noise it penetrates the fragile barrier of our daily routine, of the silly comforts behind which we take refuge as soon as darkness falls. We look around, panting, and everything seems to be going well, every piece seems to be in the right place, yet fear persists, keeping us company from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until we go back to sleep.
The kind of fear that pervades today’s society is particularly devious for its ability to nestle not in concrete dangers, but in the very mind of those who suffer from it, drawing nourishment from insecurities, obsessions, high levels of stress. This is how a wide range of phobias develop, often relying on pure irrationality, and they end up being destructive and suffocating for those who experience them as psychological traps.
Cristina Rizzi Guelfi, a young photographer from Switzerland, drew inspiration for her project Phobia from a list of common and uncommon fears she stumbled upon by chance. Bizarre words such as autophobia, hydrophobia or astraphobia led her to realize that yes, human beings are terrified in front of the world and the traps of their own psyche. The author calls it a sort of “multiform alienation” capable of infiltrating the finer slits of our mental defenses.
From a photographic point of view, the project is surprising. Given the issue one would expect a sequence of dark shots charged with sinister implications, but on the contrary Cristina’s work is based on completely different values: we come across sunny, lively images, a triumph of bright colors that recalls pop aesthetics with a touch of self-irony. Her characters, whose faces are hidden, contribute to the construction of a surreal environment. They look like plastic dolls put in exaggerated poses. The result is an interesting combination of dark values and a colorful exuberance:
I wanted to create a strong contrast between a sense of anguish and the saturated colors of my photographs, which in turn are associated with a dark and surreal text.
Here, then, is the passage that accompanies Cristina’s images:
Old ghosts posing by the windows and family reunions between the deceased. The feeling is that of fear and disgust, a parallel reality visible from behind the stage, from inside a film. Predisposition for light or darkness, reluctance to gala dinners, infertility of thought, inconsistency of actions. All of us manage to deal with small phobias, without trying to be in control, dancing on a fragile balance, marking appointments on leather diaries, distracting ourselves with tv series. We are innocent and ruined in a universe that stretched by pure chance in front of our broken eyes. We live like this, as in a painful dream, beautiful and flowery, grainy and cinematographic. All of us, limping and uncertain, with our noses pointing up towards the sky to feel three cents of wonder.