Larry D’Attilio’s boldly constructed images focus on contemporary Vietnamese women’s struggles as they find themselves caught between traditional and contemporary cultures and values. D’Attilio’s emersion in the Vietnamese culture enabled him to capture, through unconventional portraits, the women’s introspective nature relative to a changing world.
Referencing aspects of this 21st century cultural discordance in the lives of Vietnamese women, bits of images, some fading while others are emerging into view, whirl around and across them. Altogether they structure a context of tumultuous ineer conflicts across the vast settings of these large-scale works. Positioned carefully within complex cultural webs, the women’s faces display similarly-multifaceted expressions.
In Seams of Hopes and Dreams, the woman faces the viewer with a piercing gaze discernible through pieces of her culture that stand between her and her future. The figure’s disembodied head reflects a disconnection from aspects of herself. Beneath it, one hand emerges from crumpled shapes, clutching at a void she is hoping to fill; while on the other side, a hand floats freely from the bonds of tradition. D’Attilio confines this woman’s hopes and dreams within a cracking environment, forming an abstract, metaphorical narrative of her journey.
In “The New Global Women,” D’Attilio’s layered images suggest the multiplicity of issues caused by globalization’s impact on traditional cultures. Yet outsiders cannot truly identify with this cultural conflict. Like D’Attilio, they exist as the Postmodern “Other,” attempting to comprehend the dimension of a struggle set within a traditional context that is distinct from their own. So this exhibit becomes both an exploration and foundation of a larger dialogue about women’s changing roles throughout the modern world.
Human inner conflict is greater than is ever visible by actions or words. Every person and every form of expression has this kind of turmoil. We can discuss it earnestly and sometimes endlessly. But talking about it is a fruitless exercise unless we make choices to resolve the conflict.
This project explores my sense that the level of inner conflict is often exaggerated among well-educated, worldly young women. They become adults faced with making choices more varied, nuanced, and difficult then usually faced by her male counterparts. Even the last several decades’ gender equality improvements in many cultures has not changed this prevalent condition. Generally Asian cultures still officially emphasize the responsibilities to ancestors, history, family, neighborhood and country as superior to the women’s need for self-development. In Vietnam, a country sprinting towards first-world status, some young women desire the freedom to make decisions for themselves. But how do they deal with their overwhelming inner dialogue trying to balance their sense of self with the traditional expectations?
I worked with twenty four women in Vietnam who were mostly in the age range of 22-27. Would each individual women be better off away from tradition or in it’s center? It was a question I asked myself about each of them and found I too was confused by the choice and not sure how the choices would work out.
I knew that being male and a foreigner, restricted me from re-stating their feelings in thought and word. That left the option to put my instinctive understandings into forms of imagery. But the forms of the imagery could not be the static literal fixed views that the camera usually produces. My inclination was to create constructed photographs with motif elements reflecting on their situations.
One of the challenges pits the narrative potential against the conceptual pushing the need to create meanings through the emotions of color and other formalistic devices. Another forced me to decide how much abstraction, deconstruction, and implied literal content was needed to create a visual harmony that I could live with. One image at a time was created based on pencil sketches I made as inspirations occurred. Thinking of the process, I often felt that expanding my idea of the medium’s expressive forms in this way was not unrelated to the women’s turmoil. Creating images that explored the women’s conflicts through created metaphors was a development for me in photography, itself a medium still so young it is not unlike a developing nation.