Projects that engage with identity, both implicitly and explicitly, form the basis of New York-born, London-based photographer Jessica Gianelli’s practice. She sees the camera as a means to get closer to people, while also exploring introspective themes; it’s a tool for communication beyond words and is “an extension of my heart, and my senses — it allows me to feel, to be felt, to touch, to listen and to connect,” she tells It’s Nice That. In particular, she hones in on the inner lives of women, “their stories, and how we may or may not connect to the wider world around us” through portraiture that appropriates elements from fashion and editorial photography, as well as fine art.
Having recently graduated from MA Fashion Image at Central Saint Martins, research underpins everything Jessica creates. She delves into “various psychological, spiritual, and philosophical notions” during this period of every project, and is “inspired by the natural world, stories, myths, painting, and the cinematic image, as well as the individual narratives of those that I’m capturing, and sub-realities both visual and written.” This propulsion towards the narratives of others which simultaneously act as a mirror led her to create a recent work titled Papiyon, which arose through Jessica’s yearning for connection to her roots, and to other women who share similar ones. “Through my own personal journey of identity as a first-generation Caribbean-American woman, and amidst quite a massive year in the fight for racial equality and justice worldwide, both the series and the film have been born from both a personal and collective yearning for liberation, albeit metaphorically,” she explains.
The project pulls on Jessica’s belief that photography is a therapeutic medium, as well as one that can express the in-between; reality and fantasy all at once. “I’m always looking for that junction between the presented reality, what could be real, and those unspoken perhaps even unknown feelings, and passed happenings, where connection and release may become possible through the act of photographing,” she says. In Papiyon, this sees Jessica creating a new world from an “Afropessimist” perspective and looks at how “the Black woman can engage in the re-authorship of her own narrative — presenting ourselves from within the context of our very own truths.”