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Alice Rosati on Being Mermaid

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday January 23, 2020

While sex in cinema [Hollywood-made anyway] has been nearly absent for more than a decade, it thankfully still maintains a home in the world of fashion. On a tip from a Paris cohort I am delighted to present a new book from Kahl Editions, Alice Rosati’s I am a Mermaid, prints from which are on display at Galerie Charraudeau, rue Bonaparte, Paris. Info

Rosati, a power in fashion photography, has taken her otherworldly non-gendered creation to locales from Paris, New York, Tokyo and beyond to be photographed among the masses and in isolation. With wit and intelligence, including a nod to a Hockney swimming pool as a natural mermaid habitat,  she raises questions that are alternately tongue in cheek and disturbing about perception and interpretation of an Other. The author’s words on the subject are compiled here from various reports in Vogue Italia, Fisheye and more. The photographs here are from her website.

“I think that the photographer always establishes a sort of sexual relationship with their model, a photo shoot is something very intimate. It aims to capture the essence of a person, breaking into a private and hidden place to bring feelings to the surface and if this is not a metaphor for a sexual intercourse what is it then? I shoot mostly women.”

Based in Paris, Alice Rosati’s photographic interest was ignited as a child when her father gifted her first camera. Years later she studied for an Arts Critics degree and following graduation, she was given the opportunity to work in a photographic studio, in a stunning location next to the Acropolis in Athens. With all the equipment at her disposal that she could ever want but without any models or training, this became a period of ‘light’ to Rosati. A time when she could experiment, without boundaries, where she could immerse her imagination into whatever inspired her. 

“I consider myself a visual artist, not a photographer,” Rosati says. “I use this medium as a mere tool, like oil painting for a painter. It enables me to tell stories....I’ve worked on the concept, its symbolism and editing….But I was not the one who took the pictures. They were taken by strangers, or—if there were no one—in self-portrait mode.” Completely covered with a golden suit, the artist placed herself in various scenes, playing with aesthetics, colors and absurdity to create a metaphorical tale. She hands her medium-format Mamiya off to passing strangers to grab the shot, making this a collaboration of great promise—and equal risk.

“My fascination with mermaid started at an early age, when I discovered Andersen’s tale, and it went on with Disney’s animation,” the artist says.  “The mermaid is a symbol, a metaphor, a mystical archetype, a controversial figure,” she says of the creature that is known to be either an evil, charming or mysterious creature, even one that causes natural catastrophes and arouse men’s desire.

Refusing to assign her creation a gender, she has drawn inspiration from myths, pop culture and the Zentai practice—a sexual fetish linked to skin-tight clothes viewed as a second skin—to build her character. To her, this golden outfit represents a carnal envelope, holding the human soul, altogether forming a supernatural being bringing an absurd dimension to our daily life. 

Alice Rosatti, born in 1985, is a self taught photographer. At age of four she received her first camera, but it wasn’t until 2008 when she began to make a living out of photography. She began her introduction to visual culture in her father’s advertising agency and graduated from college with a degree in Arts Critique. A job assisting the legendary pit Photographer, Graziano Ferrari in Milan was followed by one with a large agency, Atomo and her work began making the top Italian fashion magazines. She later moved to Paris, where she and her husband have been based for the past five years.

Viewing her role as an Art Director today, Rosati speaks of how photography has developed. “When thinking of photographers such as Helmut Newton or Guy Bourdin, it is clear that they are not only fashion photographers. They were the ones who invented new techniques and developed styles and concepts that could be defined as art, more than fashion. Paradoxically, the photographer’s job is going back to what it used to be, back then: most people don’t know how to use a film camera. Today, digital has made everything so easy and Photoshop is a huge safety net to have, so it’s no longer about capturing the image but creating it, selling an idea.”

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