Cristina Ferraiuolo grew up in Naples, a city that preserves a sense of its history to this day, and she is passionate about the place and its people. Even before she picked up her Leica, she loved to roam throughout Naples on her Vespa.
Ferraiuolo was fascinated by the nightly rituals of the city’s teenaged girls who gathered in the center of Naples on their “motorinos” (scooters), and she started photographing them in 2002. She admired these young women who, for a short period of time in their lives, seemed dazzling and fearless. “They are warriors” she says, “fiercely straddling their scooters, ready to rock the world.” Her pictures were about this brief period of freedom – soon they would become part of Naples’s eternal maternal society of women, with all of the constraints that adulthood entails.
As she gradually made friends with some of the girls, she understood more about their lives, their relationships with each other, and this intense but short time of autonomy. She admired their fearlessness and felt a sense of solidarity with them. In 2006, she stopped photographing them, but she returned eight years later with a changed focus. She had stayed in touch with her subjects – some had become mothers and had married – and she became interested in taking pictures of their complex female world, which, according to her, was one in which men were on the periphery. She moved from the street into their homes and she started taking portraits, including some of their mothers and grandmothers.
Ferraiuolo’s pictures initially reminded me of William Klein’s photographs – gritty urban black-and-white images. But while her photographs are of the moment, in motion, raw, and emotional, they are not aggressive, as Klein’s often are. Her kinship with her subjects and her empathy with the women she photographs are evident, filtered through the lens of her personal intuitions. One of Ferraiuolo’s mentors was Michael Ackerman, whose work is intense and moody. Where his images are dark, though, light and shadow share a similar intensity in her photographs. They are humanist images, filled with love and admiration for the women of her city.