Peines Partagées

  • Luigi, 2014, film stills

  • Marina, 2014, film stills

  • Liliana, 2014, film stills

  • Paulo, 2014, film stills

  • Maurizio, 2014, film stills

  • Berenice, 2014, film stills

  • Rebibbia prison center - women, Roma 2014

The project Peines Partagées was born out of a series of meetings with the partners of prisoners: those women condemned to sentences that are not so much incarceration, as waiting. Who describe themselves as “locked up outside”. The paradox of this painful situation impelled Shoshan to offer himself as an unconventional intermediary – giving couple members, on both sides of the Rebibbia prison walls, a chance to send a filmed message to their partner. The photographer thus became messenger for a collection of mute, filmed portraits, which provided each subject with the means of communicating unsayable, buried things; those emotions too complex or painful to express otherwise. All the richness of these sometimes-contradictory feelings rises up in the wordless portraits.

Later, Shoshan came back to the project and the six couples he had met. This time, he interviewed them, adding their accounts of life without the other to the original portraits. These recordings can only be heard with headphones, in an attempt to allow viewers to recreate in the gallery the intimate and modest atmosphere that, more than anything, presided over the project. Paolo would like to have a child with Liliana, who, in turn, is more reserved about the future that awaits them when he gets out. Berenice, seventeen years older than Maurizio, is the one who calls the shots, in all respects: it was she who first got him involved in illegal activities and now it is she who plans ahead, imagining their reunion and future freedom. Gelsomina has been waiting for Cosimo for thirty years; he, meanwhile, has discovered in prison a passion for theater. This couple entrusted Shoshan with some of their personal photographs from before the imprisonment. The projection of these images around the filmed portraits conveys not only the tension between the two individuals, but also between the two eras – a gap that is only growing wider. The viewer’s gaze ratifies the lovers’ separation at the same time as it unites them, with the work itself taking on the guise of a prison visiting room.

“Here, Assaf Shoshan substitutes a tradition of portraits that seek to show what the model might be expected to hide, with a different manner of portraiture: one that accepts, from the start, that the physical shell allow nothing to be perceived other than a sense of waiting and absence, an orientation toward an other who is not present and whom nothing can replace, except the intensity of the waiting.” (Eric de Chassey, former director of the French Academy in Rome – Villa Medici).

The series “Peines Partagées”, which translates as both “Shared Sentences” and “Shared Pain”, was exhibited at the Villa Medici in autumn 2014 and was the subject of a unique installation at the chapelle Saint Symphorien of the Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris November 2016.