Curatorial text by Pietro Daprano

The grammar of the languages of documentary photography is fascinating for its ability to represent visual messages related to feelings, ideas, or concepts that can cause in us hostility, neutrality, or empathy.

This polemic phenomenon has become increasingly present in narratives that seek to represent certain visual aspects through the photographic record by incorporating conventional elements to understand things (Aristotelian mimesis) better. To give continuity to experiences, deepen, learn or reflect on a photographable reality.

On a pragmatic level, in the photograph Shot Marks of a Military Execution by Sir John Benjamin Stone (the United Kingdom, 1838-1914 ), we observe an inscription on the lower edge of the image that reads: 'Shot Marks of a Military Execution, on North Wall of Trinity Church. Stratford-on-Avon 1900'. In a way, the writing intends to broaden our reading of the image by explaining with words details of the environment where the character was portrayed. A fact that perhaps makes it, together with the 5883 photographs that were created at that time, the first attempts to characterize what we know today as documentary photography.

Let us recall that the context of production of that photographic ensemble arose in 1897 when Store -who adopted the ideas of William Jerome Harrison (United Kingdom, 1845-1908)- announced the formation of the National Photographic Record Association, NPRA, a movement created for the purpose of inspecting and recording cities, old buildings, popular customs and other matters related to life and sites of historical interest in the British Isles at the end of the 19th century, despite having had a more significant documentary development in England. 

The collective memory of the NPRA and the languages of contemporary documentary photography bring with them a place for discovery and the possibility of enjoying the aesthetics of its visual messages, navigating in time, deciphering the constant translation of living thinking in one place, but living in another, knowing and learning about the world.

In this open path of relationships the equation suggests that documentary photography as a model of representation and conversational and linguistic domain offers us a different understanding of reality and explores the phenomenon of causality, formulating questions that bring us closer to our emotions and feelings.

We also know that the documentary photographer can construct and capture instantaneous or prolonged moments in which people manifest a state of mind or emotional disposition that leads us to interpret reality subjectively, as is the case of Elise Corten (Belgium, b. 1994), who through her series in process Warmer than the Sun seeks to show us something about the pride of being her mother's daughter, but above all she speaks of the poetics of testimony through portraits that allude to the feelings of belonging between her and her mother.

Warmer than the Sun contains objective dyes where Corten documents the daily experience with her mother to outline in images moments inspired by physical and temporal references and emotional contexts.

The work intersects messages that can be complicated to associate when observing self-portraits and portraits where the nudity of the body and the still life scenes created with high contrast tones and compositional elements seem like ideas that wish to normalize social definitions of women's bodies and their processes. 

Likewise, Corten, by portraying herself with her mother, proposes that we stop to review our notion of physical, psychological, and social evolution, perhaps as an excuse to examine the disciplined model of nineteenth-century motherhood that concealed women's faces while they held their babies and children, a problematic literally developed by Linda Fregni Nagler (Swedish-Italian, b. 1979).

Clearly, the approach and style of Corten and Nagler are notoriously different, but that does not contradict the equal value of the connotations that their images acquire as contemporary recreations of women's presence in history.

By photographing herself individually and with her mother, Corten creates a field of graphic evidence where they -as women- build greater self-confidence, develop understanding and strengthen their bond marked by emotional ups and downs, which over time, far from diminishing, grows due to the influence of the psychological and social component. 

Another significant aspect present in Warmer than the Sun is that we observe two generations -mother and daughter- claiming ownership of their destiny. In this respect, the photographer proposes a representation model with an autonomous language that challenges the problem of deception during childhood and adolescence. That is to say; as a child, the daughter usually sees the figure of the mother as a "powerful person"; however, when she grows up, she observes that this ideal construction of her mother contains faults, inconsistencies, and gaps that are assumed as a sign of weakness and little autonomy. In short, it is an experience that leads the child to rebel in order to affirm the construction of her identity while seeking new figures of power to regain a sense of rootedness. 

From that place, Warmer than the Sun evokes situations around the natural changes that occur -between mother and daughter- and legitimizes the mother as a fundamental example in the construction of a healthier, more prosperous, and happier society. 

To this end, from her practice, Corten pays attention to the role of daughters and mothers, undermining the importance of the spaces of silence, where words do not enter the environment she recreates, unlike the works with textual elements of the NPRA that try to convince us rationally. In contrast, Warmer than the Sun reinforces presence as a form of containment and unconditional support, reducing our ignorance of visual grammar. 

Faced with this paradox, Elise Corten creates statements of evidence through Warmer than the Sun, or in other words, claims to have witnessed a reality that from the photographic act looks like a visual alphabet, syntax, or semantics of the image about the relationship between a daughter and her mother.

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