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  • AnnMarie Tornabene

Updated: Jul 1


The year is 2023 and we are living in crazy times. The war in the Ukraine continues, politics, which I never follow are more a mess than usual, the planet is dying and people are more selfish and self-centered than ever.

All of these things make me withdraw into myself more, if that is possible- something I think many others are also doing. It's called self-preservation. This is something I know a lot about as a survivor of abuse and trauma. No, I was not physically abused on a daily basis unless you want to call the physical bullying I endured as an adolescent by my classmates physical abuse. However, it is the psychological abuse that I endured daily from the ages of 10 years old (earliest memories of it anyway) until late adult and it has affected every aspect of my being from my own self-worth, to relationships I have had whether it be in friendships or romantic relationships and while I am now happily married, I am still an introvert and still very much alone physically and psychologically and spend all of my time coming up with creative ways to handle it.

Luckily, I have my photography, my model jobs and my other creative outlets and I would like to explain, in short, the self-portrait work I have done over these 25 years in these terms. For those of you who follow me on my social networks - Facebook and Instagram - you will see different levels of self-portraiture. There are my works which are profound, symbolic, created with the intent of them being "fine art works" and then there are the ones where I am in costume, posing in castles, ruins and other types of landscapes. During the interview I recorded some months back, (I will be posting the interview on my YouTube channel soon), I mention that photographing myself has always been a deep need. If I need to escape, if I need to play or to experiment with things artistically, it is by photographing myself. As children often do, when they (we) play alone, they tend to create worlds in their minds, imagine and enjoy - this is how I work and where those costumed photos of me come from. In fact, all of my work comes from my own universe but it is the costumed ones that are my inner child's play so while they are indeed self-indulgent, there is a very serious reason for creating them.

Lastly, as I get older, I try to look at myself differently. I look in the mirror and at my photographs and I see someone aging. I sometimes see wisdom and experience and other times, I see someone who has a lot to learn. I hope this year that my works and even my life evolve more but the thing that I will hold on to is that all of it will continue to take place in my own universe. My safe place.


Nous sommes en 2023 et nous vivons une époque folle. La guerre en Ukraine continue, la politique, que je ne suis jamais, est plus désordonnée que d'habitude, la planète se meurt et les gens sont plus égoïstes et égocentriques que jamais.

Toutes ces choses me poussent à me replier davantage sur moi-même, si c'est possible - ce que beaucoup d'autres font aussi, je pense. Cela s'appelle l'auto-préservation. C'est quelque chose que je connais bien en tant que survivante d'abus et de traumatismes. Non, je n'ai pas été maltraitée physiquement tous les jours, sauf si vous voulez appeler les brimades physiques que j'ai subies à l'adolescence de la part de mes camarades de classe des violences physiques. Cependant, c'est l'abus psychologique que j'ai enduré quotidiennement depuis l'âge de 10 ans (mes premiers souvenirs en tout cas) jusqu'à la fin de l'âge adulte et cela a affecté tous les aspects de mon être, de mon amour-propre aux relations que j'ai eues, qu'il s'agisse d'amitiés ou de relations amoureuses, et bien que je sois maintenant mariée et heureuse, je suis toujours introvertie et toujours très seule physiquement et psychologiquement, et je passe tout mon temps à trouver des moyens créatifs de gérer cela.

Heureusement, j'ai la photographie, mes emplois de modèle et mes autres débouchés créatifs et j'aimerais expliquer brièvement le travail d'autoportrait que j'ai réalisé au cours de ces 25 années en ces termes - pour ceux d'entre vous qui me suivent sur mes réseaux sociaux - Facebook et Instagram - vous verrez différents niveaux d'autoportrait. Il y a mes œuvres qui sont profondes, symboliques, créées dans l'intention qu'elles soient des " œuvres d'art " et puis il y a celles où je suis en costume, posant dans des châteaux, des ruines et d'autres types de paysages. Au cours de l'interview que j'ai enregistrée il y a quelques mois (je la publierai bientôt sur ma chaîne YouTube), je mentionne que me photographier a toujours été un besoin profond. Si j'ai besoin de m'échapper, si j'ai besoin de jouer ou d'expérimenter des choses artistiquement, c'est en me photographiant. Comme le font souvent les enfants, lorsqu'ils (nous) jouent seuls, ils ont tendance à créer des mondes dans leur esprit, à imaginer et à s'amuser - c'est ainsi que je travaille et c'est de là que viennent ces photos costumées de moi. En fait, toutes mes œuvres proviennent de mon propre univers, mais ce sont les photos costumées qui sont le fruit de mon jeu intérieur d'enfant, et si elles sont effectivement complaisantes, il y a une raison très sérieuse de les créer.

Enfin, en vieillissant, j'essaie de me regarder différemment. Je me regarde dans le miroir et sur mes photos et je vois quelqu'un qui vieillit. Parfois, je vois de la sagesse et de l'expérience et d'autres fois, je vois quelqu'un qui a beaucoup à apprendre. J'espère que cette année, mes œuvres et même ma vie évolueront davantage, mais ce à quoi je m'accrocherai, c'est que tout cela continuera à se dérouler dans mon propre univers. Mon endroit sûr.

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  • AnnMarie Tornabene

Updated: Jul 1

I moved my blog to integrate it into my website as opposed to using a separate site for it. Here is a post I originally published in 2021 but I feel is the perfect way to begin my blog here.

I would like to share with you, dear readers, of how strangely my brain can work. I was folding up a tissue to throw out when I remembered an art teacher from my grade school days teaching us origami one day. My heart had leapt when she announced that we would be making an origami camera. I don't remember now what the process was but this was when I was, perhaps 10 years old, before photography fascinated me enough to have an interest in it. The thought of that origami camera and the excitement I felt which led me to ask myself, once again, "how did I get interested in photography and more so, how and when did photographing myself really become a deep-rooted strong need?”

I thought back to that time when I was 10 years old. I am the youngest of 3 girls and over the years, looking at family photographs I noticed and then remembered that my mother didn't care much in taking photos of me. There are very few photos of me as a baby and it seems that, aside from communion photos and school portraits, any photograph that had me in it was intentionally made for family and almost all of those had my mother in them, or my sisters/other family members.

My mother was not a kind woman. my earliest memories of her mentally abusing me was around that age of 10 - when I began to gain weight and her angry, hurtful words toward me grew and lasted up until my adulthood when I gained the courage to shout back... though she continued to insult me until the end of her life. She was also a jealous woman. Her life didn't turn out quite the way she wanted, so she took her frustrations out on her children.

And then here comes a sort of parallel - there are the photographs of her from when she was young woman...which were plenty. She was also the youngest of 3 girls and she was ignored by her family (but not abused) so the numerous photos of her, dressed gorgeously, hair done, posing began around the age of 18. She was a vain woman and perhaps because her marriage and her family were not quite perfect, she became jealous of those that she deemed were. She craved attention and sought it out however she could including, at a later age, dressing sexily, flirting with men and always needing to have her picture taken.

I remember reading, perhaps from Susan Sontag's book On Photography, that there is a certain perceived validation to being photographed; that when someone asks to take our photo, it makes us feel special, desired, beautiful. The act of just admiring us is not enough but to immortalize us on film, pixels, etc. is "real validation”. I know that I begged my mother to take photos of me when I was a child and I remember how annoyed she would get when I asked. It seemed that she never wanted to take photos of her child (unless she was in those photos) and I never had the love and real validation of feeling beautiful from the one person that mattered at the time. I craved it and I craved attention. This craving led to me growing up, flirting with and ending up in toxic situations with men, gaining and losing and then gaining a lot of weight and my self-esteem could not have been any lower.

Her need for attention became my need for attention.

So, while in university studying photography, I finally found the excuse to have photos taken of me. Not by others, though....and that still holds true. No one desires to photograph me and why should they? I am taking enough, more than enough in the last 25 years that no one needs to. It had (has?) became a hunger, a need because I needed the validation that I was beautiful. That I was loved and damn it, if no one was going to give it to me, I might as well give it to myself. What I am writing here goes beyond my written artist statement and is as honest and open as it can get.

That need still exists but it has since calmed. I am 53 years old and have had a difficult life. I still struggle greatly with my weight and looking at myself in the mirror and in photographs still make me critique my appearance. However, there is a level of self-acceptance and a point when other things take importance and it becomes exhausting to focus on that one aspect of me. If I continue to photography myself until I can't anymore, I hope some of those photographs include some wisdom or a feeling of "settled" not have that need for that kind of attention anymore. I hope.

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