Donna Ferrato

Photographer
      
Location: New York
Nationality: American/Italian
Biography:   Donna Ferrato is an internationally acclaimed photojournalist known for her groundbreaking documentation of the hidden world of domestic violence. Her seminal book   Living With the Enemy   (Aperture, 1991) went into four... read on
News Workshops
Erotic Eye Workshop article on Xatakafoto
donna ferrato
May 2, 2016
Adrian Morillo of Spanish photo blog Xatakafoto asked many insightful and thought-provoking questions in his recent interview with us about The Erotic Eye workshops. Many thanks for all his work, and the work of our translator and Erotic Eye participant Javier Carbajal.

Spanish speakers can read the interview on Xatakafoto, and for everyone else please read the English version below. Even if you don't speak Spanish check out the Xatakafoto post for the accompanying photographs. 

---------------

Xatakafoto: It is not a coincidence that you are developing the Erotic Eye Workshops. A main theme of your long career as a photographer is sexuality. You developed a strong body of photographs working around sexuality in your work Love & Lust after getting separated from your husband and trying to find yourself around love and sexual experiences that you recorded with your camera. In I AM UNBEATABLE and Living with the Enemy, you work around sexuality as a way of possession and as a powerful weapon that is used usually against women.

When did sex and eroticism start to be a theme that has such an influence on you?

Donna Ferrato: It began in Paris in 1977. I was an impressionable young divorcee, traveling alone, sleeping on park benches to save money and hungry all the time. No possessions except for a taped-up red and green Leica M4 around my neck and the gift of an insatiable imagination. When I saw the romance happening with Parisians and their daily bread, I felt I had to make photographs of the fresh, hot, unwrapped baguettes being carried away as far as my eyes could see. All that my erotic eye could see were people marching off to make either war or love with the staff of life. The baguette became my muse. 

X: The Erotic Eye workshops are based on the idea to create a team of photographers and also some models that work together around eroticism. The team lives together in a specific area during one week and it could be considered more than a photography workshop. It is an ethical and reflexive travel around eroticism.

What is a day like during one of your Erotic Workshops? What is the relation between the photographers, models and the place? What things are trying to be done or experimented and what things are not allowed?

DF: We don’t use models. We meet people. We find each other. Everything springs from an encounter. 

The erotic does not have to be sexual. It is an energy. Eroticism explores desire but not necessarily the satisfaction of that desire. We want to delve past the surface and deeper into the subconscious.  

By the way, students are not allowed to have sex with the subjects. Everyone is treated with the utmost respect. 

When we set up camp in Mallorca, people were curious about us. ‘Who are these Erotic Eye photographers?’ Tomeu Coll, my co-leader, was born there and he has been photographing the people of Mallorca, mainly in the Badlands. Tomeu shoots like Hunter S. Thompson writes, with a razor sharp eye and a love for women and his island. He was able to give us access to private intimate worlds tucked away within his homeland. 

X: The past year the first Erotic Eye Workshop was developed in Mallorca. This year it is in Berlin and next year (tell me if I’m wrong) it is going to be done in Tokyo. Why is it important for you to do this workshop in different societies and how do you think that these different places affect the creative process of the workshops?

DF: We are still undecided about the final destination for the Erotic Eye Workshop trilogy. We are anthropologically studying and trying to witness how different cultures express love and desire.

X: You are not alone developing these workshops. The photographers Jane Evelyn Atwood and Tomeu Coll work with you, so we can say that you are a team. How is the experience of directing a workshop? What experiences and feelings bring these two photographers to the workshops?

DF: The Erotic Eye Workshop was in the back of my mind since 2005 when I started a new workshop concept with "Risky Pictures.” It was in Barcelona that I met Tomeu Coll, who was a student in this workshop. At the time, eroticism was seen as too controversial. People wouldn't even sign up for such a thing. Whenever I tried advertising it on Facebook or social media, it would immediately get shut down. When I decided to give it a real push forward, the place I wanted to work was in Mallorca, because of its strong hedonist community. Tomeu was born in Mallorca. From day one he was on board to collaborate. He is extremely helpful with the logistics and social connections for the Erotic Eye workshop because he knows everyone and makes friends quickly. He is also deeply aware of the difference between sex & eroticism.  I respect Tomeu because he would never abuse or take advantage of a woman or man with his camera. 

Jane Evelyn Atwood is a champion in the world of photography. She is an ardent humanist, but she also has a wicked eye for symbolic details. I adore her as a sister, a friend, and one of the best photographers I know. I trust her commitment to her subjects and especially to women. Her book Too Much Time is an unflinching look at how many young women have been robbed of their lives often just for defending themselves or their children.

Every Erotic Eye workshop will have a new co-leader on board with Tomeu and me. In Mallorca we invited Karen Kuehn because of her portraits from Burning Man. She is a portrait photographer with an innovative approach to lighting. She was patient and generous with the students, sharing her stories and advice with fluid ease. The students grew enormously under Karen's wing. This time I suspect Jane is going to challenge the photographers to use their minds, hearts and eyes to keep it real. Nothing contrived. 

X: The Erotic Eye Workshop is not the Sexual Eye Workshop, there’s a difference that probably for you and the participants of the workshop is clear, but me and some readers don't know. Can you explain to us the differences?

DF: "Sex Eyes" would be boring. This would limit us to exploring only the act of sex, and reduce our photos to pornography. Too much pornography can be corrosive to the imagination and can give people a shallow perception of sexuality. Eroticism resides in the mind and comes from freeing yourself from social constraints, and embracing what we feel deeply but cannot articulate. It is not simply a body rush or a wave of physical pleasure. In Mallorca we found that we were photographing people's minds, and, I believe that's what gave their images so much power. It was more about the meaning of what was being done, not the actual act. It looked physical, but it was psychological and about trust.

X: Sexuality is the origin of our lives, and like it or not, one of the most powerful emotions that we experience as humans during our lives. Why do you think that in practically all societies there are taboos and strong legislation and control around sexuality and in some cases is used as a weapon that gives power?

DF: Many societies constructed taboos as a fearful response to the immense power women wield with their bodies and their sexualities. Out of resentment, men invented religions based upon male deities, creating patriarchal systems to weaken women, teaching them to feel ashamed of their sexuality. In the workshop we are attempting to metaphorically go back in time and change these negative societal biases. Staying in centuries-old houses, and with each photographer adopting the approach and eye of an assigned “dead photographer,” such as Gerda Taro or Philip Jones Griffiths, we aim to connect with rebels of the past who also sought to change their culture’s close-minded or old-fashioned views through the power of images. 

X: What goals do you have after these workshops are finished and the book is published?  Do you want to open some discussions around sexuality in society with this work?

DF: I aim to advance a broader discussion about women's rights and censorship, emphasizing women as fully realized and liberated human beings. It's important for women to be able to own their sexuality. Sexuality is fluid and amorphous, bleeding rich color into all facets of life. The Erotic Eye collection may become a window through which people can boldly share with one another what they find uniquely sensual, constantly expanding their understanding of the erotic, with eyes wide open, subconscious unbound, seeing the unseen. 


4,505

By Donna Ferrato —

Events News

PRINT SALE - Fundraiser for Sanctuary

By Donna Ferrato / New York City — Dear Folks Thanks for the awesome response to our fundraiser.  However, I feel your help will be more..
Events News

THE TRIBECA SHOW - About the Opening Night

By Donna Ferrato — Yesterday we had a great opening night of The Tribeca Show at Apex Art in Tribeca. Many people came to check..
News Videos

ELLIOTT ERWITT, SILENCE SOUNDS GOOD - Documentary Film by Adriana Lopez Sanfeliu

By Donna Ferrato — This is the DOC of the year. What a joy to find out the master is still as wry as he is spry.  Elliott..
News Spotlight

Halloween Tribeca NYC

By Donna Ferrato / Tribeca — Tribeca is a die-hard place where all nature of spirit co-mingles. On Halloween, families with kids run (not..
Events News Spotlight

North American photographer Donna Ferrato receives the PhotoEspaña 2019 BARTOLOMÉ ROS prize

By Donna Ferrato — Donna Ferrato receives the PHotoESPAÑA award for excellence. This recognition is for her documentary..
Books Events News

PhotoEspaña - Holy Exhibit at Circulo de Bellas Artes Madrid

By Donna Ferrato — Holy exhibit at Circulo de Bellas Artes Madrid is part of my upcoming book of the same name to be published..
News

SILVER: Stories that shine a light on the wisdom and wildness of old women. By Irene van Nispen-Kress

By Donna Ferrato — Every woman in the trail-blazing book by Dutch photographer, Irene van Nispen-Kress, is a rare bird. Bound..
News

HIPA's Hope

By Donna Ferrato — Being invited to Dubai for HIPA's 8th annual photography award as a judge was an honor.  I was one..
Spotlight

PHotoEspaña Madrid 03.08.19 - 03.09.19

By Donna Ferrato — Although the PHotoEspaña workshop was only 48 hours, it was meaningful. Every student asked for..
Spotlight

Bare Breasted Against Breast Cancer fundraiser

By Donna Ferrato — I'm pleased to announce three of my Tribeca photographs are being auctioned to raise vital funding for..
Spotlight

My neighbor Taylor Swift

By Donna Ferrato — It's kinda fun to live in a neighborhood where you leave the house and run into Taylor Swift, leaving..
News

From Behind Closed Doors to #MeToo: A Conversation with Donna Ferrato and Nona Willis Aronowitz

By Donna Ferrato — Thursday, July 26, 2018 / 6-8:30PM Annenberg Space for Photography Donna Ferrato is a woman and a..
News

1968-2018: Marching for our Lives, Washington, D.C.

By Donna Ferrato — Marching for our Lives felt like being born again. Back in 1968 the peace and love generation said "we don't..
News

MacLean's Interview: What is wrong with white women?

By Donna Ferrato — Donna Ferrato, the renowned photographer known for her work on domestic violence, looks back on the..
News

ANNOUNCING: Sacred Eye Workshop Sicily

By Donna Ferrato — May 25-June 3, 2018 With Donna Ferrato, Tomeu Coll, & special guest Letizia Battaglia The first in a..
News

TIME: Black Eyes Don't Lie by Donna Ferrato

By Donna Ferrato — She didn’t run into a door. She didn’t get punched by a stranger in the street. Someone who claimed to..
News

Two new workshops in collaboration with Loculars

By Donna Ferrato — If you've wanted to join me on one of my workshops but can't get away for a whole week, now's your chance to..
Events News

Loculars Exhibition: Photos from Saturday Night

By Donna Ferrato — Thank you for Saturday! A short but sweet photography event with great street photographers and some of the..
News

Print Shop Now Open

By Donna Ferrato — We are excited to offer a selection of new and vintage images, as well as one limited edition poster, for..
Events News

Tomorrow, the chance to win a portfolio review with me

By Donna Ferrato — Tomorrow I'll be giving a lecture at K&M Camera, NYC. The talk is free and open to all, and you can..
Events Grant Announcements News

An Evening with Donna Ferrato by K&M Camera

By Donna Ferrato — Preview, event .  Join us Wednesday the Twenty-Third for a talk with photographer and activist Donna..
Events News

Erotic Eye Workshop LA Video Premiere + Cortona Workshop

By Donna Ferrato — Watch the EE LA film It was the end of the trilogy of the Erotic Eye Workshops; which began in Mallorca,..
Events Exhibitions News

Retrospective + Workshop at Cortona on the Move

By Donna Ferrato — American Woman / American Donna: 40 Years (1970s-2010s) Donna's first retrospective opens at the Cortona On..
News

Interview with Young Survivor of Domestic Violence

By Donna Ferrato — I recently had a conversation with a young survivor of domestic violence who lives in Kosovo. He hopes to..
Join us
for more access