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Emily Schiffer Featured on New Yorker Instagram

Schiffer italy
Family: a connection that transcends geography and logic. My American aunt and I introduced ourselves to four generations of Italian cousins. This image (of my Aunt and 90 yr old cousin) was taken during our first meeting. 

MFA student Emily Schiffer is taking over the New Yorker’s Instagram feed this week with pictures from her recent Italy trip, exploring ideas of belonging, identity, fantasy, and memory. Follow her month abroad here.

Hello, this is @emilyschiffer posting this week. My great-grandparents left Guardiagrele, Italy for the United States in 1909, and a powerful longing for that town — and for Italy in general — has been passed down through the generations. I am interested in my family’s nostalgia for a place it has not experienced. This series, stills which accompany my first experimental film, investigates the concept of constructed memory and explores the impossibility of knowing what my life would look like if my family hadn’t emigrated. Ideas of belonging, identity, fantasy, and memory guided my work. 

My mother’s family is Italian-American, and my Father’s ancestors are Ukrainian and Austrian Jews. The fact that I can never actually be solely Italian or from Guardiagrele is part of what makes this fantasy intriguing to me. I find the act of imagining a clear cut identity — one that would eliminate the layers of my American whiteness, Jewishness, and Italian-Americanness — both unappealing and compelling. This tension between my conflicting desires to simplify and complicate my identity led to a fragmented, illogical, and imaginative way of working that is quite different from my usual documentary photographic practice. In this work I explore the origins of these opposing urges, and examine their push and pull.