Martina Cirese


What happens when a circle begins? You know the circle will end. The matter is how is it gonna end. (The matter is, how can you know how is it gonna end?). A photographer meets an subject, not that she thinks he his, but it’s the only thing he deserves to be. And he knows it, and he likes it. Skin is a boundary [then] skin is an opportunity.

I met Asan in Paris. I was caught by his mental universe of anxiety, straying and questioning. With him, I felt immediately messy but complete. I entered his nomadic life and his persistent tension with spaces. I found myself in it. I started to take pictures hanging over him, in every street, light or wall he was leaning in. But he kept asking for more. He was viscerally attracted to me. He was obsessed with me.

For over one year, I denied him but I came back in an endless and tense tango. Following him across Europe and Asia, in a bipolar courtship, I was led into intertwined, overlaid worlds: erratic, liquid cities, revealing then hiding themselves; and Asan, more as an entity than a person, a mentor, a spiritual guide. As we chased each other, he took me away. When I found my own vision and language through our photos, I was already gone from his life, as he from mine.



Martina Cirese was born in Rome in 1988.

From 2008 until 2009, while studying History at “La Sapienza” University of Rome, she also enrolled at the institute of photography “ISFCI”, collaborating at the same time with the “AGF” photojournalistic agency and with the organization “Shoot4Change”. Completed her Bachelor’s degree in 2010, she has moved from Rome to Paris to finish her studies, winning a scholarship to do her thesis abroad and receiving her Master degree in Contemporary History in 2013.

Her first publications have been about the student movement: in 2008 on “PeaceReporter”; in 2011 on the book SpringTime: The New Student Rebellions by Verso Books; in the German magazine “Rosa Luxembourg” and in the Italian newspapers “La Repubblica” and “Alias – Il Manifesto”. In 2012, her first reportage assigned and her first cover were published in the Italian magazine “L’Espresso”, with an inquiry about the power of Taxi’s lobby during the Italian economic crisis.

Between 2011 and 2013 she has been working about the human search of identity: with this project, named “Asankojo”, she has been selected as finalist for the “Emergentes DST 2012 Award” and the “WinePhoto International Contest 2012”. She has won the scholarship for the “MasterClass 2012” held by Enrico Bossan, head of photography department in Fabrica.

This year, she has been selected in the “New York Portfolio Review”; she was among the shortlist of the “Bourse du Talent Reportage” and of the “Prix Pixpalace-Visas de l’Ani”. “Asankojo” was also nominated as “Honorable Mention” in the “Photographic Museum of Humanity Grant 2013”, and awarded with the first prize of the student category in the “Fotoura International Street Photography Awards 2013”.


18 thoughts on “Martina Cirese – Asankojo”

  1. Martina
    I thoroughly enjoyed this wildly frenetic ride. These images completely pulled me in and tossed me around. The last image was wonderfully calming. Just love this. Congratulations.

  2. This could be one of the most difficult projects to pull thru. Intensely personal, emotionally complex, “live” while never giving in to the type of instantaneity that photography can allow too easily sometimes. I probably wish that more pictures had the “build”, the concentration of elements found in the rich geometry of the first picture, but on account that you told us a story, our appreciation should not be parcellized. Thank you, Martina.

  3. I have a big problem here…a real need to square Martina Cirese’s circle. When I view the essay posted on BURN, the emotional complexity and personal intensity Herve sees comes through. However, viewing it as a winner in the student category of Fotoura’s International Street Photography Awards (ISPA) competition confounds me – see: .

    My favourite definition of street phtography is stated by the London Festival of Photography (LFPH) as: “un-posed, un-staged photography which captures, explores or questions contemporary society and the relationships between individuals and their surroundings.” Can a biographical photo-documentary be an intimate psychological exploration on one hand, as it is here, and a candid, unstaged view to contemporary society in an LFPH ISPA submission on the other? I’ve always liked the LFPH definition as it’s so broad and encompassing. Martina Cirese has taken it even further; I’m not too sure I’m at all comfortable with the extension.

  4. I saw the opening shot yesterday but being in a hurry I decided to resist the temptation to play the slideshow and read the comments. I really thought if the other images in the slideshow could keep up with the quality of the opening image we would be in for a killer essay. It’s very good but I see quite a few shots which take away the intensity of the good ones, they seem unnecessary. I enjoyed the artist statement although I think it perhaps promised too much. But oh yes there are a couple of images which are something else…

  5. L.O.V.E!

    and not only the pictures of course (although, as always i want alot more pictures, as this short version only hinting at both the collision and the gain, the loss and the acceptance, the delerium and the calm, so i want more, but that’s not unusual for me ;) ) but the story itself as it unfolds and bends like an accordian gasping…it has always seemed to me that the stories that make the most sense to me (regardless of style or aesthetic choice or medium or whatever) are the ones that are honed from a deep personal connection to a person or place or moment…and its clear that this story resonates with the madness and passion and confusion and dreams and reconciliation that Martina experienced in her relationship and mad-dash with this man… a sense, i saw this story not so much about him at all but about what was being unearth and excavated inside her (looked at it 2xs before i read the text)….

    as for the pictures, of course i care much less about individual pictures than how the entire thing works…and so, i dont really see ‘filler’ images or ‘less powerful ones’ but the entire love-song/howl and that works…in fact, the ‘less-strong pictures’ seem to me to be critical because they heighten the power of the ones that are remarkable…then again, that is the way i edit and put together my own work, trying to play off ‘simple, less-charged’ pics in a story with more potent ones, as this, to me, replicates both life and the experience of living or enduring, especially in a relationship….

    Pictures 1, 2, 4 are really remarkable and powerful as are 9, 10 and 11 (i love this beam of light that comes from the shit and pinpoints him on the beach, and this picture, for some reason, seems a kin to a famous pic by Koudelka, as 9 is kin to Michael A’s Half-life portraits of men), then 15 and those last 2 images…..

    a beautiful and lyrical and in the end, filled with love and curiosity and acceptance essay that just made my morning :))

    congratulations martina…looking forward to seeing much more :)

  6. It’s morning on Saturday – my allotted day to visit Burn and post, but also I find myself feeling pleasantly lazy, as one should on Saturday morning – too lazy to write any deep thoughts or shallow ones, either. Bob Black sums it up for me, so I will say, “ditto,” and second his thoughts.

  7. NOTE. I feel I may have been even shorter than I usually am so i thought I should attempt to clarify.
    ( a rarity for sure)

    Its strange how people (we) view imagery differently. It seems it serves a variety of purposes.(or can be made to bend to).
    How image sequences may be interpreted and re-interpreted outside of any real or imagined narrative ideas and forms they ever possessed.
    How the intended forms can be dis-regarded, and ‘more suitable’ individual ones inserted.
    I am as guilty of this as anyone, but I think I come at the problem from another angle; that of separation.
    That is, removing or ignoring all traces of context, of concrete or implied narrative, and leaving just ‘Marks on paper’. This is how I want to view a visual piece. I dont care who the artist is, what they think or say. Or the people or scenes depicted in the images. They are not in any way real. This is NOT a pipe! remember?
    so when I look at these (and all imagery), I am looking for a visual high of sorts. Light and dark, tones and lines. Tension. Some strange sacred geometry if you like. All this can move me. In fact is needed, to move me. So in this respect an image that may depict suffering can sometimes be beautiful and an image containing beauty can be tired and dull. There is no conflict there as they are just images; The things they depict are abstracted from the real.
    so bringing it back to this work; Pic 4. glorious (to me) Not even sure i can, or want to fully, explain why, but it works ‘visually’ for me. Couldnt care less about the who what why when, or the once upon a time of it, that people seem to need from images they view. it just has that ‘sacred geometry’ thing going on (for me) and yet pic 12(for instance). of no use to me whatsoever. An info shot. Information only. no magic….. Go figure.


    PS Love you too BOB
    PPS I speak ONLY of my experience of the work. NOT personally of the Artist or the curators or anything else, all of who may be saints or un-saints.

  8. JOHN :)))…

    great, thoughtful response :))..and man, i always dig what you write, whether serious or funny, feel the same or differ…..makes no difference, I know I’ll aways be attendant to what you dig up from that well of life of yours :))..and what you have to say..Go figure ;))


    btw, i re-watched Leigh’s NAKED again last weekend…and i i thought of you…not at all that you’re like Johnny, (he could use a dose or two of your wit and experience), just the fever and quickness of your own hard-bitten truth :))…cheers

  9. Bad ass. One of my favorite series of images that I’ve seen in a while. You bring us to that headspace…. I think it could be an edit of 18 but I like all these frames… Glad to see this on Burn! Kudos Martina!

  10. Curious how we each choose our favourites and how it somehow obliterates anything to do with filler shots. My holy eyeballkick shot is N10. There he is in the immensity of the landscape, is odd way of standing or perhaps walking turns the landscape and him into a visual tug of war…

  11. Does the clearly driven artist with a holy drive to sing her or his own song care at all about the publics tastes and favorites? If its your own scream and story surely nobody can save your bad taste or superlative beauty choosing your victims (as my wife calls my subjects)? Surely you keep on crawling following that something that cools that fever which makes us push the shutter button whether crap or brilliant…

  12. First of all, Martina: great essay! I have watched several times – so it must draw me in.

    Being such a personal essay I immediately thought that it must have been difficult to edit, as certain photographs may evoke strong emotional responses from the photographer, but that is lost on the audience.

    John, I suspect, like me, you saw more after repeated views. I agree with you that a photograph is an object in itself i.e. capable of being viewed for its own worth; apart from the ‘reality’ that it shows. Any B&W photo is apart from reality – sort of. I do like both though; the photograph as an entity in it’s own right and the story that the photograph illustrates.


  13. This is awesome. Congratulations Martina. This is pure poetry.

    Bob….what can I say. Thanks for your amazing take on this. For a blind guy you have amazing clarity and vision m’man. “the story itself as it unfolds and bends like an accordian gasping”…that is just pure dead brilliant.

    Paul..gotta go with you on #10. Unlike Bob, I, and I suspect you as well, respond to individual images more than the whole. Each one of these images suggests it’s own story.

    It’s interesting, how these photographs, black and white, blurred by deliberate camera shake and subject motion, invite us to fill in the blanks ourselves. Rather than try to show us everything, they tease us by showing less, but hint suggestivly at the mystery beneath.

  14. Who are we to go about critiquing Martina Cirese’s photographs? Even as singular images the visual priorities are different enough to set her work apart from the hobbyist/ occasional photographer. Guys… c’mon…

    Anyway, if I can remember correctly, Jonas Bendiksen said (and I’m quoting loosely here),

    “the people who’ll inherit photography in the future aren’t necessarily the ones who’ll take the best picture with the best composition, it’s the ones who’ll have the most poignant stories to tell”

    And you know what? This essay is an embodiment of that statement.

  15. It is always interesting to me how people look at pictures and especially a collection or an essay…

    i see an essay the same way i hear a song…or watch a movie…or read a book….the sum of the parts….so i am very aware of miscellaneous “scenes” in a film that do not work, or a paragraph that takes us nowhere in character development in a novel, or a section in a song that i want to skip over to get back to the melody that i like…yet a song is made up of high notes, mid notes, low notes..surely they must all work together, yet the high notes are not “high” unless you have the others…

    surely i love all different styles and voices of photographic works….i am looking personally for a visceral response whether the work be conceptual, landscape, natural history, photoJ , fashion whatever….i want to feel that “connection” with the subject…i don’t need an “important story” …

    i just need a slice ….a taste…. a feeling, of well a FEELING…

    Martina did some real exploring of emotion here in my opinion…i think for her it will be a base for further exploration….

    i just looked at dozens of portfolios on Sunday at the New York Times portfolio review in New York ..and in general i see lots and lots of work…most of it really predictable (even though well done) or completely referential to the work of others….rarely with real authorship….rarely with a unique voice….

    what i often see also are rather brilliant essays by young women photographers…they tend to outshine their male counterparts in their freshness of approach and their sensibilities…the men tend to be a bit more pedantic…yet i also often see the women do one poignant essay, as here, and then i never see anything from them again…i always wonder where they go, or what happened later….

    so my challenge as a mentor and my challenge to Martina (and she knows this) is for her to use this as the “base” to her pyramid of development…

    all photographers really really need to have a base…a core…a wellspring, a belief system with their work…from the beginning…sure, things change…sure evolution is part of it…yet there must be a core…

    i am most anxious to see what Martina takes on next..this was a particularly interesting essay because Martina dared to photograph an unusual friendship/relationship….my guess is that she will use this to do similar projects….using her intuition and her gut level instincts and simply let herself fly….

    for sure i will be paying attention….

    cheers, david

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