Looking for my Daughters
A photobook by Sonia Lenzi


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I have portrayed the young women I met walking along the Regent’s Canal, and other waterways, in London, and with them the fears of a mother who sees her daughters become adult women, precisely in these years characterised by uncertainty and evolution. A mother can teach everything she knows and prepare her daughters to the fullest to cope with difficulties, but transmitting the experience and awareness of the dangers of the world is more complicated. The challenge of facing obstacles, is made even more difficult for women, especially in these times marked by climate change, pandemics, sexism, discrimination, economic and political instability and, in England, by the effects of Brexit.

This book is also about the relationship with my daughters. A lot of photographers, especially women photographers, such as Sally Mann or Sian Davey, photographed their own daughters.

When my daughters were kids I took snapshots, of course, but never proper photographs or portraits. Then when they were adolescent they didn’t want me to photograph them, pose for me, or allow me in their inner world and on the other side I didn’t want to invade their personal space or force them. So in this body of work and book I also projected on other young women the desire to be close and photograph my own daughters.


Sonia Lenzi

Transcript of an audio recording of Sonia Lenzi introducing herself and her publication at a hybrid workshop with DAAP at the Women's Art Library, 27 May 2023:

Hi, my name is Sonia. Sonia Lenzi. I'm Italian, I live in Italy, in Bologna and I come to London very often. I consider London my second home town. So, this is my book, this is my work. I have other books in the collection. But you chose this one, which is my last one, and the title is Looking for my Daughters.

All my work is about trying to make a connection or establish a relationship with the people I photograph, of course, and this one is about trying to make a connection with the younger generation. So the young women, that could be actually my daughters, but are not, and they are all women I met along Regent’s Canal and London Waterways, because I used the canal and water as a symbol of life and connections. So there are many portraits and signs that I found along the path. But there’s also another element, which is inside the pages. Here. You can see that inside these pages, there is a text. There are a lot of texts, excerpts from treatises and reports concerning women’s rights or the impact of policies and social changes on women.

It’s a kind of tool that can be used by these women, young women, too, and also words written on water. And as I said these are all texts from the Istanbul Convention, or the impact of climate change on women, or the impact of COVID on women. And this book is meant to build an interaction with them as a book, as a tool for reflection, on these issues. In fact I used this also in a performative way along the Regent’s Canal again, once published, and I made a video from this performative act, consisting in asking other women to look inside the pages and read it and try to think about how they can use these tools. And in this way as a book form, you can cut the pages if you want, you know, they can cut, so this is another level of interaction that I want to create with this book.

[Ami Clarke: So you can actually cut the pages?]

Yeah, with a paper knife. Yes. So this is why it is built in this way. And because I think books have to be constructed in a way that the meaning of what you want to convey with the book can be inside the object as a book.

[Ami Clarke: So there’s an interesting question there as to do we find a pristine copy, or a copy that’s been cut?] [Laughter]

[That’s a question of value, isn’t it, because once you cut the pages the value is much less. And so if you were selling to a collector, on the other hand, it’s a fairly less useful object. So it’s the use over the value equation that you have to make a decision over]

Well it depends on who had cut the pages.

That’s a nice idea

Ami Clarke: What if it was in a performance as well? So then it might add value.

Because of the context.

Ami Clarke: To have the use, you know, if its been performatively brought into being as a cut piece]

And, you know, these texts are also kind of written on water, so they are really fluid.

[Ami Clarke: It’s an interesting example of perhaps how you might link out to those texts in the world. So if you’re referencing them you can hold links to the texts that exist elsewhere. That might be an interesting reference to contextualise what’s being focused on in the book. But also as another layer to the tool, so you can actually find those texts, so there’s an access aspect of it where you can be lead to the texts and use them again.]

A lot of young women took notes of these texts because they didn’t know them.

[Ami Clarke: There might be a way the archive serves as a repository…]

Books are not dead objects.


Ami Clarke:No


Sonia Lenzi


workshop transcript




‘Civilization. The Way We Live Now’ at Saatchi Gallery, London. 2 June - 17 September 2023.


Sonia Lenzi

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