Valentina Albino


In her last photographic works, Valentina Albino explores the concept of chronic pain, influenced by her own experience as a chronic migraine sufferer since the age of seven. This selection of images is taken from two intimate self-publications: If you were me and It’s going to be okay (one day). They represent two chapters of the same project exploring the psychological aftermath of chronic pain, and the subsequent mental health of the subject.


The project aims to communicate a type of constant and intangible pain, often invisible in medical scans, such as X-ray and CAT scans. In the medical field, pain rating scales and questionnaires have been used to individuate the intensity and the quality of pain. However, the patients often describe these instruments as aseptic and frustrating: in fact, some of the descriptors in use have inner connotations that change according to the reader’s socio-cultural background, class, native language, age, etc. In addition, there is the possibility that the subjects cannot identify their pain in some descriptors because of the specific nature of their pain.


If you were me is an intimate publication about the concept of chronic pain moving from a private sphere to the collectivity. Pain is individual: reason why it has been problematic make this project authentic; externalise and visualise types of pains actually invisible on medical scans were the two first steps to overcome. After exhausting years trying to communicate pain by language, the need to express it by photographs arose ending up to this photobook. The writing sessions played a crucial role during the realisation of the project: they arose the psychological side of being a chronic pain sufferer and how this had a huge and subtle impact on Valentina's mental stability. Therefore, the writing process allowed feelings and sensations to emerge letting them express in Valentina's photographs. Later on, the awareness that images and words were inseparable increased, which developed into composing them together by unconscious associations.


It’s going to be okay (one day) also investigates the psychological aftermath of this condition, taking the viewer through an introspective journey into the life of a sufferer. The invisibility of chronic pain influences the acceptance of it as real by others and by the subject first. Since there is no universal vocabulary able to explicate personal feelings and sensations, communication and understanding are lacking between the sufferer and the external world. Hence, mental pain tends to be underestimated as an actual disease and the subject's need to be believed and understood arises if family, friends, colleagues, etc, minimise their illness. However, the underestimation of this condition and its invisibility in medical scans do not allow an easy externalisation from the sufferers: the reason why a visual representation could make it tangible and make them felt believed. Since the moment of the diagnosis, the subjects suffer from a lack of visual proof of their pain. The lack of an actual trace of their pain was the main motivation that encourages me to find a complex narrative aiming to re-build an alternative medical record for chronic pain subjects. These pictures become the medium to visualise pain as a concrete and tangible entity to others and to the sufferer first. For Valentina, the act of sharing her photographs and their intrinsic pain rose in herself a desire to encourage sufferers to share and manifest their feelings.

‘The word “migraine” is from Greek hemikrania, “pain on one side of the head”, from hemi, “half”, and kranion, “skull”. [...] Migraines are associated with major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder. These psychiatric disorders are approximately 2-5 times more common in people without aura, and 3-10 times more common in people with aura.’ (Wikipedia)
Mum understood how to act with me. Now, I am alone in my shelter, and the irrational prevailed on me, again.
Migraine is something latent which obscure my lucidity. Migraines are (part of) me. Sides that I used to conceal; thinking that avoiding them I (will) feel good, one day. False. Exploring the concept of pain allowed me to shift the pain from a private and dark sphere to the collectivity. 'If you were me' made my pain visible to other, and to myself, from a different view’s point. Pain is individual and private which are the reasons why it has been problematic make this project authentic. Not only photographs have the power to make something visible to our eyes, even if it is already evident by itself, but also, they are able to make it visible to our consciousness.
I get very tired to explain my suffering to people, (I guess) I am not the only one. Researching words, I got lost. Visual metaphors helped to externalise sensations and feelings, sort of creating the atmosphere of my crises. I found the space where photographs and words have no (proper) borders. Here, where pain become concrete and tangible. Images are the (potential) bridge between the self and the other.
The pain was in rhythm with the beat of my heart.