Artist Mala Mastroberte’s vintage-styled self-portraits explore mid-century American illustration styles and the changing image of women.

There was a time when for a mere 25 cents anyone could be transferred to a parallel world. A world seemingly like ours, with ordinary streets, the dives, cheap hotels… only infused with mystery, excitement and thrill, turning them into the very stuff legends are made of.

Shamelessly exploitative and openly defiant, pulp fiction novels were extending an invitation to peak into the fantasy, one that no mere mortal could refuse. Be the witness and the judge in one, be delighted and appalled at the same time, and all that from the safety of your imagination.

In her self-portraits, Mala embarks on a journey through the years of the changing image of a female. Most of her work is based on or inspired by illustrated vintage magazines and paperback covers. “I find them visually stunning and absolutely captivating. Each and every one tells a fascinating story, but they also serve as a general visual and aesthetic guide to the era, and hint at how women and sexuality were perceived and portrayed during different times in history” Mala explains.

“I am not a fan (to say the least) of chauvinism, violence, abuse and necrophilia, but take guilty pleasure from those vivid images and a certain comfort in knowing that they are not real. Not to mention the fashion sense and fabulousness of the participants. No matter what the situation they find themselves in, they are always flawless. Mischievously powerful, even in ties. Not bad, just drawn that way.”

“I concentrate on the “Golden Era” of American Illustration, which doesn’t meant that I do not like to occasionally play with different genres and time. In the process of “trying on” these different roles I get to explore myself as a woman. One instance I am a femme fatale, then I am a damsel in distress, scamming villain, or a baby doll.”

“Being on both sides of the camera presents double challenge, but it also is twice as much rewarding. I love being able to decide myself of the theme of the photos, enjoy immensely finding fabulous props, preparing myself and arranging my shoots. This absolute control over the creative process is very gratifying, however I do hope it is not all just self-indulgence, but it also amuses the voyeur…”

Cover to Cover
Mala’s images on Flickr

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