'The Y': Photographer Alba Zari seeks father's identity in latest exhibition

Physiognomic exclusion process - 'The Y' project
Physiognomic exclusion process - 'The Y' project © Alba Zari

The 10th Festival of Young European Photography, Circulations, has resumed in Paris after it was cut short in March after a just few days due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Alba Zari's "The Y", a research project aimed at finding her father's identity, was one of the most striking exhibitions at the 104, or Centquatre cultural centre. She tells RFI about it.


Alba Zari is a young photographer born in Thaïland from an Italian mother. At the age of 25, she found out that she did not have any Thai blood, like her brother.

"When I found out that I had a different father from my brother, all my history changed, I needed proofs, I needed facts. That’s why the approach that I have is very scientific and analytical."

"Even family pictures from my archives that I thought were documents of proofs, even photography and the idea of the medium changed. The pictures that are meant to prove to you that this is your birthday, this is your father. They were a lie. So that’s why in some images I painted over this person who is only the father of my brother now, not mine."

Reimagining family album - 'The Y' project
Reimagining family album - 'The Y' project © Alba Zari

In order to resume her photographic project "The Y", she went through her family album to hunt for hereditary physical traits that did not appear on her mother’s side.

Physiognomic exclusion process - 'The Y' project
Physiognomic exclusion process - 'The Y' project © Alba Zari
Physiognomic similarity process - 'The Y' project
Physiognomic similarity process - 'The Y' project © Alba Zari

Then, using physiognomy and the "exclusion" principle, she created a 3D avatar of this unknown biological father from her own face modelled in 3D. 

She only had a few clues regarding her father’s identity: she knew his name, that he was Iraqi and that he worked for Emirates Airlines. To this day, this is the only picture she has of this man called Massad. 

Avatar make a Human
Avatar make a Human © Alba Zari

"During the whole process, why was a big question, why is this happening, why I don’t know the truth, but most of all, 'Y' is a male chromosome."

"All this project is like attempts, failures and always trying to look for the truth."

For her next project, Alba Zari will follow her mother’s footsteps, 35 years ago when she lived in Nepal, India and Thaïland. "It will explain a lot of things," she says.

► The Circulations exhibition has now reopened and is scheduled to run until 8 September at the 104 cultural centre in Paris.

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