Robi Foli is a documentary and street photographer. Her love for photography was born beneath the palm trees of her hometown of San Diego, but was developed in the Chicago winds. Robi’s projects, primarily focused on portraits, have been studies on gender, pop culture, divorce, and mental illness. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, she further exposed her eye while photographing throughout Europe, and has now fixed herself in Brooklyn, New York. While she is not wandering the streets with camera in hand, she is brewing (and spilling) coffee, reading about Antarctica, and spinning records in her living room.
Del Valle, which is Spanish for “from the valley”, was the name of the last street that both my parents, my two siblings, and I all resided. This project provides the specific circumstances of my family and the effects of my parents’ divorce, but it is about universal family matters– love, growth, communication, and pain. This story juxtaposes the myth of the Southern California “American Dream”, and in its book form, includes archival images, drawings, and artifacts, as well as creative nonfiction writing.
“Mom says we will get an offer on the house tomorrow. We are going to scrub the floors tonight and bake cookies in the morning. Dad is tending to the avocado trees right now, but he’s not allowed inside the house because of the restraining order.
He shows up to lunch with specks of blood dotting his forehead, after getting in a fight with a low hanging branch. I hide in the bathroom while we wait for him to show up, not sure of what to say or if it would feel okay to smile, when he and I both know that he has been blocked in my phone for months.
He walks in and rubs my shoulders and pats my short hair. I should have known that he would act normal– like he isn’t handing out a quarter of a million dollars to a feisty lawyer, just to make sure that Mom starves.
Does he think it doesn’t matter to me when Mom has to call the police? He thinks it’s okay to invite his mistress to sit across from me as we drink at the local brewery. Dad taught me how to be silent– I’ve had the best teacher in secrecy, a skilled mentor in tying knots with my insides.
We go back to his office and he offers to straighten up my spine, just like he always has. My bones slide back into place, but my right leg is still slightly longer than my left. I sit up so dad can realign my neck. His left hand covers my forehead as the other hand is feeling the grooves of my fragile system.
1, 2, 3– he will crack me in half again to try to make me whole.
I hope my neck snaps.
But then I remember that I told Mom I would make cookies with her in the morning.”
(*a writing excerpt from the project)
To view more of Robi Foli’s work please visit their website.