Most of the world knows Monaco as a land of fast cars, luxurious yachts, and spectacular estates. Few, however, understand just how much of a beacon of family life it has become, with families from all over the world choosing the beautiful Principality as a setting to raise future generations.
As such, just in time for Mother's Day, we interviewed Valentina de Gaspari, the woman behind the lens of "International Mothers of Monaco," a newly released book of photographs depicting the real-life mothers of Monaco together with their children. Read on to discover what it truly means to be a mother in Monaco today.
Grace Influential: When did you decide you wanted to focus your lens on mothers in Monaco?
I was born in a land of art, elegance and passion: Italy. My first steps played a big role because they started with travel. Travel taught me what is essential: curiosity, tolerance, freedom, open-mindedness. Guided by these lights, I later became a polyglot, cosmopolitan, and mother of two boys aged eighteen and twenty. To feel a passion, to touch a dream, to explore souls...photography would be able to offer that to me.
For the past twelve years, I have been shooting portraits, captivating moments where everything stops to capture the moment and the magic of a glance. Having returned to Monaco after spending my childhood there, I was able to appreciate the Principality's art of living, its attachment to family values and multiculturalism.
The Principality offers us a protective framework, a high-level international academic system, a fertile melting pot for thought and creation, and a wealth of cultural and sporting activities.
The Principality has always understood that nature is the source of happiness and is committed to the environmental cause. The quality of its health system linked to pediatrics, to maternity, the ultimate goal of a life and its wonderful openness to the world make it a unique place.
This is where my inspiration came from, to transcribe and transmit this diversity through photography, by highlighting the grace and elegance of fifty "International Mothers of Monaco" with their children.
From the genesis to the revelation, it took several years to elaborate this collection and reveal the authenticity of these magnificent mothers. For me, it is not only a hymn to femininity, to motherhood and an invitation to travel, but also a translation of the enchantment, the joy and the bonds of love.
Grace Influential: Are there any other photographers that inspired you for this project?
There are three photographers who are very important to me and inspire my work and research. They are Lee Miller, Diane Arbus and Sarah Moon. They represent for me an ideal triptych that guides me in my daily life: commitment, the familiar and the marginal, childhood and femininity.
"The committed" with Lee Miller, whose work took her as a war correspondent to the landing in Europe in 1944 and to one of her most famous photographs in Hitler's bathroom.
"The familiar and the marginal" with Diane Arbus, who sought to create an intimate and trusting relationship with her models.
"Childhood and femininity" with Sarah Moon, the bearer of an innovative relationship to fiction, a detachment from reality.
These three artists, three women, ultimately represent my image of the Woman, at once courageous and committed, feminine and maternal, rebellious and offbeat...much like the Mothers of Monaco.
Grace Influential: What did you love most about this project?
What particularly touched me during this project were of course these meetings with the mothers and their children, the love that shines through, is and was shared.
Like a rainbow of the soul, these international mothers from Monaco, in all their tenderness, their differences, their origins, their universality, formed a true ode to plurality and tolerance.
It is about fifty portraits, like fifty paintings, fifty nationalities, all revealing the love that we feel in a single image.
But this project is also a turning point for me because for the first time, I have brought together two arts, that of the image and photography on the one hand, but also the art of words and writing on the other.
Each portrait is then accompanied by a poetic text that is both universal and deeply linked to each personality. These two arts want to combine harmoniously to shed light on the sometimes hidden soul of these women and mothers.
Finally, don't these two art forms chosen here meet to explore the Humanism of tomorrow? Everyone will say so. But for my part, I proudly bear the ambition.
Grace Influential: Being both a public figure and a mother of three, Princess Grace must have had an impact on Monegasque motherhood. How does her influence endure with Monaco mothers today?
Princess Grace is simply present at every moment in the Principality.
It is true that her name often appears on monuments, through events or works of art. But she radiates in a different way in each of us, often in an unspeakable way.
[Princess Grace] transmits to us, the women and mothers of Monaco, this subtle refinement, this elegance, this passion and openness to others. It is an inexpressible presence.
To illustrate what Princess Grace bequeathed to us all in the Principality, I will simply quote her with respect:
"It would be very sad if children had no other memories than school. What they need most is their mother's love and attention".
Grace Influential: You are a Monaco mother yourself. What makes motherhood in Monaco different from motherhood in the rest of the world?
Being a woman and Mother in Monaco is above all a sublime and unique paradox for me.
On the one hand, of a great classicism, which obviously makes us faithful to our fellow human beings in other parts of the world. The fundamental questions of a life cross us, of course, and fortunately. Whether it is about our femininity, our maternal responsibilities, our place in a masculine world, the paths to our personal fulfillment, the need and desire to love, the strength to get through the trials, the transmission to our children, their education, our social usefulness, our links to others, the exploration of our doubts and talents…
...but on the other hand, to be a woman and Mother in Monaco is to be carried by a unique, mysterious, elusive but very present force. The one that lifts us towards a particular beauty, a subtle refinement, such as the soft light that shines near the Rock, this colorful atmosphere of joy and eternal energy.
This makes us creative, innovative, dynamic, traveling, entrepreneurial and sporty women in a magical environment where our place is strengthened every day in the Monegasque community both by the Government of Monaco and by the National Council of Monaco.
By the way, isn't this enigmatic force the gentle and benevolent presence of Princess Grace?
Grace Influential: What do you think it’s like growing up as a child in Monaco?
For me, being a child in the Principality means first of all being told by one's parents that our desires are not all-powerful, that parental love is the only love we are offered to allow us one day... to leave them.
With these principles in place, growing up in Monaco means that a child can blossom in a unique environment. Sport in the Principality is a real tradition and a passion, supported by its HSH Prince Albert II and the entire population.
Education is one of the priorities oriented towards the development of each individual according to his or her abilities, guided by an openness to the outside world.
Education is about getting the best out of oneself. The Principality therefore helps each individual while respecting his or her dignity.
To be a child is first to marvel, to dream. Being a child in Monaco is precisely the possibility of making these dreams come true and thus making one's life ever more interesting.
Grace Influential: Where can one purchase your book and explore more of your work?
You can find out more about the art book "International Mothers of Monaco" and purchase a copy on our website: https://internationalmothersofmonaco.com
and discover my portfolio on my website : https://www.vdegaspari.com