Five great books by emerging Italian photographers (plus one) – Domus

What exactly does "local" mean, apart from trends, fashions, misunderstandings and exploitations? After living and studying abroad for many years, Davide Degano returns to the land of his origins—the Sclavanie of the title, i.e. the Slavia Friulana on the border between Italy and Slovenia—to investigate with an ethnographic approach media–abused concepts such as territory, roots, community, minority, ethnicity, village, hamlet, memory, emigration, depopulation, resilience, regeneration, economy, opportunity. On the one hand, he gives voice and face (but also names and surnames) to the protagonists of his own story, and on the other he involves experts in anthropology and town planning in a multidisciplinary tale of rare editorial composure: an engaging archive section is followed by Degano’s rigorous but affectionate vision, which moves from the general to the particular, leaving room first for quotations (in three languages) and then for more technical texts and graphics. A book that will appeal not only to people of photography.
Sclavanie, Davide Degano, Penisola Edizioni in collaboration with Urbanautica, 2021
Many will know Ilaria Magliocchetti Lombi for her portraits linked to the world of music (independent and not, Italian and not), whose iconographic impact is like a signature that has allowed her to establish herself in the world of professional photography. Putting aside a certain authorial reluctance, the Roman photographer now prints Jahlak, a sort of very personal Indian diary. Her relationship with India is so intense that it allows her the luxury of bypassing commonplaces and giving us back an intimate, immediate, immanent place, far from pindaric flights or spiritual temptations. If there is a spirituality, then, it is entirely interior (and, in this sense, unprecedented), so much so that one has the impression of being faced with a confession rather than the umpteenth observation. Moreover, the very careful and sophisticated editorial layout enhances the emergence of these hidden aspects with a game of pagination that disorients and amuses, just as any real journey should do.
Jahlak, Ilaria Magliocchetti Lombi, RVM HUB, 2021
With Francesco Merlini, we fly to Tblisi, Georgia, which was hit by such violent rains on 13 June 2015 that 19 death people were counted the next day. The event that the media focused on, however, was the destruction of the city’s zoo and the subsequent flight and dispersal of numerous animals, including several dangerous species. This sensationalist, pop culture focus was also much criticised, but Merlini provocatively returns to it after a while with a reflection, halfway between documentation and fiction, that goes beyond the confines of the news and questions on the one hand the probative validity of photography, and on the other hand the architectural and urban planning policies of a nation that, like so many others (former Soviet republics, but not only), through indiscriminate building and overbuilding, buries the most pressing ecological issues under piles of sealed earth, mortgaging their eventual solution to future generations.
The Flood, Francesco Merlini, VOID, 2021
Gianpaolo Arena, who has edited the magazine Landscape Stories since 2010, takes us to Vietnam instead, where he returned to on several occasions between 2013 and 2018 to pursue his research into the cultural, social and urban changes that have profoundly changed the country over the last twenty years. The unusual format of A Folktale from Vietnam runs a few risks, but it perfectly encases the square photos, which focus on aspects, moments and details that seem to want to avoid the idea of the exotic that Vietnam has always projected, at least to the West, partly thanks to travellers’ accounts of it. In other words, if globalisation has impoverished the concept of elsewhere, the narration of something that ultimately never fully belongs to us must necessarily pass through other types of seduction, perhaps a formal research that is both elegant and not consolatory. To help us decipher such an elusive place, texts that explore not only the photographic side but also that of architecture and the soundscape, for a result that is in its own way multidimensional.
A Folktale from Vietnam. Speeding Motorcycles and Roasted Lemongrass, Gianpaolo Arena, The Velvet Cell, 2021
Created by Cecilia Guerra Brugnoli, Francesca De Dominicis, Jana Liskova, Francesco Rucci, Anita Scianò and Erika Volpe, the Covisioni collective is one of the many projects born out of the lockdown that set out to narrate the Covid–19 pandemic. Forty photographers, who it would take too long to list here but who represent a sample of what the new Italian photography can express, have chosen to move along that bumpy path between being observers and protagonists of history, between a choral narration and a private point of view, between a neutral documentation and a personal interpretation of events so well known as to be unknowable. Covisioni’s is an intimate vision of how the arrival of the virus changed everything, from interpersonal relations and psychological reactions to the relationship with institutions and collective history, passing through the economic crisis and gender violence. Over all, it is an attempt to look at this complex juncture as the past in the making.
Covisioni, Covisioni Collective, SelfSelf, 2021
Lorenzo Castore’s Glitter Blues finally sees the light of day. It is certainly not his first work, but it confirms—if it were needed—the talent of an author who has always chosen the book as the ideal form for telling stories and in some way narrating himself. This umpteenth long–term project (but for photographers like Castore, isn’t their relationship with the world through photography a single, ongoing project?) was born in 2004 amidst the narrow streets of San Berillo, the Catania neighbourhood where the girls featured in Glitter Blues live and work: transvestites like Franchina, Cioccolatina, Lulù, Brigida or Monica the Viking, with whom Castore forges a simple, disinterested friendship that over time becomes a more solid and special relationship, like all those that drive the Florentine photographer’s work. The overlap between denied identity (and freedom) for the transvestites and the abuses and impairments suffered by Saint Agatha, patron saint of Catania, is the decisive click, but what comes into play as always is above all that "transparent sense of identity" that allows the photographer to be first and foremost a human being who seeks and gives honesty and recognises himself in the obsessions, and sometimes in the struggles, of others.
Glitter Blues, Lorenzo Castore, Blow Up Press, 2021
What exactly does "local" mean, apart from trends, fashions, misunderstandings and exploitations? After living and studying abroad for many years, Davide Degano returns to the land of his origins—the Sclavanie of the title, i.e. the Slavia Friulana on the border between Italy and Slovenia—to investigate with an ethnographic approach media–abused concepts such as territory, roots, community, minority, ethnicity, village, hamlet, memory, emigration, depopulation, resilience, regeneration, economy, opportunity. On the one hand, he gives voice and face (but also names and surnames) to the protagonists of his own story, and on the other he involves experts in anthropology and town planning in a multidisciplinary tale of rare editorial composure: an engaging archive section is followed by Degano’s rigorous but affectionate vision, which moves from the general to the particular, leaving room first for quotations (in three languages) and then for more technical texts and graphics. A book that will appeal not only to people of photography.
Sclavanie, Davide Degano, Penisola Edizioni in collaboration with Urbanautica, 2021
Many will know Ilaria Magliocchetti Lombi for her portraits linked to the world of music (independent and not, Italian and not), whose iconographic impact is like a signature that has allowed her to establish herself in the world of professional photography. Putting aside a certain authorial reluctance, the Roman photographer now prints Jahlak, a sort of very personal Indian diary. Her relationship with India is so intense that it allows her the luxury of bypassing commonplaces and giving us back an intimate, immediate, immanent place, far from pindaric flights or spiritual temptations. If there is a spirituality, then, it is entirely interior (and, in this sense, unprecedented), so much so that one has the impression of being faced with a confession rather than the umpteenth observation. Moreover, the very careful and sophisticated editorial layout enhances the emergence of these hidden aspects with a game of pagination that disorients and amuses, just as any real journey should do.
Jahlak, Ilaria Magliocchetti Lombi, RVM HUB, 2021
With Francesco Merlini, we fly to Tblisi, Georgia, which was hit by such violent rains on 13 June 2015 that 19 death people were counted the next day. The event that the media focused on, however, was the destruction of the city’s zoo and the subsequent flight and dispersal of numerous animals, including several dangerous species. This sensationalist, pop culture focus was also much criticised, but Merlini provocatively returns to it after a while with a reflection, halfway between documentation and fiction, that goes beyond the confines of the news and questions on the one hand the probative validity of photography, and on the other hand the architectural and urban planning policies of a nation that, like so many others (former Soviet republics, but not only), through indiscriminate building and overbuilding, buries the most pressing ecological issues under piles of sealed earth, mortgaging their eventual solution to future generations.
The Flood, Francesco Merlini, VOID, 2021
Gianpaolo Arena, who has edited the magazine Landscape Stories since 2010, takes us to Vietnam instead, where he returned to on several occasions between 2013 and 2018 to pursue his research into the cultural, social and urban changes that have profoundly changed the country over the last twenty years. The unusual format of A Folktale from Vietnam runs a few risks, but it perfectly encases the square photos, which focus on aspects, moments and details that seem to want to avoid the idea of the exotic that Vietnam has always projected, at least to the West, partly thanks to travellers’ accounts of it. In other words, if globalisation has impoverished the concept of elsewhere, the narration of something that ultimately never fully belongs to us must necessarily pass through other types of seduction, perhaps a formal research that is both elegant and not consolatory. To help us decipher such an elusive place, texts that explore not only the photographic side but also that of architecture and the soundscape, for a result that is in its own way multidimensional.
A Folktale from Vietnam. Speeding Motorcycles and Roasted Lemongrass, Gianpaolo Arena, The Velvet Cell, 2021
Created by Cecilia Guerra Brugnoli, Francesca De Dominicis, Jana Liskova, Francesco Rucci, Anita Scianò and Erika Volpe, the Covisioni collective is one of the many projects born out of the lockdown that set out to narrate the Covid–19 pandemic. Forty photographers, who it would take too long to list here but who represent a sample of what the new Italian photography can express, have chosen to move along that bumpy path between being observers and protagonists of history, between a choral narration and a private point of view, between a neutral documentation and a personal interpretation of events so well known as to be unknowable. Covisioni’s is an intimate vision of how the arrival of the virus changed everything, from interpersonal relations and psychological reactions to the relationship with institutions and collective history, passing through the economic crisis and gender violence. Over all, it is an attempt to look at this complex juncture as the past in the making.
Covisioni, Covisioni Collective, SelfSelf, 2021
Lorenzo Castore’s Glitter Blues finally sees the light of day. It is certainly not his first work, but it confirms—if it were needed—the talent of an author who has always chosen the book as the ideal form for telling stories and in some way narrating himself. This umpteenth long–term project (but for photographers like Castore, isn’t their relationship with the world through photography a single, ongoing project?) was born in 2004 amidst the narrow streets of San Berillo, the Catania neighbourhood where the girls featured in Glitter Blues live and work: transvestites like Franchina, Cioccolatina, Lulù, Brigida or Monica the Viking, with whom Castore forges a simple, disinterested friendship that over time becomes a more solid and special relationship, like all those that drive the Florentine photographer’s work. The overlap between denied identity (and freedom) for the transvestites and the abuses and impairments suffered by Saint Agatha, patron saint of Catania, is the decisive click, but what comes into play as always is above all that "transparent sense of identity" that allows the photographer to be first and foremost a human being who seeks and gives honesty and recognises himself in the obsessions, and sometimes in the struggles, of others.
Glitter Blues, Lorenzo Castore, Blow Up Press, 2021
A favourite landing place for the most complex projects as well as for the most extemporary ones, a luxury business card or a perfect temporal treasure chest, a vademecum for the passing of time or a bird’s eye view of an entire era, a portrait of a generation or a snapshot with psychotherapeutic properties, a geo–political fresco or anthropological research: whether it is, as is increasingly the case, the first step of an authorial path or, as tradition would have it, the arrival point of a longer discourse, the book undoubtedly represents a turning point for every photographer.
In the gallery on the top of the article we try to tell you in a few words about the recently published works of five Italian authors grappling with their first work, but also the most recent one by a veteran of photographic books.
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