Lifestyle

Seeing Italy

Through the lens of Italian contemporary photographers

 

When days become shorter, and the light goes down in the middle of the afternoons, we know it’s time to surrender to the darkness of winter. With the pandemic still sprawling around the world, the shorter days allow for more reflection and possibly, sometimes unfortunately, more time on screens, watching and exchanging ideas on films, series, and so on. What I personally find myself spending time on is researching new ways of seeing, a certain mode of capturing life, a never-too-defined path of finding light. And while the pandemic confined me to my neighborhood in Brooklyn, it also gave me the time and opportunity to connect online with other parts of my country I’ve often forgotten exist. It is indeed in the darkest hours that a glimmer of light filters in and gets you up. And the light I turn to is the one captured by photography, to reconnect from afar, to find relief, and to feel at home.

 

Over the last years I watched a growing number of Italian photographers working in ways that caught my attention. And so I reached out to some of them and asked a few questions to get to know them a little better. The simple idea for this new column is to introduce the work of these artists and make it more visible. 

 

In this first iteration of the column, we focus on the work of Federico Clavarino, Leandro Colantoni, Carmen Colombo, Marta Giaccone, Arianna Lago, Giulia Parlato and Piero Percoco. Some of these artists work with the medium in a more conceptual way, like Giulia Parlato, whose latest series Diachronicles, blending fictional and real narratives, investigates how museums shape our understanding of history. Others, like Leandro Colantoni and Piero Percoco, excite the viewers with insights of social photography and a particular eye towards the local traditions of Southern Italy, its gestures, symbols and spaces. A thorough process of story-telling is vividly present in Marta Giaccone’s photography; her recent series, Ritorno All’Isola di Arturo, focusing on a group of teenagers in Procida, an island in the gulf of Naples, is a compelling project mixing portraits of young girls and boys inhabiting the island as well as scenes of their ordinary life. Carmen Colombo, whose interest lies in the suburbs of Northern Italy, works at the intersection between the ordinary and extraordinary. She has developed a style that brings her “to tell stories or sensations in a non-literal way”, while Federico Clavarino’s photographs are the result of a conceptual work investigating history, his personal experience and broader political implications. One of his earlier series, Italia O Italia, is a “meditation on how the country’s monumental past weighs upon its present landscape”. Finally, Arianna Lago, who travelled all the way to California from London, pushing the boundaries of the medium and pursuing her search of light and beauty, captivates the attention with her use of color and shapes creating a seamless otherworldly relationship with the natural landscape. 

 

I asked all of them to reach into their archives and find images that would speak of the, more or less, hidden beauty of Italy. The selection sheds light on how these Italian artists are looking at their own country and give a sense of the endless possibilities for a continuous (re)discovery, away or close to home.

 

Federico Clavarino

 

Where are you from? 

I was born in Turin. My mother is British, my father Italian. I spent most of my adult life in Madrid. 

 

How long have you been working with photography? 

I have been working with photography since 2008, roughly a year after moving to Spain.

 

What area/city of Italy attracts you more for your photographic research?

I have always been attracted by the south, especially Calabria and Puglia. But Rome is also a source of endless fascination for me.

 

What type of project are you currently working on? 

I am working on a long-term research project about photography, gesture and traps.

Federico Clavarino, courtesy the artist

 

Leandro Colantoni

 

Where are you from?

I live in the province of Agrigento, south of Sicily.

 

How long have you been working with photography?

I took my first photographs in 2015, so I’ve been shooting almost every day for about 5 years.

 

What area/city of Italy attracts you more for your photographic research?

All of Sicily, the place where I was born and where I live.

 

What type of project are you currently working on?

I keep working with my photography and the daily activity I carry out on my Instagram, I like and believe so much in the potential of this new photography, but I also dream about making a book in the future. I feel the need to create something more tangible.

Leandro Colantoni, courtesy the artist

 

Carmen Colombo 

 

Where are you from?
I was born and grew up in a small town in the Brianza area, in the North of Italy. Now I live and work in Milan. I often go back to my parents’ place to find inspiration for my story-telling and my works.

How long have you been working with photography?
I attended a 3 years Photography and Visual Arts course right after high school. I have been taking pictures since then but I’ve been living with my photography works for about 6 years.

What area/city of Italy attracts you more for your photographic research?
I do love Italy because I think it is really heterogeneous and it offers a lot of different inspirations, stories and landscapes. Personally, I develop the most part of my artistic research in the suburbs of Northern Italy. I am attracted by these places because I think they hide unexpected corners. I also can find a sense of belonging here. On the other hand, I am always inspired by the seaside landscapes, maybe because, on the contrary, they belong to a magical imaginary which is not represented in any of my memories.

What type of project are you currently working on?
At the moment I am working on a series about a personal project and I am developing an editorial project too.

Carmen Colombo, courtesy of artist

 

Marta Giaccone 

 

Where are you from?

I am from Milan, Italy. I recently moved to Tallinn, Estonia, where I am now based.

 

How long have you been working with photography?
I can’t remember exactly, probably 5 years.

 

What area/city of Italy attracts you more for your photographic research?
The tiny island of Procida, in the gulf of Naples.

 

What type of project are you currently working on?
I am currently working on two super long-term projects (in Procida and Wales), both concerning teenagers. Hopefully, I will also start with something new here in Estonia.

Late September afternoon in Procida with Capo Miseno in the distance, Italy, 2019 On the right. Late September sunset with Ischia poking in the distance, Procida, Italy, 2016 Marta Giaccone, courtesy the artist

 

Arianna Lago 

 

Where are you from? 

North east of Italy, from a place called Bassano Del Grappa, in the Veneto region. 

 

How long have you been working with photography? 

Professionally it’s been only 3 years.

 

What area/city of Italy attracts you more for your photographic research?

I have spent half of my life living in the UK and now in the US. When I go back home to Italy, I always pay a visit to Venice. It’s a city that has a million mysteries to uncover and it feels somewhat metaphysical and surreal. The feeling of the city changes with seasons and so does the light.  

 

What type of project are you currently working on? 

As the new year starts, it’s time to reflect and look back at the work I have done in the past year once again. I’m looking at how my vision and inspiration have been affected by the relocation to a new environment and a new landscape. I am currently only refocusing and editing my folio. It’s something I do periodically every 6 months or so. It feels a bit like re-organising the closet or perhaps, even better, seeing your therapist. 

Arianna Lago, courtesy the artist

 

Giulia Parlato 

 

Where are you from? 

I’m from Palermo, Sicily.

 

How long have you been working with photography? 

A few years. 

 

What area/city of Italy attracts you more for your photographic research? 

Sicily. I grew up there and I love that Island with all my heart. 

 

What type of project are you currently working on? 

I’m working on expanding my latest body of work called Diachronicles which is about how we tell histories and digs into a parallel past with poetic figures to decode, nonexistent artefacts and forgeries hidden in museums’ basements.

Villa Whitaker, Palermo, 2019 Giulia Parlato, courtesy of artist

 

Piero Percoco 

 

Where are you from? 

I’m from the south of Italy, in a little city near Bari.

 

How long have you been working with photography? 

It’s almost ten years now.

 

What area/city of Italy attracts you more for your photographic research? 

My homeland, Bari, and southern Italy in general, I’m driven by the need to tell and document what I experience.

 

What type of project are you currently working on? 

I am starting to think about my next photobook.

Piero Percoco, courtesy of artist