One of the things I love about Italians is that they love a festival. Any opportunity to celebrate local food, wines, traditions and culture is seized upon with enthusiasm. One such cultural event which we were privileged to attend this week was the Spello Photo Fest.
Organised largely by Fabrizio Corvi, who has a studio in Spello, and Barbera Pinci, it was a celebration of the work of fifteen talented photographers. Local people opened up their garages, storage spaces and unrestored buildings to host the exhibitions in the ancient Via Giulia. This meant that as well as the art on show, we were allowed a secret peek into the wonderful old buildings which are usually hidden behind large wooden doors. This particular space was enhanced by the view across the fields and hills: a framed picture in itself….
Interiors offered glimpses into crumbling rooms, waiting to be brought back into use….
The exhibits themselves were extremely varied. There were haunting black and white photos by Deigo Good that drew you into his mystical world….
Artists such as Andrea Cianca documented the struggle of Italians who came out onto the streets as a last resort to defend things that were dear to them, such as their land and their jobs. These were harsh realities, tenderly portrayed.
A laughing bride was presented in a distressed frame against a rustic wall….
As well as the more traditional works, there were contemporary exhibits such as this mix of familiar objects. Who wore these shoes? Who watched this TV? Whose lives are we part of for a few fleeting minutes?
Fabio Galioti recreated a 16th century painting by Caravaggio – The Calling of Saint Matthew – in a 9 minute film entitled “In the Light”. The characters were positioned exactly as in the painting, and as we watched they moved really slowly. It was an unusual and moving piece.
Was this doll’s head meant to remind us of childhood, or to give us nightmares?
In a local cafe there was a display of old photographs of Spello and the people of Spello – the Spellani. This picture was really evocative – taken in Via Guilia which has hardly changed.
In Spello’s tiny museum there was another celebration of photography, this time by the American photographer Steve McCurry containing photos of Umbria. Steve McCurry is perhaps best known for his beautiful colour photos in the documentary tradition, including his striking portrait “Afghan Girl” which first appeared in National Geographic magazine. (We saw this recently at an exhibition “Drawn by Light” in London’s Science Museum).
“Even in the most forgotten and hidden areas of the country you will come across massive amounts of elegance and poetry, architecture and art. In Italy I like to explore the old and new and see how they intersect. And…if I had to recommend a place to visit in the world I would not hesitate: it’s Italy.” Steve McCurry
Steve McCurry’s photographs were beautifully presented, lit from behind in a darkened room. They are full of life, full of colour and display a real empathy for the people he portrays. This photo of a horse rider taken near Castellucio di Norcia – an area known as the Tibet of Italy – could almost be a painting….
In Bevagna at the medieval market of the Gaite held each June, he captured this recreation of an ancient craft, lit like a Vermeer painting….
His photos are inspirational; it is easy to see why he is considered to be a master of his craft.
“If you wait, people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view.” Steve McCurry