Interview by Gaia Amorello
All Images © Alessio Pellicoro
Alessio Pellicoro (Taranto, Italy, 1994) is an Italian photographer based in Urbino, Italy. He approached photography in 2016 and the following year began a three- year photography degree program at the European Institute of Design in Rome (IED Rome). He is currently attending the final year of the two-year specialization course in Photography and Conservation of Cultural Heritage at the ISIA in Urbino. His research focuses on the places and traditions that belong to southern Italy, particularly in the Salento area.
Gaia Amorello (GA): Hello, Alessio. It’s a pleasure to have you here at Pellicola, welcome! Let’s begin with a question about the beginning of your artistic journey. How did your encounter with photography happen?
Alessio Pellicoro (AP): My encounter with photography happened by chance through the direct influence, though unaware of it, of my father who, having been an architect, has always used photography as a tool for analysis and research.
A practice for him mostly functional than artistic and conceptual. Finding photographs of him and old cameras inside a trunk lit in me, at the age of 24, a curiosity that over time became passion, love and obsession, a fire.
(GA): A lot of your projects are about your hometown, Taranto. What is the urgency behind your research and how it is tied to the research about your land?
(AP): I feel inside me a lack of knowledge about my city. A void that only photography in recent years has been offering me the opportunity to fill… it helps me to gain awareness of the territory in which I was born and to know its history, its stratification, its identity which I have always taken for granted having always assumed Taranto unable to arouse interest in me.
The process of research in my city is a cathartic process through which I discover, above all, myself by reaching inner places that I had never before had the opportunity to cross. It is a constant revelation.
I believe that in my own small way. I’m also trying to contribute to the documentation of a land that necessarily needs a spokesperson to talk about itself, its deformations and the socio-political dynamics of which it is the protagonist, and more often victim.
(GA): The project “Abisso” is about the exploration of the Salento coast at night. What does the night conceal and at the same time unveil to you about these familiar places?
(AP): Abisso was a work that questioned the sense of familiarity I felt for the places where I spent most of my childhood and adolescence, and which I still consider home. Places that for me are real havens away from everything and that I know, or at least I thought I knew, like the palm of my hands which have turned out to be new, almost alien worlds.
Thus I found myself inside landscapes that emerged from the death of darkness when I illuminated them using any light source at my disposal, getting stuck between rocks and shrubs that i almost seemed to be caught in a natural trap.
Which led me to discover the life that is hidden where the land embraces the sea beyond the coastal road in that darkness permeated by the dim luminescence of the summer moon, questioning the role of the sun during the day reveals instead, but hiding the true soul of a land that with me has felt the need to express itself only at night.
(GA): Published by DITO Publishing in 2020, “Abisso” contains within its pages a psychedelic landscape, an hallucinatory imaginary conjured by the brilliance of the colours of minerals and the toning of photographs. Can you tell us how the project was born and how it took its shape as a book? Which were the editorial choices taken?
(AP): The editorial project was born thanks to Martha Micali and Klim Kutsevskyy who involved me in the birth of their publishing house DITO Publishing. Abisso was one of the first titles.
It was a beautiful collaboration as well as the beginning of a strong friendship, a continuous exchange that allowed us to see the project grow and transform itself into the concrete form of a book. Every little decision was the result of great teamwork, from the editing to the choosing of the various papers, and thanks to our experiments we have created a shape that has made us proud and satisfied… a project developed jointly despite being so many kilometers away from each other, nothing stopped us.
It was the photographs themselves that suggested some choices that became important for the atmosphere and the rendering of the photographic work, so it was that the color of a rock led us to the use of the flamingo, a pink/orange paper. The central nucleus of images, which I initially considered scraps, became, in the dialogue with Martha and Klim, the heart of the edition and had to somehow vibrate, have its own light, hence the choice of the chameleon, which is a luminescent paper with an iridescent property.
For us, the cover was the denial of the abyss and therefore its affirmation, choosing white and not immediately presenting the title
, was meant to be a suggestion to open the book and look inside for the sense of the whole that I wanted to convey, an invitation to sink.
(GA): Could you mention some of the visual references which influenced the making of the project and, more in general, the sources of inspiration that you deem important to your research?
(AP): I was influenced by several authors such as Alexandra Lethbridge, Hiroshi Takizawa, Petro Koublis… They strongly pushed me to experiment with an approach totally beyond my usual modus operandi, offering me the stimulus to immerse myself in the matter of things, abstracting them from their primary concrete context and transferring them to another more metaphysical and dreamlike one.
I would define Abisso as an experimental project that helped me to operate in the area in an unconventional way, at least for me, leaving a comfort zone that had long since saturated my gaze and my interest.
(GA): What type of tool is photography to you?
(AP): Photography for me, in the immense multitude of functions it possesses, is a dual knowledge tool: of the reality that surrounds me and of myself at the same time. It is a sort of hand lens on the world that allows me to discover it while acquiring greater awareness of who I am, thus defining the role I occupy within it.
It represents the pure visual symptom of what moves within my unconscious, the concretization of an urgency that finds its natural outlet through the camera which becomes an extension of my body that I can no longer do without.
(GA): What are the projects you’re currently working on? What are the questions and goals you’re setting for yourself?
(AP): My research is currently directed towards the study and analysis of archival systems. Thinking about the idea of the archive understood as a space, infrastructure, place that can be traveled in a figurative sense, and not only through a digital interface, in which collective memory accumulates, is protected and conserved.
For some months I have been developing a project within the walls of the ICCD in Rome (Central Institute for Cataloging and Documentation), examining the constituent elements of this socio-political device useful for the documentation and testimony of history of man.
What defines an archive? What is the meaning of preserving and organizing the trace of our present which will define a “future past” tomorrow? Does photography and its compulsive production derive in a certain sense from a paranoid symptom linked to the fear of losing the testimony of our existence?
Photography today is showing its extreme ability to evolve into something that moves away from the simple work of testimony, an unpredictable “shape-shifter” that seems to have lost, or momentarily set aside, its primordial function of recording the world with the filter of our conscience and our eye, and above all untied from our will.
Understanding it today means supporting it and at the same time using it as a helpful tool for the creation of our memory which will expand more and more through a multitude of devices, supports, and different digital media, in the hope that everything can help us create a world more aware of its own history and willing to create a better version of itself.