Words by Costanza Francesconi
All images © Giacomo Alberico
Born in Chieti in 1994, Abruzzo, Giacomo Alberico is a very young artist who divides his time between his home town and Milan where he studies at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. He interprets the photographic medium in a largely narrative way, calling upon an active participation through the imagination. Alberico has a particular idea of what an image is: a performing act that is also a theoretical gesture, a photo that is more than a simple picture but an experience that leads the viewer into a different narrative dimension. With his art he would like to show his observer much more than just something fleeting and static.
Giacomo grew up in a house with a rich artistic atmosphere. His eye was informed by the influence of his mother’s painting and he was open to his brother’s love of music. His father was a keen amateur photographer, so his introduction to the art began with borrowing his analogic cameras. But, what were the stages that shaped this emerging artist in seeking to express his inspiration? During the interview, Giacomo said his wish was to work in the domain of publishing and photography. However, turning one’s passion into a job does not come about just like that. Giacomo gets in touch with artists and editors gaining experience through commissions, exhibitions and documenting works for third parties. Despite dealing with the work of others and their different styles and purposes, Giacomo is already showing the direction his own artistic language is taking. Movement, exploration, itineraries in space and time have appeared as his key signature.
A common narrative thread runs through the different images of a same project. This does not provide anything definitive; it is not a clear picture but a point of departure. In this way, an ever-new scenario can arise and take shape in the viewer’s mind and imagination, fantasy creating a story. Giacomo talks of visual narratives which unexpectedly come about when observing a place. But, what brings about this process? Man is constantly changing the context in which he lives, leaving traces that reveal the memory of a place. Some of these are recent and open a new chapter in history, others continue to exist through time and reveal the past. In fact, this is what interests Alberico, “exploring the visual and experiential possibilities that the road offers. The fact that minimal objects and events on the road can become a matter of calm contemplation”.
A love-hate relationship for his surroundings coloured Giacomo’s feelings while going from place to place to photograph his province. The project “After The Gold Rush”, realized recently (2020) near Cosenza in Calabria, shows exactly this itinerant spirit. He enters into a dialogue with a territory discovering its myths and legends. He identifies a fragment of history, an unexplored context to photograph, a subject halfway between fiction and reality. So he looks for subjects that have never been treated beforehand and have not had a corresponding photographic image until that moment. For example, he will take a night photo, or photograph a view of a sunny landscape, lost in the unspoilt beauty of nature. He can also draw attention to an architectural detail in which he sees the very soul and essence of a place manifesting itself.
To give us an idea of his philosophy, Giacomo quotes Garry Winogrand: “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed”. He is captivated by the idea of creating a document, although through a filter, that bears witness to the existence of something transient, that could disappear at any moment. His aim is to get the viewer, through a minimum of aesthetic and conceptual constructions, to identify through his image in living an authentic and realistic journey to that chosen place. A case in point is his Calabrian project where he takes the legendary story of the Sack of Rome by the famous Visigoth, king Alarico I and his lost treasure. This is an unmissable opportunity for a plot that weaves together both history and story.
Giacomo makes a reference to the American frontier photographer Timothy O’Sullivan and the work of Darius Kinsey who documented the early twentieth century timber industry. The inspiration of these masters guided him in realising an impossible and fictitious search for the treasure, that according to the legend is hidden under the bed of the river that flows through the historical centre of Cosenza. In this way, Alberico illustrates the traces left over the years by researchers, by nature itself, and by imaginary events that the presence of Alarico’s gold might have triggered in Calabria.
The result is an intense journey through time that accompanies and coerces the imagination of the observer of his photographs. Some have a more modern flavour while others breathe something of days gone by, as if they were suspended in time. In some cases the use of black and white helps Alberico to create this multi-level plot where situations, objects and fragments, recount, or indeed remain silent about, the chapters of an epic time in part already written and, in part, remaining to be told.
The project was realised using a Mamiya 7, with Giacomo developing and scanning the negatives at home. His future plans include a trip to Cairo, the fruits of which we hope will soon be available for us to see and enjoy. Meanwhile, the young photographer continues to shoot and build up a body of work with as many images as possible.
Who inspires Alberico and who would he recommend? From the world of cinema he mentions inspirers such as Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog. From photography William Eggleston, as a first love, along with Daido Moriyama, Koji Onaka, Rinko Kawauchi, Alec Soth, Christian Patterson, Gregory Halpern, Taryn Simon and Onorato & Krebs. These days, Giacomo is drawn to black and white masters such as Robert Adams, John Divola, John Gossage, Henry Wessel, Raymond Meeks, Tim Carpenter, and Mark Steinmetz. Above all, however, he does not lose the humility of one who is taking his first steps and seeking to walk his own particular path, situated between dream and reality, between the imaginary and the real.