Born in Palermo, in 1982, Pietro Motisi studied documentary photography in Newport at the University of Wales, in close contact with his tutors and photographers such as Ken Grant, Paul Reas and Clive Landen, as well as David Hurn, Martin Parr and Mark Power. In 2002, Pietro took his first steps in the world of photography, concentrating on the natural sciences and the theatre. Since 2007 Pietro’s enthusiasm has been for the world around him the outside world seen as a stage. Terra Sapiens by Matteo Meschiari, and his inner desire have motivated and stimulated new scenarios. He practices a photography of place where architecture and landscape are essential elements, marked by the traces of the passage of man. Signs and symbols of this human relationship to the territory, if framed through the photographic lens, reveal “subtexts and levels that stimulate criticism and dialectical nodes, creating cosmogonies and imaginary worlds”, says Pietro. “Light and space are certainly the key ingredients of my photographic research”, he says. And what path has the artist’s experimentation and production taken? From the primary perception of these natural elements follows the way in which “the places vibrate and dance with light. The moment before I am going to shoot I feel that a recurring magnetism will come about”. The photographer speaks of an exciting process at work, “as if looking for something – I know not what – until there is a flash of recognition. It’s as if I get lost, in some remote time. Then through the act itself of taking the photograph, in the lapse of time of the shot, it all comes together”.
Destino Madrid (Burladero and Recibiendo) – These two Spanish series are chapters of the same narrative; the photographic material finding its place as the photographer reviewed and selected the shots. Fragments of poetry introduce the viewer to the collections. Quarters “emerged spontaneously as a result of the process of a changing understanding of the lived experience”, and a constant reviewing of the photographs. These are autobiographical works, which came about naturally over a period of three years with trips to Madrid, starting with his first bullfight. Travelling from Palermo “the awareness that the journey had begun occurred in the Apennines of Modena, then in Bologna, a few days before the flight to Madrid and his arrival in Las Ventas”. Pietro chooses a specific theme and goes on to deepen it: the cathartic dimension of the bullfight that he presents as “a ritual practice that is certainly unparalleled today. Working in this way, he collected an ensemble of visions that assumed the shape of a single narrative in the editing. “Each photo, like a piece of the puzzle, tells a fragment of the story”. The plot of this story is literally the journey towards celebration, which is evident in the writing of Matteo Meschiari – Uccidere spazi and other stories related to the rite of bullfighting. “Burladero” and “recibiendo” are in fact words taken from the world of bullfighting and represent spatial concepts which Pietro applies metaphorically to the practice of photography as a medium. Pietro’s lived experience, encompasses “spaces, smells, signs and movements, the learning of words and actions”. He understands that “the rite of bullfighting does not simply end in the arena but, if you can accept it and perceive its value as a spectator, you carry it, in fact, within yourself, projecting it into the spaces of your own life”.
The rhythm that runs through the collection comes from the spatial idea of reaching the key places of the events. A particular attention is given to the peripheral destinations of the pilgrimage, opening thus a hiatus of inner questioning before and after the central event. Herein lies the power of photography! The documented journey “is symbolic and full of truth”, says Pietro, and the previous mood changes when you move away from the ceremony with a new emotional charge to reflect on. Pietro’s shots of such places, are an invitation to develop your imagination and come back to yourself. He considers this as “the only possible way to create a viable future in this time of collapse”. On a daily basis “Each of us faces his own bull: relates to his own demons within his own inner and outer spaces, with a desire to sublimate these actions so that they merge in perfect harmony”. This involves exposure to life and awareness of death as a certainty and an incentive to live fully in the here-and-now. Pietro portrays fragmentary images of Madrid’s museums, streets, and places where we eat, drink and sleep. These are living spaces where each of us might come upon our own bulls, our dark thoughts, violated architecture, works of art … or even wine”.
In Recibiendo we see the writer Matteo Nucci smiling and leaning against a door. Then, an interior, a snatch of landscape, a detail – a beam of light, an architectural element – perfect frames for passing visions. The human presence in the photographs is suggested more by its absence than a truly physical presence. Pietro prefers “empty spaces, where the observer can become an exclusive inhabitant, establishing an intimate relationship with them” – a relationship of reflection, emotional involvement and a sense of responsibility. The artist is more sensitive to the relationship with place – rather than portraits or documenting a chronicle. Relating to photographs of other unknown human beings, to the pain of others, Pietro disapproves of the sense of “the abdication of responsibility” that he feels. It is for this reason he “offers mirrors or fragments of mirrors, for looking inside yourself”. Through his works, Pietro seeks to establish an autonomous relationship with the present and get us to think about the future. He believes in the universal language of light that “allows the observer to intensify the experience of what he sees, interpreting it through the filtres of his experience, to create works with a shared understanding that is no longer under the author’s control”. The photographer wants to “open spaces of thought – if the interlocutor is willing to get involved – with my representations of the world.” He takes pictures instinctively because “the simplest reality offers – to those who know how to look – food for the imagination”.
As regards his sources of inspiration, Pietro explains how each discipline feeds, in the first place, upon its own life and on any real, intellectual, or spiritual encounter that leaves strong signs capable of shifting existence itself, even if just a little”. He appreciates the writings of Deleuze and Perec, the cinema of Bergman, Antonioni and Kubrick, and the paintings of Francis Bacon. His advice is to trust in yourself, even in the unpredictable variety of ways work can be conducted, to avoid looking at too much photography, and “to avail of other arts capable of stimulating worlds and visions with which to filter reality”. He considers Luigi Ghirri as the photographer of reference among the most important for him; “apocalyptic, very much of our times and a forerunner of the reasoning on the great extinction that we are living today”. The empty spaces of Ghirri’s photography are for Pietro “representations of the after and the beyond, of a posthumous poetry of what has already been”. He refers to the famous photograph of the empty child’s carousel situated on a beach, that “instills a sense of nostalgia for the new, the future, for light, playing on the absence of human beings and on the atmosphere of an atomic catastrophe”.
Written by Costanza Francesconi
Images © Pietro Motisi