Scianna at the GAM in Palermo

There is a quote of Ferdinando Scianna’s that sets photography in its true modern context: ‘I do not think I can change the world with my photographs, but I do firmly believe that a bad picture can make it worse.’ In a world where we are constantly assailed with the rattle and hum of media input and everyone with a smartphone and a modicum of web space can start posting images, there is much truth to Scianna’s statement. Photographs pass before our eyes like so many sheep in a bad dream. View one of Scianna’s photographs, however, and the world slows, a moment has been caught. Your eye refuses to scan cursorily across the image and move on; it will linger, exploring the minutiae just as it also takes in the whole concept.

The man from Bagheria who has become a major figure in the world of photography now has an exhibition at Palermo’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna, entitled Viaggio, Racconto, Memoria (Journey, Story, Memory). The exhibition started at the end of February and runs through to the end of July. There are nearly 200 images spanning the entirety of the photographer’s career, articulating his own narrative path. The images range across continents from his hometown to the high Andes and India. It is no surprise to find the Sicilian writer, Leonardo Sciascia, featured, given Scianna’s collaboration with the author from Racalmuto. Jorge Luis Borges and other luminaries, notably Cartier Bresson, also make an appearance.

Varanasi, 1972 © Ferdinando Scianna

Scianna has said that he sees himself as a photo-reporter, a facet much represented by certain sections of the show. The exhibition, itself, is split into themes reflecting many aspects of the photographer’s output, as illustrated below:

MEMORY, Bagheria – Sicily – Religious festivals;
STORY, Lourdes – Children – Kami – Suffering;
OBSESSIONS, Sleep – Things – Shadows – Beasts – Mirrors;
Journey, America – Wanderings – Places;
RITUALS AND MYTHS, Ceremonies – Women – Marpessa

Leonardo Sciascia, Racalmuto, 1964 © Ferdinando Scianna

Scianna’s interest in photography really developed whilst studying at the University of Palermo. It was Enzo Sellerio who first introduced the young man to the work of Cartier Bresson. Scianna’s early focus on the Sicily of his childhood gave rise to some acclaimed images especially those featuring religious festivals. His aforementioned friendship with Sciascia brought forth the book entitled: Feste religiose in Sicilia, a work which gained the Nadar Prize. The success of the book led to projects in Milan and then a move to Paris where, after contributing as a photographer and writer to prestigious magazines, he joined Magnum. Back in Milan, he worked with the up and coming designers, Dolce and Gabbana, a venture into fashion photography that proved fertile for both parties. Fashion, advertising, reportage and portraiture, Scianna’s career has encompassed them all.

At the beginning of the exhibition, in self-deprecatory tones, he has chosen to quote from Giorgio Manganelli, the journalist, writer, critic and translator: ‘An anthology is an authorised carnage, a bloodbath seen with favourable eyes by civil and religious authorities. A clean operation aimed to chew up books that go around the world under their author’s name to obtain some sort of stew, timbale, casserole …’  When our world is truly embroiled in processing a stew of mediocre images, an anthology of Scianna’s work, such as this, is far from the world-worsening muddy broth of his nightmares, it is a sharp, insightful demonstration of his thoughtful clarity.

Details of the exhibition can be found here:
Info and booking
To book guided visits for adult and school groups

Andrew and Suzanne Edwards
Andrew and Suzanne Edwards
In addition to freelance writing, Andy and Suzanne both work in education. Andy is also a translator who gets most enjoyment from translating literary works and Suzanne is a lecturer and linguistics graduate. They are frequent visitors to Sicily and have spent a great deal of time exploring its back roads in search of the landscapes that inspired the imaginations of many writers, both Sicilian and from overseas. Literature, art, food and society are their focus and their passion. Sicily has it all. They are the authors of the books - Sicily: A Literary Guide for Travellers, Andalucia: A Literary Guide for Travellers, His Master's Reflection: Travels with John Polidori, Lord Byron's Doctor, Ghosts of the Belle Epoque: The History of the Grand Hotel et des Palmes, Palermo and Down to the Sunless Sea: A Troubled Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the Mediterranean. Andy is the translator of Borges in Sicily and Federico De Roberto's Agony.

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