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In her new series, the Italian photographer works with archive material that she artistically processes and combines with her own works. A very personal series, because the photographer herself comes from southern Italy and in Parallel Eyes deals with identity, history and prejudices. We spoke to Alessia Rollo about the background to the work and her artistic approach.

LFI: What is your new series about?
Alessia Rollo: Parallel Eyes is a multimedia project still in progress, that deals with the prejudice that the southern Italian and Mediterranean culture is a backward one. I'm working on offering a decolonized look at our heritage, adopting an inner point of view, and historically re-framing the visual materials shaped by realism and capitalism, produced in southern Italy over the last few decades. In between 1950 and 1960, southern Italy, the place I come from, it was studied, classified, and judged by a group of anthropologists, film makers and photographers. The idea of “la questione Meridionale”, “the southern Italian issue” was born at that precise moment: while Italy was pushing to be an example of a modern and technological country, the way of living, rituals and traditions in southern Italy, were considered intolerable for economic and social reasons.

What artistic tools do you use to work on the series?
I intervene in the pictures by using photographic techniques like digital and analogue manipulation, painting of negatives or piercing images. I decided to use different photographic techniques, because I would like to make the viewer doubt about what he or she is looking at, as well as to criticize the scientific approach to ethnographic photography, which studies and downplays the complexity of a society like an object. My aim is to reintroduce into the pictures the magical and ritual aspects erased by the scientific approach of the photographers. Furthermore, I use my camera to document rituals that still exist in southern Italy. My purpose isn't to create a new anthropological catalogue of celebrations, but to build a different visual narrative about our roots, in order to change the perception of our past and build a new imagery for our future.

So, you are working on a kind of new identity for the region?
Yes, the aim of my research is to create another visual story around our culture, starting from the rituals, devotion and faith in southern Italy. There is no self-representation of this area of the country, because over the last 70 years, it was just photographers from the North (mostly men) who were in charge of representing our society. Parallel Eyes is my personal research into the culture I belong to: my aim is to offer a “parallel gaze”, in order to open up a more complex analysis of southern Italian culture, and to re-consider in visual, historical and sociological terms, the structure of the identity of Mediterranean culture.

How long have you been working on the series; has it already been completed or what plans do you still have?
I started this series at the end of 2019, and during the pandemic I could only work with archive material, as all the ceremonies were cancelled. So in the last year I tried to focus more on documenting the rituals in the different regions of southern Italy, as well as filming and recording sounds. My idea is to dedicate at least one more year to this, in order to take more photographs, to work on visual solutions for the prints, and to make multimedia pieces. (Interview: Ulrich Rüter)

All images on this page: © Alessia Rollo
Equipment: Leica SL with Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–90 f/2.8–4 ASPH.

© Henriette Maria Giovanna Siemons

Alessia Rollo

Born in Italy in 1982, Rollo graduated from the University of Perugia in 2009 before achieving an MA in Creative Photography at the EFTI International Center of Photography and Cinema in Madrid. Rollo does not consider photography a medium that documents a situation, but rather something that speaks of truth as she sees it. She has participated in solo and group exhibitions in different countries. Parallel Eyes was exhibited in 2021 during the Bitume Photofest in Lecce, and at the Futuro Arcaico Festival in Bari, Italy.

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