Review by Douglas Stockdale •
The humidity and occasional fog derived by the proximity of a river can create beautifully dreamlike conditions or provide a mysterious backdrop for a creepy event. Between these these two polar opposites is a low-contrast environment that elicits a kind of gloominess, conditions which may also haunt those who inhabit this land.
In the Afterword by Brad Feuerhelm describes this as “In his ability to capture the melancholia and stillness of the Delta, Di Giovanni is asking the audience to identify the conditions of the River Po that is predicated upon a new understanding of the community, labour and the vast potential for the natural world to conspire towards loftier climes.”
Another reading of this landscape book is these mysterious environmental conditions are part and parcel to a visual investigation of a place that is new and intriguing to Matteo Di Giovanni. This is a landscape and related culture unlike that of where he grew up in Central Italy and where he studied in the U.K.
The land adjacent to the River Po appears to be an enigma, perhaps I think best represented by the photograph of the structure wrapped in semi-translucent plastic sitting in the surrounding mist, fourth photograph below. We suppose that we know the purpose of the structure, that it might be utilized to sell something to somebody, we just don’t know what it is to be sold and there is no-one present or any signage to provide any clues. The misty environmental conditions do not hint of a holiday time of year; thus, we are left confounded as to this mysterious place. That might be said of all of Di Giovanni’s landscape studies; we cannot be sure of the purpose and use of the subjects that he has photographed.
Nevertheless, this semi-concealed structure is interesting photographic example of his narrative; a building that is centered within the frame and formally presented. What becomes intriguing is in the background surrounding the structure; flanked on one side is an organized foreground backed by green fencing, perhaps constructed of a material which is held in place by wooden posts. The opposite side of the structure is equally unruly, the ground is not level as it broaches an older wooden fence, a structure that has had better days, while in the background is a jumble of trees and bushes. The complexity and background duality of the Mona Lisa painting comes to mind when studying this photograph.
Each of Di Giovanni photographs benefit from a careful analysis of the pictorial structure and content as these are intricate studies in the disguise of casual street photography. It appears that every photograph has a specific subject that is carefully investigated while being formally presented for our consideration.
A wonderful attribute for reading the book is the utilization of a lay-flat design with the Smyth sewn signatures in conjunction with a Swiss binding. This book design does not trap any of the photographic content within the gutter and horizontal photographs that span the two-page spreads for this horizontal book are delightful.
This book constitutes an autobiographical series; that there is something about the attributes of Di Giovanni’s subjects that has caught his attention and asked of him to stop, pause and spend more time. What results is a dreamlike dance of camera, lens and film with this wonderful river landscape, which we also now benefit. Grazie Mille.
Douglas Stockdale is the Senior Editor & founder of PhotoBook Journal
Blue Bar, Matteo Di Giovanni
Photographer: Matteo Di Giovanni born in Pescara, Italy and resides in Milano, Italy
Publisher: Artphilein Editions, Lugano, Switzerland, copyright 2020
Essay: Brad Feuerhelm
Stiff covers with French folds and tip-on image, Smyth sewn, Swiss binding, four color, 104 pages, printed Fontegrafia, Cinisello Balsamo, Italy, ISBN 9788894518603
Photobook Designer: Emiliano Biondelli
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