The first image of a book of photography is almost a declaration. The poetic entry in the double meaning of the term, that is of one's own personal aesthetic and lyrical tone, demands to face with which the images that follow are to be faced.
The shade is important, because the very contents represented in the image can take on a completely different meaning, and as a consequence the personal aesthetics can be misunderstood. So here, it seems to us that the shade is indicated by the first picture of calmness and participation, is not about detachment and reflective visual intelligence, not irony. An image within the image, a photo within the photo are not exhibited here to show an assertive metalinguistic consciousness - I know what I do, and point out how you have to understand and see it - as a multiplication of plans, levels, an invitation to not stop at the very first impression, at the first thought, not to go deep in the analysis- it would be presumptuous and once again normative- but to consider it all together, all as the same image, as it is precisely of the image, which preserves everything it focuses on.
Therefore, a photograph of Siena hanging on a wall in Siena, with reflections of Siena above it, in which several shades of bluish dominates and conveys a feeling of dreamy suspension. We will find several others throughout the book, a red thread, at least for us, or a punctuation of references: the place, the atmosphere, the intention, the photograph itself. Federico Pacini’s idea is appreciated. He does not miss a shot when he sees an image of or a reference to Siena beyond a glass, in a house,anywhere, we would think of. Nowadays, the idea of the place, of lived space, the attachment to one’s own territory on one side and the imaginary on the other is a very important and relevant topic. Pacini, considering both sides of this idea, avoids the "provinciality" of most photography, and literature, with Italian background, without vignettist lingering or nostalgic indulgences.
The second photograph of the book is the other key: the accumulation. It is of course the essence of the book itself, and the activity of the photographer, but also, again, an indication of how things fit together according to our author. Here it is mainly an accumulation of statues and garden fountains in a corner, in some ways a bit pathetic, but creator of strange indefinable beauty. A vision of the world - as Susan Sontag has already explained - and an image of Italy, made of incongruous combinations, stratified times, of unexplained styles and details, which keep together and make up an enigmatic "metaphysic" unity .
The whole of Pacini’s book is to be appreciated like this: different scattered thematic strands and rhythmic in the celebrations and in the joints, where the matching between subsequent images enriches every single one and interweaves the subjects. Let’s take the image within the images, no more about Siena but of any kind: some show the contrasts - the Pope with Playboy, religion with advertising, the modern with the antique, the Chinese with the Tuscan – others open different worlds, above all the "collections". Can you call them it this way, either are garden dwarfs, or photos, or paintings in either homes and public places, maybe in the background of a portrait or reflected in a mirror.
The collections are variations on the theme of the accumulation, of course, as well as exhibitors, magazines, postcards, souvenirs, soft drinks, or the windows with headless mannequins and with "sales" so dated that even the written words are not intact anymore. Here for the first time the lightning of the flash appears, very strong and central: is it there to call the photographer, he also headless as well; is the pineal eye that replaces a calculating mind? The flash occurs quite often and it is the center of the image that looks like the flash of a gunshot, according to the famous equation of shot-gun and shot-shot, a vision that hits the target.
In these photographs there are many places of exposure, may they be abandoned stages or partially collapsed bus shelters, prepared or occasional spaces for advertising,- as the sensational curtains that say "Dio è amore" - and in fact many words and phrases recorded by photographic tool, also even this, it is a genre in the book. Some of them are fairly "metalinguistic" ones, they refer to the photography itself. But which ones? Because some are, all of them must be even indirectly.
Let’s take the one with two people who are hugging each other under the road sign with the name "Braccio" on : an interesting variant of the lodging photograph in the photo, below a spherical lamp that variates the theme of light, reflections, flash and other, the image aquires pathos precisely because it is a personal, private, from a family album photo. This photo within the photo of the hug isn’t it a suggestive vision of the metalanguage itself?
Let’s take "Purtroppo ti amo" that covers other political content written on a battered bus shelter: it is the double paradox of any love and at the same time of each photograph, and the love declaration of the photographer himself. At one point through the book, such as off-context, we meet images that seem to be different from the others, unexpected, at least some, which get you feel the drama in the unsuspected others. They are those that involve human presence, some are real portraits, others are stolen at the very moment. The most dramatic are introduced by two very allusive photographs: the first one reproduces the shape of a knife and two times the word "Lame" , threatening, and the second one, the graffiti "Odio" .Then, there are two enigmatic portraits separated by two pictures of empty rooms, the first one is about loneliness and the second one is about waiting, the two portraits express these feelings in an unsweetened way: a lonely old man crouched and scared and a seated bewildered young man, cut into two parts by a railing, a sort of “split self."
These images remind us not to overlook or underestimate the task that Pacini relies on his “recherche”, which is also to show less frequented or marginalized sides. Not only are they the disease or solitude, but they are also others scattered "pathetic "component of all his images. The group of portraits reminds us that the sense of community and belonging - again, all – that transmit to us is to redeem the negative side. Thus the province, instead of closing the claim in particular, transmits a sense of universality.
Perhaps, this is the enigmatic meaning of the last image of the book. There you can see one of those cribs made of cut out shapes, in this case the shapes are white, especially ghostly, set in an unattractive landscape. Again there is a laughing sense in what is represented, but at the same time the theme is that of birth, of a new beginning, a nativity that is universally a symbol of redemption, either you believe or not. It is Pacini’s hope, his confidence in the task of these photographs, more we specify, if so calibrated and discrete in their message, not noisy nor rhetorical, almost silent indeed, a silence, it is useful to reiterate that he knows how to make his way into minds.
Text by Elio Grazioli
For more information:
Federico Pacini, Purtroppo ti amo, Editrice Quinlan, 2013