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Leuzzi , Laura , Overnight. Lippard , Lucy. Lombardi , Sandro. Ong , Walter. London, New York : Routledge , Perec , Georges. Perniola , Mario. Milano : Mimesis , He knows how to control light that can enhance vision yet also burn it --blurring the photograph. And he always uses first class printers like Fotogramma 24 in Rome. Simona Bugianovi, in the great Roman tradition of printing art photography, considers working with John a unique experience. John follows with care every single passage in his photographs, even in their printing. When editing the proofs, he uses a felt pen to mark each photograph according to his personal vision.
And light is what drew him to Sicily. When he says that the sun is his dimension, he provides another key to comprehending his volatile temperament. He is attracted to the people of Sicily because this island, bathed by waters of the Mediterranean, remains an oasis of passion and faith in a desert of humanity.
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Processions, country fairs and open-air markets in turn provide rare moments of inspiration for his photographs. In a world conditioned by the rising sun, people emerge in the first light of dawn to live in the streets -- boys playing cards, dancing, and eating spun sugar -- shouting and talking loudly without concern because the street is their home. Palermo itself is a city with a pulsating heart. Here John loses himself because this dimension, after all is his dimension. The faces of Sicilians seem to adapt perfectly to the black and white resolution in his photos - raven-black hair, fair complexion, thick black eyebrows, large dark eyes and long noses cutting into the light.
Sicily, as a borderland of southern Europe, retains a masculine culture. The Sicilian man bares his chest and his shoulders as though they were war trophies. A sensual vein runs through nude and virile arms, forever tense and ready to fight. Sicilian men also know the burden of working the land and the danger of work at sea. This is their dignity and truth, for it has defined them and their strength for generations with a heroism residing in the creation and care of their families.
The men in John's photos conserve intact this inheritance. In confronting the old man in a T-shirt and shorts, amid playing children, with the old man in waistcoat, jacket, tie, wearing dark sunglasses while sitting on a stone bench, one can perceive exactly the differences between elderly people in two different social contexts.
In the first photo, taken in Sicily, there is a mute dialogue between the characters when John captures the immortality of a decisive moment, resembling an invisible thread uniting different stations of life.
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The old people in the South are almost never alone. On the contrary, they have a determinant social role as reference points for their families, especially the children. The old man in jacket and tie portrayed in Rome, hides behind black glasses, but the slight protrusion of his upper lip betrays a singular grief.
The stone wall behind him resembles a cold white curtain that receives him not. John couldn't have captured a more mystical moment of solitude. In this photograph, built on horizontal lines, the man is the only vertical element, a conceptual time-line where the man himself is the only protagonist. His immobility refers us to the eternity of death, and John behind the camera understands that this man's death has begun with social oblivion. The gestures in these photos are always spontaneous and natural.
Nessuno si salva da solo
And they are also the ones to express the most intense emotions, as in the little girl hugging her mother. Its structure is worth noting. The daughter and the mother are of the same flesh; there is no space between their bodies. The little girl's curly raven-hair is one with her mother's. The photograph is also harmonic in its composition - two symmetrical sources of light, with perfect balance between the black and white portrayals. The sun, the light of day, returns to reaffirm itself in landscapes, where space is defined by the presence of people. The vastness and profundity is perceived in relationship to the dimension of a human being.
One or more characters are captured in the foreground while we see others far away and still others on the horizon. The image is enlarged according to vectors of the half-lines cutting across angles formed by conjoined positions of the figures. In the photograph of the young women in bathing suits, the particular detail of the camera foretells the unfolding action. The woman in the black bikini is caught while she leans forward, smiling at the woman with the camera. John seizes the moment when the woman extends her right leg, and in lifting her foot from the sand creates a straight line with the rest of her body.
Between the two women a triangle is formed, the base of it being their shadowed line.
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At the center of this triangle, there is a smaller one, created by three other people bathing in the sea. In the compositions of Mannerism, such as in Pontormo, the figures are elongated and contorted with eccentric, destabilizing elements, allowing the viewer to see beyond what is represented. I believe this is what John means when he says: "what you see is not what you get," in his concept of photography. The people he photographs are not necessarily beautiful or shapely - indeed, they are often defined by a grimace deforming their faces or in a gesture contorting their bodies.
And in this imperfection John provides a key to the reading of his images. The truth is in imperfection because life itself is imperfect. In following and searching for human beings, John, finds his sites variously in the countryside, on the beaches or simply in pausing at the seashore during a stormy day - seeing in the distance an adolescent girl contemplating the waves breaking on the rocks. Her body is slightly bigger than the pebbles on the beach in the foreground and, against the immensity of the sky, she appears even more fragile when compared with the strength of the sea.
The horizon is defined by the black mountain range and by white clouds formed by rising sea foam while the sea itself is a spectacular fresco of intermingling black and white. Beyond the girl, one catches sight of a small fishing village. In this photo, the instant becomes an eternity with an awareness of nature as a stepmother, even while a gathering of black threatening clouds could easily, from one moment to the next, unleashing a storm.