Mimmo Jodice

Galleria La Nuova Pesa

Place is the subject of Mimmo Jodice’s photographs. His Neapolitan landscapes—the gulf with Vesuvius in the distance, the humble farms, the surrounding archaeological sites, the sea as horizon line—document a free space—even if it is sometimes crowded with things and objects. There is no direct human presence in these pictures, yet he captures in the scenes artifacts that testify to mankind’s history. Jodice belongs to a generation of photographers that began working in the ’50s and ’60s—a generation preceded by a complete lack of understanding of photographic expression. Precisely for this reason, along with Ugo Mulas, Luigi Ghirri, Gabriele Basilico, Mario Cresci, and Gianni Berengo-Gardin, he contributed to the creation, within the Italian scene, of the figure of the photographer who transcended the pure craftsman documentarian. Until the late ’70s, Jodice’s work was oriented in a narrative direction, supported by a human presence—a sort of typological indexing—around which an event was composed. Then narration disappeared, and with it, the specific temporal determination of the image. These landscapes, all in black and white—perfect, extremely balanced even in intermediary shadings—are suspended in timelessness. And yet they are able to affirm an immediate presence, laden with disquietude, unease, and melancholy.

In many photographs there is an anomalous, alienating element that countermands the logic of the image: the moored hydrofoil that seems like a spaceship; a stain on the pavement; an ocean wave longer than the others. These are slightly surreal presences that cause the overall sense of the image to slide toward another possible interpretation, toward an unforeseen psychological impact. Paradoxically, one of those alienating presences is the sky itself: now dense with clouds and stormy, as in a romantic painting, now clear or barely overcast with mist, as in a Neapolitan view of the 17th or 18th century. However it always looms over the earth, as if to enclose and define the image, sealing it in a formal perfection.

Jodice’s work also extends to photographic studies of monuments and works of art, although these are not a major theme in this show. And one easily perceives how his glance is strongly acculturated, stratified, based on a historical legacy of images and ways of seeing. But it is an internalized, metabolized tradition, never indifferently imposed on reality. The edge of the shot and the composition of the image show the effects of this cultural experience, but they go beyond it, finding their origins, instead, in the psychological intensity through which the image is produced. And part of the image’s intellectual content is the capacity to transfer to the photographed reality that metaphysical, incorporeal sense that manages to lighten the subjects, as if they were suspended in space, freed from the force of gravity that chains them to the earth. This is precisely where Jodice makes use of the past, of history, of tradition; he transfigures reality, making the observer—who is also defined by a specific culture—intuit that there is always a reverse side, another possibility, perhaps a place where all those things the lens dwells upon for a moment will be saved.

Massimo Carboni

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.