The Pity of War - Romano Cagnoni
Watching the heavily edited and filtered images coming out of Syria at the moment, proved to be a sobering context for Romano Cagnoni's latest exhibition. I've blogged about him before, when he had a small show in London, but this one is a big retrospective at the Palazzo Mediceo (the wonderful former home of the Medici family) in Seravezza. Romano is probably Italy's greatest living photographer and has made his reputation in war zones. He specialised in going in under the radar and reaching the places the authorities didn't want anyone to see.
The result is a narrative record of the terrible things that human beings do to each other. His photographs of Biafra are brilliant, but too horrific for me to reproduce here. He was also in Vietnam and in Croatia and Bosnia when Yugoslavia imploded. His pictures of what was left of Vukovar are particularly shocking.
More recently he's been to Groszny to photograph the conflict in the Chechen Republic.
One of the most interesting things about the exhibition is Romano's commentary on what is, effectively, a record of his life. Under a stunning black and white photo of a room full of men all sitting at separate tables in a bar, he writes that 'men's loneliness is linked with fear. Men fear one another.' And fear leads to war.
And he sees the Chechen guerilla fighters as modern-day Greek heroes like Ulysses.
With his recent work he's been experimenting with a large format camera and huge colour prints that use landscape, colour and texture with the dexterity of a painter. I'm afraid my poor little sony pot-shots can't even begin to convey the beauty of these photographs, or the size - the canvases above and below were both life-size.
As a writer, struggling with words, I do envy the amount of narrative that can be conveyed (without any translation) in a single image. This is work of the highest possible calibre. The exhibition lasts until 9th April.