Happy New Year! Our first talk of 2017 is on the subject of Corruption, and features Mimi Mollica and Dimitri D’ippolito. Ahead of the talk, on Weds Jan 4th in Brighton, one of our newest team members, Lauren Holder, spoke to Mimi about his work, Terra Nostra….
What is it about a place that inspires you to document it?
I am usually attracted by places and situations that somehow are fucked up, quirky. Something must be out of the ordinary or totally ordinary, which to me is equally strange. Anyhow I feel more intrigued by people rather than places themselves….so I usually direct my camera towards situations were the human aspect and presence in the pictures is highly relevant, if not a necessity!
You have spoken in the past about the issue of the Sicilian mafias’ modern portrayal in popular culture. The cliché. With Terra Nostra, did this present you with any difficulties?
Throughout the seven years of photographing Terra Nostra, I have intentionally entered a constructive dialectic with the cliches related to the Mafia phenomenon. If on the one hand I wanted to offer a different perspective on a reality that has been overwhelmingly portrayed as carrying a grotesque charm, on the other I needed to make reference to these cliches and turn them to my favour. Moreover, The mafiosi themselves started borrowing back from Hollywood’s gangster movies an image and branding that was useful to them to create a fictitious yet powerful narrative around them and their world.
As a Sicilian, do you find the projects of Sicily harder to achieve than those based in other locations?
No. To me everywhere has the same degree of difficulty level…It all really depends on what you want to achieve as a final product. Being a Sicilian emigrated many years ago, I was able to acquire that healthy distance from my native place and was consequently able to look into some dynamics that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to notice. As I always say to young photographers, our job is to be as close as you need to distance yourself from the subject. The photographer needs to be like the frame of a picture, touching the edges of what is framed, understanding and enhancing the content of the canvas but being able at the same time to keep clear from its visual field. only by doing so a photographer is able to create outstanding and relevant work.
How does your heritage and personal history affect how you approach a project like Terra Nostra?
My mother was a professor of Philosophy of Rights at Law University and my father a Civil Lawyer. Ever since I can remember they both taught me to respect others, to stand for justice and equality and to fight for human rights. I think this gave me enough basis to find in Terra Nostra a personal mission and the perfect project to which dedicate seven years of my life.
What has been the reception to the work back home?
No one has really published it yet in Italy, apart from a few pictures here and there and one recent online feature from Italian Internazionale, Terra Nostra has been mainly distributed and published everywhere else…. We’ll see what happens now with the book!