Foreword by Fabrizio Parisi
Seen from above, Lanterna “Beach” reaches out like a spiral into the sea. No matter how far we may wander – even crossing the ocean along its concentric circles – eventually, we would converge toward a centre: a fixed point from which everything began and to which we always return. But is this centre still real or is it an imaginary place, where the summer is endless, where we can be young forever? Friends, beers, card games, diving, declarations of love written on the walls, pop songs sung out loud. An eternal cheerful and carefree youth to return to whenever life disappoints or hurts us. An ideal refuge, a happy island where the ostentatious body, matter and flesh become vivid images to contrast the evanescence of a dream on the verge to fall apart at any moment, the shadow of death always lurking, the finitude of the human life.
In the Summer of 2015, I quit my job and I left England. I was twenty-nine. I went back to Italy to spend the rest of the season by the sea, in the town I grew up. For the first time, I approached the Lanterna with its exclusive community of male bathers. Did not know anyone there, but Sergio, a guy I knew from school. He invited me to play Scopa, the local game played with Neapolitan cards. He was my only connection with that clique. Since that day, I’ve been photographing the Lanterna and the bathers and I still do.
All started exploring the relationship between this peculiar community and the nature of the Pier where they sunbathe and rendezvous from Summer to Winter. I was fascinated on how, over the years, they have organically adjusted and adapted this space to their needs. In fact, the Pier was originally designed and built, exclusively for port-related purposes and to host the Lanterna, a red headlight, which indicates the left side mouth of the port. Despite this space belongs to the port authorities and has always been a restricted area, people have used it since ever, paradoxically reinventing this brutal unusable concrete infrastructure in an idyllic spot for relaxing and recreational activities hence the new name of Lanterna “Beach”.
I was also visually struck by the fact this space is predominantly attended by men: coming from different socio-cultural backgrounds, they meet here and share this safe spot to relax, forget about family responsibilities, escape social pressure or just to enjoy their breaks from the daily routine in the playfulness of the sunshine. A very important ritual, especially, for sun worshippers, as some of them plan their work schedule to coincide with cloudy or rainy forecasts so as to not miss a single sunny day.
Over the years, I have been back to the Lanterna numerous times, many bathers are now my good friends and I’m not sure the whole thing has got to do with photography anymore. The more I photograph the bathers, the more I realize this work is more about me than them: the pure documentation has shifted into an intime research for something personal and deep that led to question my identity and reconsider many stereotypes and preconcepts I grew up with such as masculinity, self-awareness and vulnerability. Photos have turned from simple images into symbols: portraits, tattoos and anatomical shapes make up a visual map – and show me the way – to reconnect with Home. As result, the Lanterna represent now a metaphorical gate to reconcile with my original culture and therefore to rediscover, under a different positive new light, everything I left behind such as customs and traditions, local dialect expressions, childhood memories and a new sense of belonging to the place I escaped.