The twenty regions of Italy have been explored and photographed and loved for years, and yet there’s always some corner that remains out of sight, some aspect still to discover, like the fact that Matera, the new European Capital of Culture for 2019, is a literal “city of light.”
Italian photographer Federico Scarchilli travels Italy to rediscover his own country and culture and has recently been fascinated by stone and the buildings in which it’s used. Matera’s famous Sassi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of these places, and Federico has been immediately drawn to it and its region, Basilicata. “As I was walking among the Sassi I felt as I was in a true city of light,” he told Lonely Planet. “All the architecture there is based on stone, and so it reflects sunlight by creating this continuous flare that I really wanted to capture in my photographs, using this idea of a neverending luminous force that I’ve never seen anywhere else.”
“All the projects I’ve been working on recently are connected by the red thread of stone and spirituality,” Federico continued. “I feel like spirituality is lacking in today’s world, and I want to try and bring it back through my pictures.” That’s why he focused on Matera, a city that has plenty of both, so much that Mel Gibson decided to use it as the set for his 2004 movie The Passion of the Christ.
Another one of Federico’s favoured subjects are the Cistercian abbeys of the Lazio region, which he has explored at length. “Inside the abbeys, stone symbolises simplicity, something that the monks valued incredibly,” Federico said. “But at the same time, the stone gives the idea of something mighty and resilient.” Considering that most of the abbeys photographed by Federico were built in the 13th century and still standing strong, he might very well be right.
Federico, who has studied at the European Institute of Design in Rome and now teaches there at the Accademia Fotografica, first picked up a camera to document his solo trip to Australia in 2010. And that’s where he met a professional photographer, who shared his trip with Federico and started him on his same path. Federico still remembers him as “his greatest mentor”.
During the course of his career, Federico has photographed places from India to The Netherlands, but if you ask him what his favourite place is he will say that it’s still Italy, always Italy. “The more I travel the more I fall in love with my own country,” he said, echoing a feeling shared by many Italians. “I’m focusing on Italy at the moment precisely because I’m trying to pass onward the enchantment of this unique place.”
You can find the rest of Federico Scarchilli’s work on his website here.