To tell Sicily, to immortalizie every corner of beauty, to stop time and to make every place eternal. The photographer Luigi Nifosì told his Sicily with elegance and naturalness. His photography is a journey done not barefoot on earth but from above with the wings of a seagull towards the infinite shades of Sicily.
by Anna Chiara Delle Donne
Welcome, Luigi. Let’s start from the beginning: how is your love for photography born?
The rolls and cameras have always been at home by Nifosì. My father photographed my two sisters and me with an old Benicini Comet II that still exists, thanks to which we have a decent album of memories.
Photography has been distant from my interests for many years, to the advantage of sport (basketball, tennis, windsurfing) and motorbikes, but I had good friends in photography and equipped with equipment that I could never afford with family finances. The experience helped me a lot: I observed and put aside the technical knowledge and concepts of recovery. With the first salary as a physical education teacher, I went straight to buy my first real camera knowing already what I wanted to photograph and how.
When did you decide to turn your passion into a profession?
It was in conjunction with a series of disappointments received at work that I realized that I could capitalize my time in a more fruitful way, dedicating myself to photographic research, then almost exclusively dedicated to the monumental heritage and landscape of Sicily. Today I should thank those who decided to put me aside for the benefit of less able colleagues. The real qualitative leap I did in 2008: three books in just one year, including my most fortunate text, IN VOLO SULLA SICILIA, the first Summa of my aerial photographic research, that made me so much notoriety and appreciation.
The sea and the Sicilian land are the absolute protagonists of your photos. What is Sicily for you?
The sea and the Sicilian land are an indissoluble pair. I was born in July, after my grandfather, my namesake, had just bought our house in Cava d’Aliga, on a cliff overlooking the African sea. I grew up between the beach, boats and fishing nets. Then in the post-adolescent age, I had the passion for windsurfing and the sea observed on the right side. Finally, there was the meeting and friendship with Piero Guccione, the great painter who is a reference in national and international art for his interpretation of the blue.
How not to remain, therefore, influenced by the immense blue and mutant expanse that has always surrounded my existence?
As soon as I got up in flight on Sicily it was impossible to look away from the coast; from the islands. But from the castles; from the many archaeological sites that represent a fundamental and intrinsic part of the variegated Sicilian landscape. And the volcanoes, the maccalube, the unique geomorphological conditions that are found only in Sicily, where do we put them?
“La Sicilia es el mundo” Antonino Buttitta repeated to a Spanish publisher, with whom I was fortunate to collaborate. Sicily is the paradigm of the world and I agree, feeling lucky to be born and lived in one of the most beautiful places in the world, where just aim at the goal to prune home a good picture.
Your photographic archive boasts tens of thousands of images depicting the Sicilian landscape and architectural complex. Which place has you most excited during your shots?
There are a couple of places in Sicily that have a stratified experience in extraordinary history; places of myth sculpted in the collective imagination as the essence of Sicily itself. I would say the castle of Lipari and the Florio plant of Favignana; that are also the two places where I have not only exhibited my most participated exhibition by the public and linked to the book I have already mentioned.
If we talk about pure emotion in addition to the Ettore Infersa salt marshes of Marsala, the palette where the embrace of the earth and the sea is realized, no other place can be said to be more evocative and exciting than the Etna volcano. The central craters of the highest active volcano in Europe are the place where the human being is brought back to his miserable dimension of fearful observer of the greatness of nature.
In your recent photographic exhibition “Sicilia, L’isola mai vista”, more than 100 photos were exhibited. What effect did you do?
I don’t deny that the public’s attention to my work, after so much effort, is always rewarding. In Modica for the first time I was exposing the Summa of twenty years of research, of flights over Sicily. I added a brick not just the first step of ten years before.
The attention of two renowned curators such as the art historian, prof. Paolo Nifosì and of prof. Giuseppe Barone, former director of the Department of Political Science at the University of Catania, added an element of further importance to the initiative that was sealed by the conference held to close the exhibition by prof. Sebastiano Tusa, already superintendent of the Sea of Sicily, and current Councilor for Cultural Heritage of the Sicilian Region.
The visits to the most beautiful and most appreciated exhibitions are those made with the elementary school children and the high school students who came, giving me unforgettable moments.
In the shots of the exhibition there are also unpublished archaeological sites and prehistoric sites not known as Mokarta, Tapsos and others. These sites are a new stimulus for study and study. How is the idea born and the desire to shoot in places like that and what do you hope that inspires in those who watch these shots?
The archaeological sites represented in the show in Modica are just a small part, a very tight selection, of the material collected in the last two years, thanks to a research that I bring together with the archaeologists of the Department of Archeology of the University of Catania. Two years ago we closed a convention that was also shared by the Guardia di Finanza and the Cultural Heritage Protection Unit of the CC. To date, aerial surveys have yielded the cataloging of a hundred sites. Another twenty are still missing at the conclusion of the project that will form educational material for teachers and students of archeology of the Sicilian universities.
Many of the sites photographed, until some time ago, were unknown even for me, which in any case have been occupied by archeology for a few years.
Luigi, what does humanly and professionally involve taking a picture in an unknown place, not contaminated by evolution and technology?
There are places in Sicily that still hold a primordial charm: natural and marine reserves; volcanoes like the salt pans to the immense and unknown lake and wooded areas. In front of the whiteness of the scale of the Turks of Realmonte rather than Cala Rossa di Favignana – but I could mention here dozens and dozens of places – I remain still enchantment, so much to forget, sometimes even to photograph.
What are your next future projects?
Being able to finally print one of the four editorial projects that I have in the drawer for a long time.
The research on Sicily seen from above is just one of the works that I would love to see, finally, brought back in the form of a book: however, a book that is required by many.
There is the history of archeology in Sicily, with a text ready for years by Sebastiano Tusa. Another volume on the tragedies of Syracuse, the classic representations that I have been photographing uninterruptedly since 1992! And finally, a research project of over a decade, with the Anglo-Saxon title because it was conceived for the international market: ANCIENT GODS, NEW HEROES. A split-up on how popular festivals are changing and losing identity in Sicily.