John Riddy: Palermo
John Riddy, a prominent figure in contemporary British photography, tells timeless tales of contrasts and transfiguration through his pictures taken around the world: light and dark, old and modern, decadent and renewed, natural and urban. His most recent stage has been Palermo, the Sicilian capital, where he has spent three years of roaming and contemplation since 2011.
From the marble of the Palazzo delle Poste to the wet asphalt of the Vucciria; from the open sea in Caletta San Erasmo, to the walled-in windows over Panficio Morello; from the grace surrounding the centuries-old trees in Piazza Marina, to the rotten builidings in Via della Loggia.
Riddy lays his eyes on the overlooked corners of a gem nestled in the extreme South of Italy and gives them a remote voice that moves and slightly disturbs the viewer. Spaces well-known for their brilliant colours, lively markets and people, are here silenced almost violently by the nostalgic game of black and white and the elimination of the human figure. Palermo takes on the appearance of a static memory, whose beauty is both unpretentious and overwhelming at the same time.
Removing colours, the photographer turns the city into a perfect texture of light and dark. Removing people, the city becomes the uncontested protagonist.
However, Palermo as it is told by Riddy is not an empty stage, as life is all over the place, suggested by the chair outside the door, the olives exposed in front of a shop, a dog sleeping deeply and clothes hanging on the balcony to dry. The result of Riddy’s work shows Palermo as almost another city from the one we might know, born by his need to catch and exorcise the breathtaking beauty of a changing place through planned and spontaneous gradations of tones.
If the general composition of each picture is linear and symmetric, taking a closer look at them the eye is lost in a chaos of small and precious details catching attention and imagination and trapping the viewer in an endless observation.
John Riddy’s works on Palermo are now exposed at the Frith Gallery in London until the 1st June 2013.
By Alessia Maiolo