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NaplesPhotography Luca Anzalone, styling Riccardo Maria Chiacchio

Luca Anzalone captures intimate portraits of Naples’ locals in summer

A variety of characters pose for the photographer’s lens in a series of images that celebrate what it means to be Neapolitan

After suffering a serious heart disease at the age of 18, photographer Luca Anzalone was bedridden for the best part of a year. The one hour a day that Luca was permitted to leave his hospital bed was spent taking pictures. It’s a habit that’s been with him for a long time, with a personal archive that began aged 8. Now 24 years old, that Italian photographer, who shoots mainly on medium format analogue cameras, turns his lens to life and colour. 

For Dazed Beauty, Luca shares a selection of images from his book A core a core, a collaborative project with stylist Riccardo Maria Chiacchio. The images capture Neapolitan beach life at its most languid and domestic. Originally hailing from Parma, Luca is aware of his status as an outsider and admirer of the mythologised town of Napoli, and not as born and bread native, but the images are skewered with a mutual respect.

As noted in the foreword, this series of images are gifts at the altar of authentic, unwavering Naples: “To the people of Naples, true energy against stereotypes, towards passion.” The characters captured happily pose for Luca’s camera. Burnt bodies litter cragged rocks, locals hang linens in shaded streets, market sellers display their goods, lovers pass on vespas and pals playfully pose for group pictures on the beach. 

At Dazed Beauty, we love to share and support artists capturing the true texture of human bodies, well-lived in and baking under the summer sun, Luca’s bodies are young, old, little and large sometimes riven with wrinkles and occasionally glassy smooth. They’re the bodies of our shared collective memory of the beach and long summer hours that stretch into nothing, deeply tanned and sometimes, a little pink. Warm, human and intimate, these portraits are a snapshot into a sleepy domesticity in one of the most poetic Italian neighbourhoods. 

Here we speak to Luca about collaboration, Italy, and La Dolce Vita.

Where are you from? 

Luca Anzalone: I grew up in a small city in the north of Italy called Parma, inside the region of Emilia-Romagna. That’s right, where Parma Ham and Parmesan cheese come from!

When did you start taking photos?

Luca Anzalone: I think I’ve always had a compulsive obsession of being afraid to lose people and things I love. My mum just showed me a huge photographic archive I unconsciously made when I was 8 years old. They almost look like a photo library organised in people, parks, teddy bears, dogs from the neighbourhood etc. When I turned 18 I suffered from a serious heart disease that stopped me from doing pretty much anything for almost a year. I was only allowed to leave my hospital bed for just an hour a day and my camera I think was the only thing that kept me hoping I’d get better, to have more time, another chance. I got aware of time as a living form and through my photographs a way to understand it.

Where were these pictures taken?

Luca Anzalone: I started this project during the summer of 2017 in Naples. I remember so vividly the places of each frame, every corner, every tiny street. I went back to Naples a month ago and I walked around without using a map, trying to find those places again. I surprisingly found those people again in the same spot, doing pretty much the same as they were back in 2017. However, the lighting and energy were both different and I am different now. I’d take a completely different image now.

What does Naples mean to you and why do you love it?

Luca Anzalone: I went there for the first time in 2017. Now, I’ve returned a couple of years down the line. I never miss a chance to go back there, the chaos and beauty of Naples hypnotises me. Every time I leave Naples, I genuinely start crying. It’s like an instinct that I can’t control. Naples and people from Naples have this unique energy that you almost get addicted to it.

Who are these people? 

Luca Anzalone: They are a mixture of locals and workers. From fishermen to souvenirs vendors, from nuns to kids waving at you from the balconies. 

What’s unique to the Neapolitan way of life?

Luca Anzalone: I’m not a true Neapolitan however as an Italian, I’d say life in Naples is emotional. You feel life at 360 degrees. The Neapolitan approach to life is joyfully intense. You breathe in the  energy that spreads across each road, small harbour, seafront and window sill. The way life is in Naples can be strange from an outside perspective, however when you’re at the core of the city you understand why it’s the way it is.

How do you approach taking someone’s portrait? 

Luca Anzalone: I always try to be as honest as possible with the person I’m portraying. It’s crucial that my camera almost becomes invisible and somehow I manage to create a personal quick link with the person in front of me. I observe as much as I can in that tiny length of time before a gesture captures me and that’s when I take the photograph. 

“Taking people’s pictures is somehow a good way to get to know yourself better. When you discover someone’s world you kind of discover your own” – Luca Anzalone

Why do you love to work with Riccardo? 

Luca Anzalone: I met Riccardo in London when I was still in my second year at university. It’s been my first marriage with a stylist and ultimately with fashion photography. We connected on a personal level straightaway and with time we learnt to translate our shared vision into images. I think we’re both incredibly intimate about what we do and that’s probably the essence of our bond. This project wouldn’t have happened without me and Riccardo blindly trusting each other.

What do you love about Italian style? 

Luca Anzalone: It’s so chaotic and diverse that I think you could spend your entire life trying to figure it out and still wouldn’t make sense to you. It’s raw but poetical, it’s delicate and intense and rough. It’s like two faces of a coin that keep turning around and around. It’s a place of contrast. It’s like adding some black in a painting, you instantly understand the richness of the colours and their intensity. 

What defines an Italian attitude to life for you?

Luca Anzalone: I’ve thought this a lot lately. To me, it’s an attitude of being confident in who you are regardless of the difficulties and the obstacles of life. It’s about loving life in his fullest but keeping it minimal, earthy. My parents are from the south, they come from very poor backgrounds but somehow they managed to build their life despite Italian society being shattered in the late 60s. It’s like we constantly chase beauty in things, no matter what the resources available, somehow magic happens.

Why do you like taking people’s pictures? 

Luca Anzalone: People mean everything to me, for better or worse. People for me are micro universes waiting to be discovered. I feel way too lucky to be allowed to have the opportunity to take people’s pictures. I love posting portraits back to people I’ve photographed and waiting to hear their reactions. Taking people’s pictures is somehow a good way to get to know yourself better. When you discover someone’s world you kind of discover your own.