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Desolate Beauty

Photographer Matteo Malvino presents the decay of contemporary Italian society

“The word ’orphic’ means something mystic or obscure, something that is not easily understandable,” Italian photographer Matteo Malvino explains. Born in the small town of Fossano in northern Italy, Malvino now lives and works in Rome. In 2012, he made several weeklong trips to Fossano to rediscover his birthplace. “I wasn't searching for a specific memory from my childhood or anything, but eventually I found a new fiction, a new reality,” he says.

The project was inspired by the mood in Orphic Chants, an early 20th century work of poetry by the Italian symbolist Dino Campana. The text is an autobiographical journey through Europe and South America, in which Campana tells a twofold story of a physical, but also spiritual voyage to find what he called ‘The Longest Day of Geneva’ – an eternal moment in which everything and everywhere exists simultaneously. “There is one line in particular that feels emblematic: ‘So I know a sweet music in my memory, without even remembering a note/ I know it is called the departure or return’. I wanted to reproduce the same emotion in my own work,” Malvino says.

Mostly visiting Fossano at night, Malvino drove around the surrounding countryside searching for places to photograph and trying to see the area in a new light. The result has become ‘Orphic Fragments’, a series of luminous and vividly detailed photographs reminiscent of the work of both Todd Hido and Robert Adams. Inspired as much by magic realism as the documentary photography of Walker Evans and Alec Soth, Malvino portrays desolate beauty and individual isolation in the Italian countryside, always with a strong sense of social realism. He is currently working on new projects highlighting the proliferation of industrial areas in the Italian countryside, and shedding light on the decay of contemporary Italian society in the city of Rome.