LANDSCAPE OF MY FOREVER
Photography and story by Francesco Mercadante
Introduction and interview by Melanie Meggs
The passion for photography has accompanied Francesco Mercadante's life since he was about nine years old when he was gifted a blue 'Rondinella' bicycle and a Kodak Instamatic from his father. Both items were inseparable friends on his many solitary escapes over the countryside of his home in Calabria in Italy to capture "glances" and to imagine and dream, marking Francesco's "passage of time". His love for photography and nature, that, still today, he goes looking for, and as he states, she (Mother Nature) calls me amongst the country paths and the expanses of meadows, skies, trees, streams and old abandoned houses. To Francesco they are harmony, landscape architecture..."furniture of the Earth"...fragments of human life. With stories to tell, these landscapes evoke atmosphere and an aura that intimately breathes. Francesco rediscovers those moments from his childhood when he went back to his hometown in his project "Landscapes of My Always."
I started this project one summer afternoon. In the twilight hours I picked up my camera and set off. Driven by the nostalgia of when, as a boy, I used to ride my Moped along the road to the sea. Forty years have passed and now, and seeing that landscape again, it is as if I had found another part of myself, still there, waiting for me. It is the work of my heart and the memory of my childhood. So I started photographing the landscape of my hometown, Cutro, where I was born in Calabria. Here the hills become low and, especially in summer, thanks to their yellowish colour (due to the cultivation of wheat), they resemble the scenery of desert dunes. Pier Paolo Pasolini decided to shoot some scenes of the film 'The Gospel According to St. Matthews in this landscape.
Driven by nostalgia when, as a boy, I used to ride my bicycle along the road to the sea. I used to cross the landscape of mine while travelling in the truck with my father when he took me with him to load the onions that were used for the sale of his trade in the markets. Then, as a child, I admired these yellow and sunlit dunes from the finerino and from there, a few kilometres away, the view would open to a blue sea.
My project gave me great opportunity to relive my most intimate memories, to walk and photograph those places I had always seen through a window. I have rediscovered my roots.
My roots are firm even if they are far from their own land.
My roots are like olive wood
with outstretched arms
almost wanting to caress the red and clayey earth that welcomes them.
My roots smell of tufa dust
of almond tree in bloom
of cultivated gardens.
History and perfumes come together in my land, releasing sensations
of peace and tranquility, where the sea and the sky
they marry in a single color.
In the countryside the ancient beams look out like great ladies
there time stopped
I walk in my land,
every time it's a surprise,
I find myself
I smile and rejoice in so much beauty.
Francesco, describe that memorable moment when you were nine and gifted a blue bicycle and a Kodak Instamatic. Can you tell us a bit more about your beginning in photography? Talk to us about the evolution of your photography.
I took my first photograph when I was nine: it was a family birthday, I was entrusted with a camera for family group shooting. I remember there was an ovation when they developed photography on paper; everyone happy and from that moment I fell in love with the photographic object. On my birthday my father gave me a blue bicycle to share with my younger brother and a Kodak Instamatic camera. The passion for photography accompanies me up to the age of 20 taking instinctive photos in moments of going out with friends or on birthdays, and in the days of Easter Monday and mid-August holidays. In the following years, painting takes the place of photography and I begin to paint trying to represent what I photographed. At the age of 40 I took up photography again but this time no longer by instinct but an emotional photograph. My projects always arise from a lived emotion, an emotion that comes to me listening to a song, watching a documentary, or along an old road, the passage of a sailboat, the whistle of a train, the arrival of seagulls at sunset, the muted light reflecting through the leaves of the trees.
Talk to us about your projects. What is it that inspires you to be a visual storyteller? What have been some of your most memorable moments?
It often happened to me to run out when I photographed instinctively because I went out without a precise destination and photographed everything I saw and without realising it I found myself with 500 shots and I could not compose a project, but only single shots. Over the years I have acquired a lot of experience and awareness. Today I work with more serenity because before going out to take pictures I have to have an idea in my head, a reason that pushes me to often photograph an emotion.
What are some tips/advice you would give yourself if you started photography all over again?
If I started photographing all over again, I would suggest myself to listen to the heart more and let go of the emotions.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers?
My favorite photographer is Ernst Haas his art his photographs are a source of great inspiration that help me to search and experiment both in photography and in painting.
If you could just choose one photographer to shoot alongside for a day...who would you choose? And why?
Having to choose a photographer to photograph with him for a day, I would choose Ernst Haas because from him and with his creativity I could receive a strong emotion.
When you are out shooting - how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
As I mentioned before, instinctive photography no longer belongs to me today I only photograph if I have an interest in something that I have already planned before the release.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? (What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?)
I think that to achieve a good photograph you don't need a camera and very expensive lenses. I use a Canon EOS 6D mark II and a telephoto lens with a focal length of 28-300 mm.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
I am working on a project that I photographed on a summer night, it is always an intimate work linked to my memories and my roots that I really care about. The title of the project is "Memories Cutro" will be released shortly, however, by the end of 2021.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
When I'm not out taking pictures I like to read, or listen to music."
Thank you Francesco!
All photos © Francesco Mercadante