The quirky monochrome photo series 'Lanterna Beach' draws on a powerful attachment to home. We discover more about the sentiment behind the project by photographer Mariano Doronzo.
If you've ever been away from your home town and felt that longing for a familiar sense of place, you might appreciate images from Nottingham-based, Italian photographer Mariano Doronzo's first solo photography exhibition – because that's exactly what inspired it.
We share some of the images from this black-and-white exhibition, which took place recently at No. TWELVE in Nottingham. Produced with analogue equipment and hand-printed, these photographs depict and document an unusual, remote community of (mainly) men near his hometown in southern Italy who gather at the end of a disused pier.
"Lanterna Beach is a long-term project (2015-2022) that documents a community of male bathers in a town in southern Italy, where I was born and raised before leaving my country," Mariano explains. "The work explores the relationship between this peculiar community and the nature of the pier where they sunbathe and rendezvous from summer to winter.
"Over the years, in a perpetual process that still goes on nowadays, they have organically adjusted and adapted this space to their needs. In fact, the pier was originally designed and built exclusively for port-related purposes, such as protection for ships while anchored in the port and to host the Lanterna, a red headlight which indicates the left side mouth of the port.
"Although this space belongs to the port authorities and has always been a military-restricted area, people have used it since ever, paradoxically reinventing this brutal unusable concrete infrastructure in an idyllic spot for relaxing and recreational activities hence the new name of 'Lanterna Beach'."
The space is predominantly attended by men, notes Mariano. "Some of them meet here to relax and forget about family responsibilities or social pressure, and others like to enjoy their breaks from the daily routine in the playfulness of the sunshine. It is a very important ritual, especially for sun worshippers, as some of them plan their work schedule to coincide with cloudy or rainy forecasts to not miss a single sunny day."
Through portraits, tattoos and anatomical shapes, he aims to build a visual map to show his inner process of reconnecting with 'home', which the bathers represent for me. "Every time I return to this very specific place: a metaphorical gate to reconcile with my original culture and therefore to rediscover, under a different positive new light," he adds. "Everything I left behind, such as customs and traditions, local dialect expressions, childhood memories and a new sense of belonging to the place I escaped."
Born in 1986, Mariano moved to England in 2013, where he started working with photography, documenting his personal journey within the local community and the English culture and landscape through the lens of an old film camera. He works mainly with black and white photography while expanding his darkroom skills with traditional handmade prints. He is also a published poet.
In 2022, he also completed a long-term mentorship programme at Magnum Photos with Matt Black and Susan Meiselas. Currently, Mariano is working on his first photobook.
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