“Everything I photograph represents my life, my interests, my passions. My imprinting is cosmopolitan, my attitude is nomadic,” states Sicilian photographer Salvatore Di Gregorio, “I am a curious person and photography fulfils my desires to communicate.” Currently based between Berlin and London, Salvatore is motivated by a desire to capture cultural diversity, inviting viewers to adopt “an alternative perspective and to think differently”. The photographer’s most recent series does exactly that, documenting one of the oldest red light districts in Europe.
The series is titled Taliami e te fazzu petra which translates from Sicilian to “One gaze and you’ll turn to stone” in a reference of the Sicilian mythology of the Trinacria [the three-legged icon on the country’s flag] which recalls the symbol of Medusa. The project documents the neighbourhood of San Berillo and its surrounding areas. A place steeped in history, much of it negative, Salvatore explains that “today in this forgotten place, adjacent to the city centre of Catania, Sicily, a contrasting city breathes and survives".
Taliami e te fazzu petra, therefore, depicts the neighbourhood and its inhabitants through Salvatore’s lens, capturing moments of unusual yet exceptional beauty; a facet of photography he is particularly drawn to. “At the same time,” he muses, “I think it is just the simplicity and sensibility of photography that I love so much. The interaction with my subjects, the thrill of new adventures.”
As a result, Taliami e te fazzu petra is intimate and thoughtful in its portrayal of the area. “The humans of San Berillo are resolute and striking enough to render you stagnant with one gaze,” he explains.“Their stories, their strength and personality add something that you wouldn’t normally hear from Sicily. You always think of The Godfather or the Mafia when you hear of Sicily. Instead, it can be as multicultural as any other places.”
Having had the idea for a long time, when Salvatore finally set out to shoot the project, he enlisted the help of friend Fabio Merche, a stylist who is also the creative director at Petrie Inventory magazine and he jumped at the opportunity. The pair spent a few months bringing the project to fruition, resulting in a natural and comprehensive series. “I wanted to capture them in their real life, real make-up and hair and with the San Berillo background. I photographed them while free, we just had some fun,” the photographer recalls.
In response to what he hopes the series says of the people he’s documented Salvatore responds: “San Berillo is a very complicated neighbourhood in Sicily, so I could easily slip onto the politics. But I was just curious to show the world a different Sicily: playful, colourful and also grimy and salacious.”
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