Encounters – Enrico Sarsini : the photography between history and stories. Part II

marcello mastroianni enrico sarsini

I ask Enrico Sarsini to tell me some anecdotes, some events that marked him in a special way: I wonder how many little and big stories he witnessed , and who knows how many others he lived directly! I expect him to tell me about the Vietnam war, or nations under totalitarian regimes, but …

Instead … He tells me two, both of which marked him deeply , but I am surprised …

The first : when he was working on a report to be made for “Le Figaro ” magazine, he was taking some pictures of some archaeological finds at the Museum of Kiev. Helped by an assistant who handles the pieces of the Museum and places them to take the pictures, Enrico was shooting in sequence . It comes the turn of a feminine statuette , one of the ” Venus of Malta “, small statuettes of fat women with large breasts, good luck bearers of fertility and prosperity. It wasn’t well placed by the assistant and Enrico touched it in order to replace it when, suddenly, the statue “exploded ” in his hands, disintegrating , disappearing forever … He says he heard the same explosion in his head, powerful and devastating , leaving him dazed and he says he felt just as if he had killed a person.

The second anecdote is about Padre Pio. I should state that Enrico comes from a good family of the Roman upper class, in  the Parioli district, and was educated at the best private schools in the capital, managed by religious men and women. That was enough, he tells me, to move him away from the religion permanently and unconditionally .

That said, Enrico Sarsini, in 1959, moved to San Giovanni Rotondo with some colleagues to photograph Padre Pio. At the time there was not the great church, and all the buildings that we can see today. There was only the small church of the monastery where Padre Pio used to celebrate the sacraments.

Knowing that Padre Pio would celebrate Mass at dawn, Enrico was lurking from 5am outside the church, where there were already many women, who wish to attend the ceremony officiated by Brother Pio. Enrico enters and mixes with them, and manages to take pictures, the outcome of which is not certain, however, because of the few light inside the church.

He decides to give it another try knowing that Padre Pio used to walk in the garden in the afternoon. Lurks behind a wall, but the arrival of a barking dog make him desist .

Puzzled about the results of his work, Enrico Sarsini gets back on the way back along with his colleagues. Along the way they are in the middle of a heavy rainstorm, so that a lightning grazes, dropping a few yards from them, on a tree, and in the meanwhile he smells a persistent and unmistakable sweet scent of violets …

At the end of his career, in 1998, Enrico and Nadine retired in Todi , where they settle permanently, luckily for me, and where I had the pleasure of meeting them .

Enrico, at this stage, develops a new technique of expression , which he calls “Photo Form”. It’s a middle ground , or rather, a marriage, between photography and sculpture. He uses a picture on which applies a three-dimensional element , which can be an existing object or realized by himself. In this way the photo, already expressive in itself , is able to tell a whole story, which may differ from viewer to viewer, succeeded in arousing the most varied moods, sometimes smiling, sometimes sadness or even anger or regret, like life itself , which for many years he captured through his pictures.

by Benedetta Tintillini

Read the article in Italian

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One Thought to “Encounters – Enrico Sarsini : the photography between history and stories. Part II”

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