Lorenzo Catena is an Italian photographer currently based in Samoa. His vision focuses on implementing and blending different personal influences into his photographic approaches – such as his background in architecture or other fields related to the creation of imagery – and he strongly believes that openness to contamination can positively influence a photographer’s view and help create a relevant and personal perspective as a street photographer. Together with Valeria Tofanelli, he is co-author of “Mareterno”, published by Eyeshot in 2022.
At the beginning of 2020, the two photographers together started a project on Ostia, one of the lesser-known areas of Rome, the city where they live. They chose Ostia to eradicate some prejudices that have long been attached to this territory and have not allowed the potential and beauty of this part of the capital to be highlighted. Ostia is the sea of Rome, a 17-kilometer shoreline that ends where the Tiber River meets the Mediterranean Sea and where Romans spend their free time together, far away from tourist attractions. Although it is an integral part of Rome, its strong identity and size allow it to be considered “a city within a city”. For this reason, the relationship with Rome is sometimes controversial since not everyone considers Ostia part of the Eternal City. Catena and Tofanelli decided to explore the complexity of this territory, admiring the passage of time punctuated by the changing seasons, finding themselves photographing places seemingly abandoned in winter, waiting for the summer crowds to come back to animate them. But above all, during their long journeys along the less inhabited edge of Rome, they often let themselves be guided by chance, which led them to the discovery of many very different stories, each characterized by the different way of living the relationship with the sea: for leisure, choice or necessity. The result was an engaging and surprisingly human experience that allowed them to discover realities they did not know despite being in their own backyard.
Lorenzo Catena considers the coexistence of complex and simple aesthetics as the key element of his artistic vision. His search for the juxtaposition of multiple layers and landscapes harmoniously assembled through vibrant colors and play of light is evident in the shot included as Fine Art in the Black Edition, on which we asked him a few questions.
Tell us more about the Black Edition shot. When and where was it taken? What experience does it portray?
The shot in question was taken during winter and rainy evenings along the coastline of Ostia, the sea of Rome. Roaming casually along an empty coastline can be challenging for a photographer, but during the making of this project, I learned that sometimes, when nothing is happening, it is more important to follow the atmosphere of a place than to search for the rare and spectacular moment and more importantly to give voice to the inner feelings one has, particularly when you are almost alone, at sea, on a winter day.
Why did you decide to capture that precise moment? What drew you to it?
In this scene, I was attracted by the light coming out after a storm towards the sea and I noticed a group of surfers riding some waves. Usually, I don’t take pictures in bad weather conditions but for this project, we also wanted to capture that kind of atmosphere. This scene and atmosphere reminded me of the work of Hanry Gruyaert in his book “Rivages” and I was immediately drawn to it. I’ve searched to capture what was going on with my sensibility and I used what I thought could give a touch of surreality to enrich the scene and give it my perspective.
What do you like the most about that photograph?
About this shot, I like the overall atmosphere and colors, with a touch of surrealism given to the yellow stripe on the bottom of the frame. This yellow stripe belongs to the base of the summer umbrellas that were already planted along the beach in a regular grid and that were waiting for the summer crowds to use them. This stripe is the outcome of a close-up of this common object of the Italian summer landscape, used as an unfocused foreground for a winter shot.
What camera and what lens did you use? What diaphragm, shutter speed and ISO, and why?
I don’t remember exactly the settings that I’ve used. I can say that most of the time I’m on manual focus and my settings vary for each shot. I’ve used a Fujifilm X-T20 with the fix lens XF 35mm f1.4.
We cannot help but be carried away by this artist’s intimate photographs, which lead us to reflect on how often, due to our prejudices and preconceived ideas, we go on our way without exploring the true reality of an area, a phenomenon or a person. “Mareterno” therefore gives us an important lesson, an invitation to stop and observe reality with different eyes, to retrace our steps and revisit paths we had overlooked, in order to grasp them with renewed sensitivity.