A snapshot of an old-time Sicily portrays a mother extending her hand to her daughter in Licata (a suburb of Agrigento). This picture makes us think of the origin of things and our destiny, while we feel surrounded by the mystery of beauty and life
Taking pictures means creating a never-ending moment through light. When the photographer Giovanni Chiaramonte pronounced these words two years ago, during a convention at the University of Catania, he literally opened my eyes to a new world, even if I am the son of a photographer I have always been near to. And that’s because, when you look at reality with wonder through photography, this art never stops amazing you.
This snapshot is part of Chiaramonte’s photographic book Last Sicily. It portrays a suggestive glimpse of Licata (a suburb of Agrigento) in 1970: between houses to be shored up yet, unpaved streets and hanging sheets drying in the sun, a lovely mother extended her hand to her daughter, maybe giving her some money to buy something at grocery. This picture highlights a culture that doesn’t exist anymore, but portrays our present destiny too: the place we come from (our mother) stands out and everything around us has a meaning.
This photo has been forgotten in one Chiaramonte’s cellar like many others shot in 1970 all around Sicily and shows a lost world that photography has made eternal.
The photoreporter Ferdinando Scianna said about this “almost lost” pictures: «A constant element in the view of young Chiaramonte is the way he conceived light. It builds space, it defines architecture, it shows stairways and intersected streets. It is the essence of a theatre, where, as it comes from the backstage, it brings out sets and characters».
Oscar Wilde once wrote: «To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing. One does not see anything until one sees its beauty». And I think that, if you look at this picture several times, the way you see its beauty clearly brings out the extraordinary mystery of life surrounding us mortal beings.
But it also tells you something more, if you pay more attention to it. During that very hot summer in the beautiful Licata, where the stairways are made by detached stones, a woman, or maybe a man, gets a year-old son down for a nap while she (or he) is sitting at the doorstep, close to an empty chair.
Translated by Daniela Marsala