Salvatore Di Gregorio is an awards-winning self-taught photographer from Sicily. His work has been exhibited in London, New York, Berlin, Palermo and Havana. His “Taliami e te fazzu petra” project – that literally means “One gaze and you’ll turn to stone” – has been also featured on our latest C41 Magazine issue 9 Eros.
We had the chance to get in touch with Salvatore right before his flight for the Paris Fashion Week, just in time to set up a brief interview for our online readers as an introduction to this brilliant project. You can read it below and browse it through on paper here.
About ‘Taliami e te fazzu petra’ – words by Salvatore Di Gregorio
The Sicilian symbol of the Trinacria recalls the myth of Medusa, a gorgon with a head of snakes that would turn humans into stone upon the mere sight of it. This fashion story was photographed in the neighbourhood of San Berillo and the surrounding area, one of the oldest and largest red-light districts in Europe. Today, a different city lives and breathes in this forgotten area, just next to the city centre of Catania, Sicily. With a past marked by heavy prostitution, drug dealing, and attempts at regeneration, the area still maintains its identity today.
The name of this project comes from the Sicilian dialect. What are the motivations behind this choice and generally talking, where does the project’s idea come from?
This project has been photographed in the neighborhood of San Berillo and its surrounding area; one of the oldest and largest red-light districts in Europe. I had this idea for long time, to portray the people of San Berillo in a glamourous fashion way. Their stories, their strength and personality add something that you wouldn’t normally hear from Sicily. You always think of the God Father or the Mafia when you hear of Sicily. Instead, it can be as multicultural as any other places. Of course, Sicilian style.
When I finally decided to start this new project, I asked my stylist friend Fabio Merche, who works as Creative Director at Petrie Inventory Magazine if they would be interested in a story like this. They loved it! A few months later Fabio joined me in Sicily (I was there already to initiate the contact) and we shot what I believe is a very unique fashion story.
I am fascinated by old mythology, specially from the Ancient Greek, and Sicily has its fair share of myths. The Sicilian mythology of the Trinacria recalls the symbol of Medusa, a gorgon with the head of snakes, where upon one look would turn any human being into stone. In fact, “Taliami e te fazzu petra” in the Sicilian dialect means “One gaze and you’ll turn to stone” and the people of San Berillo resolute and striking enough to render you stagnant with one gaze.
How did you find and choose the people portrayed and how did you empathise with them?
I have a friend who was in contact with a non-profit organization called “Trame di Quartiere” that works in the neighbourhood. Thanks to them I met Franchina who works in the area. Franchina is also an incredible writer and wrote two novels, one called “Perché ho sposato San Berillo (Why I married San Berillo)”. She knows everyone in the neighbourhood. I explained the project to her and she introduced me to the others.
Before starting a new project, I always initiate a trusted and friendly relationship with my subjects, normally without a camera. It’s my way to bring respect to them. It wasn’t easy to convince them to pose for me but at the end we all had a lot of fun.
From your biography we understand that you have travelled around the world, have you ever wondered if a project like Taliami e Te Fazzu Petra could take shape also in other cities or eventually neighborhoods?
It’s a very good question because I did ask myself this. Of course there are many other open air red light districts like San Berillo in the world, but “Taliami e te fazzu petra” is a Sicilian story, the name states this exactly. What I am considering, is to use the idea behind it and apply it to a different place, using their own mythologies and sub-cultures.
What is the relationship between fashion photography and eroticism in these shots?
When I asked my stylist friend Fabio to be a part of this project, we established that we didn’t want to make a straight link with the reputation of the place. The fashion we used helped us to convey the idea of showing our subjects in the most glamourous and salacious way. The eroticism is chronicled from the neighbourhood.
And in particular what is eroticism for you?
It is a question that has been discussed extensively for millennium. I like to think of eroticism as a stimulus to spike our emotions.