The radicalism of Piero Martinello’s portraits.

Piero Martinello, a 2015 Photo Folio Review winner, exemplifies the Festival d’Arles’ desire to promote new talent. He returns this year as one of the exhibiting photographers with a series of portraits of eccentrics, ravers, criminals, cloistered nuns and other “radical” personalities. This striking series of portraits can be seen at the former collège Mistral in Arles until the 25 September.


Unknown subject, chapter: évasion. With the kind permission of both the artist and Luz.


Radicalism is “that which pertains to the fundamental nature, to the primary principal, and relates to the very essence of something”. Piero Martinello, a 25-year-old Italian portrait photographer, used this definition from the Grande dizionario della lingua italiana as his starting point in assembling the series of porportraits that make up the Radicalia exhibition. Eccentrics, criminals, ravers: these are just some of the ‘extreme’ portraits the Festival d’Arles is offering you the chance to view at a brand new space opened especially for the event, the former collège Mistral, until the 25 September.


Piero Martinello, delighted winner of last year’s Photo Folio Review which is open exclusively to professional photographers and amateurs seeking increased exposure, has his place this year among the exhibitors. His work is featured as part of the “Les plateformes du visible” portion of the festival, which is dedicated to new approaches to documentary photography.


Piero Martinello travelled through Italy in search of men and women who, for personal reasons, have made radical life choices and adopted radical values. Organised in five different chapters, these tightly-framed black and white portraits depict life journeys on the very fringes of the conventional: urban eccentrics in “Déviation”, the holy and the devout in “Dévotion”, mafia clans in “Éversion”, cloistered nuns in “Contemplation”, and finally, ravers in “Evasion”.


The attractive unknown subject in the photo illustrating our article comes under this last category. A face that seems to emerge from the darkness of the night, eyes and head lowered, cigarette in the mouth: he belongs to the ‘ravers’ tribe, those night birds who participate in festivals, where they often attain a trance-like state to the sounds and rhythms of techno music. Here, Piero Martinello’s unknown subject, captured in the moment, seems to have escaped the very constraints of time and space, immersed as he is in the night-time world to which he belongs. This is his own personal radicalism. And it is embodied by a face, as in each of the artist’s photographs.


These portraits call to mind those by British photographer Lee Jeffries,which take as their subject the homeless of large cities and which are also in black and white and tightly framed.



Lee Jeffries – Skid Row IV


Lee Jeffries – Skid Row


Documentary portraiture constitutes a specific genre of photography in which the subject simply forms and suggests itself as the photographer looks on. In Martinello and Jeffries’ work, the artist is giving a voice to an otherwise anonymous person. Above and beyond the personal history of the individual depicted, the faces photographed by the auteur present us with a vision of a whole aspect of society in its entirety. A cigarette hanging from a lip together with a pair of lowered eyes recount a tale of a never-ending night. Plaits, beards, shouting mouths and wrinkled eyelids also form part of the “Radicalia” exhibition. And thanks to Martinello’s photographic style, each and every one has its own intriguing story to tell you.


See the Piero Martinello “Radicalia” exhibition from 4 July to 25 September at the former collège Mistral in Arles. Next week, discover what the Photos Folio Review experience is like through the eyes of 2016 YellowKorner contest winner Sonia Compagnon.


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