Going underground to see the sky may sound counterintuitive. And yet this is exactly what you have to do to see the photographs taken by talented Giacomo Giovanni Stecca, on display in the underground space of Galleria Civica Cavour, Padova. I had the fortune of being given a ‘private tour’ of the show by the photographer himself, who talks about his work with evident and contagious enthusiasm.
The concept behind ‘Oltre l’Infinito‘ (Beyond Infinity) is simple: 365 snapshots of 365 corners of the sky, taken over the course of 365 days. 365 portions of infinity. The yearlong project is a tribute to Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri, whose work ‘Infinito’ celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014. Aside from its commemorative intent, the exhibition is also an investigation of what happens when a determined & visionary photographer decides raise his lens to the sky. Moving away from his earth-focused photographs, Stecca describes ‘Oltre l’Ininito’ as the ‘most conceptual’ of his enterprises. The focal point of these works is not so much the subject matter, but the photographer himself, whose choice determines what is captured, and how.
The result is a fresh, intriguing display. First of all, in the physical arrangement of the works. Arranged in groups of four (by the will of curator Alessia Girardi), they give rise to unexpected combinations, arising independently of Stecca’s original intentions. A personal favourite was the series in the picture below, which is representative of the sheer variety of the photographs: lead-coloured skies, bright pink sunsets (though not that many of them), plays of chiaroscuro, monochrome expanses.
‘Oltre l’Infinito’ is also fascinating for its highly personal character. The format ‘take an X every day for a year’ (where X can be a selfie, a one-second video, or the photo a moment of the life of an object) is a popular one. However, Stecca’s idea to apply it to the sky and its variations had not been attempted before, which gives the exhibition its original flavour. In addition, in a project like this, spanning across a whole year, it is easy to imagine an anecdote hiding behind each photograph. I had the pleasure to hear many of them from Stecca himself. Like that picture of the moon he’s particularly proud of, as he managed to take it with a firm hand, in spite of the few beers had beforehand. Or like that time in Sardinia when he saw a child with a balloon, and (he admits) cynically awaited to see it fly away, only to be able to zoom in and capture it, under the puzzled eyes of both the child and her father. And the list could go on.
At the end of our ‘guided tour’, Stecca showed me the merchandising material himself and Girardi have prepared to complement the exhibition, spanning from pencils to postcards, to soap bubbles (a bottle of which he gave me as a gift!). More than anything, the exhibition proves that there are young enterprising artists, not afraid to dream big and look at the sky, but demonstrating the tenacity and down-to-earthiness necessary to realise their dreams. Stecca completed his education between Padua and Milan, maturing a creative, insightful way to look at the world. Showcasing his work in one of Padova’s most prestigious gallery spaces is undoubtedly a major achievement. But whatever the next steps in his career will be, I wish him to maintain the same child-like lightheartedness which prompted him to take an interest in the sky – as indeed we all did as children, when we saw rabbits, dolphins and dragons in the clouds.