“I’m more interested in a photography that is unfinished – a photography that is suggestive and can trigger a conversation or dialogue. There are pictures that are closed, finished, to which there is no way in.”
Paolo Pellegrin’s visual work is shaped by his initial studies in architecture at Sapienza Università, Rome, a city where he was to continue with photography courses. Since those early explorative years in Italy, Pellegrin’s drive took him to Paris and via a membership of Magnum Photos he became contracted as freelance photographer to Newsweek for a decade from the start of the millennium.
His work prioritises capturing subjects and scenes of global disasters and exposing temporal and political fallacies. Most remarkable is his globally recognisable coverage of the recent Médecins Sans Frontières sea mission on the Bourbon Argos aiming to intercept vessels packed with migrants travelling from Libya to Europe. His journey through the lens relates how they rescued many of these migrants at sea (estimated at near 700), safely transporting them to Reggio Calabria, Italy. Entitled ‘Desperate Crossings’ this series is characterised by a visual rhetoric of monochrome stills amalgamated into meta-visual frames within frames
The merit of his portfolio is heavily weighted towards his most recent commissions, with shots of refugees in Lesbos, Greece powerful not only in the confused, emotive subject matter, but in his skilful capturing of desperation, multi-layering of peoples, strengths, movements in an unsettlingly nostalgic monochrome filter.
Among the many authored books and awards that no doubt populate Pellegrin’s shelves, Double Blind (Trolley, 2007) is MdM’s choice for those new to the photojournals of this man, in this instance covering the 2006 War in Lebanon. To get a taster of the images you’ll encounter, have a watch of this. Featuring his earliest successes finding angles of stillness and chaos within the same real-time situation, Double Blind suggests the inability of the photographer to fully apprehend his creative experience and its products. It is, perhaps, the best instance of the ‘unfinished’ work Pellegrin so beautifully articulates.
Image Credit: Paolo Pellegrin, reproduced with permission from Magnum Photos. Lebanon, Beirut. August 2006. Moments after an Israeli air strike destroyed several buildings in Dahia.