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The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars
Glauco Canalis

"The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars" is an ode to the youth growing in difficult contexts deprived of opportunities and positive role models. This long-term documentary project explores youth culture in Napoli through the traditional bonfire celebration known as Cippo di Sant'Antonio. Stemming from a pagan tradition where peasants constructed fires with domestic waste to celebrate the end of winter and seek protection for the new year ahead, the tradition has taken a peculiar turn in the city of Napoli.

The current iteration of the ritual has evolved in a playful game seeing groups of children aged 6 to 16 taking the streets in balaclavas, stealing Christmas trees, engaging in battles with gangs from rival districts and hiding and guarding the loot in secret areas within their territories until the day of the fire. This game, drenched in violence and mischief, naively conceals the territorial attitude and alphabet of systemic criminality often present in Southern-Italy.

The fire is seen as a door and threshold that the youths strives to cross through. And the game encompasses different dimensions where tropes of friendship, trust, hierarchy, territory, masculinity, law and outlaw are intertwined.

A rite of passage in which the frantic emotional instability typical of the coming of age reaches its climax and burn with the fire sacrificing itself to the civilization. The savagery dominating the creation and lighting up of the fire is followed by a quiet tenderness. The thrilling spirits of the adulthood caged in these young bodies are finally freed up and exhausted in the moment the fire finally burning., killing the child and becoming adults at last.

The series also responds to a dominant colonial narrative of Napoli that foreigner and local photographers have built on stereotypes with bold and parodical subjects living the “Dolce far Niente” in seeking to please a toxic social media mechanism.

By mixing formats and color with black and white to escape a mannerist language, I have developed this diary-like storytelling with a raw and intimate approach, allowing beauty and grit to coexist.
These photographs aim to convey the naivety and beauty of this age whilst providing new ways to visually examine the subject of youth and identity; highlighting the issues affecting the south of Italy and bridging this youth to a broader Mediterranean culture and population.

Inspired by the Mediterranean landscapes of his upbringing, Glauco’s work plays with notions of space and identity, keeping the study of youth as a central theme. Through a relentless quest to document his surroundings and the people inhabiting these culturally charged places, the output of his photographic research offers a narration built on the intersection of character and geographical circumstances. His work aims to be an atemporal commentary on the current human condition, driven by each and every element present in the image. Attitude, fashion, architecture and nature are all fundamental threads in the pattern that makes up Glauco’s body of work and its ubiquitous political undertone. Since he consciously embraced photography as a tool for self-expression and inquiry, his work has delved into the multifaceted essence of the Mediterranean culture and its global intersections. From examining the effects of US militarization in Sicily with Sicily 49, to capturing the essence of Catania’s ‘Petit Dakar’ with San Berillo: Tales from a Modern Babel, his work has consistently challenged the narrative promoted by mainstream media and history books. Ideas of collective reframing and decolonizing the narrative have held space in his visual vocabulary before becoming popular buzzwords. Thanks to the versatile essence of his research, Glauco’s work is intersectional and proposes a timeless snapshot of reality in its purest form. For this reason, the intricacy of criminality, religion and the rawness of their rituals are a source of interest and a trigger for inspiration. At the same time, they provide new ways to examine the subject of youth in relation to a specific site–frequently bringing the issues affecting the South of Italy to the surface. The specificity of the light recurrent in his images provides a sort of nostalgic feeling–saudade, if you will– typical of the decadent coastal towns overlooking the Mediterranean sea. This documentary approach to photography has influenced and informed his commercial work, stamping a subtle–yet instantly recognizable–watermark across all of his material.


Naomi Accardi - Writer

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