Paolo Pellegrin: Sevla

About This Project


Pier Paolo Pasolini died forty years ago, crushed beneath a car in Ostia. Think what it might mean for a man who was poet, writer and so much more to die, sacrificed, in a place called “Ostia” (Italian word for the holy bread given out during communion). Rome has no shortage of neighbourhoods with bold and unique names. “Behold the danse macabre: Malnome, Malpasso, Malafede, Malagrotta, Valle Oscura, Passoscuro, Fosso Sanguinara, Femminamorta, Pantano dell’Intossicata, Campo di Carne, Ponte del Diavolo, Cessati Spiriti, Fontana del Bandito, Quarto de l’Impiccati, Coccia di Morto, Valle della Morte, Colle delle Forche, Canale del Morto, Canale del Mortaccino (a more complex compositiin), Cavallo Morto, Lestra della Morte, Caronte, Piscina della Tomba, Pantano dell’Inferno” [1]. A women was killed in May in the Boccea neighbourhood, another such name, by a car with a Roma teenager at the wheel. This and other events became the focus of huge controversy, marking the difficult relationship of the city towards the Roma community. Pellegrin looks for the humanity which the eternal city seems to have lost. He finds it in a Roma family. He does not seek out the big city or the different strata that have formed over the centuries and millennia. It can be hard for Romans to tackle beauty, to take in the Colosseum and Fora, the piazzas and statues, the Renaissance and Baroque. In many ways, it is as though he, as a Roman, has still not processed his own city, which is, after all an impossible task. Pellegrin left Rome a long time ago; he has lived in France, America and England but he mostly travels. He does not enter the city boundaries and that prototype of a family is what is closest to his worldview. It is as if he has deleted his “Roman” aesthetic, his work instead focuses on the constantly changing world, the struggle for what is truly needed, social conflict and large migrations. And here is the key to his work: at first I was surprised by the “on the outside looking in” observation style, the fact he didn’t enter the city, limiting his Rome Commission to a Roma family. There has been tension between letting himself go or referring to an external history, between his personal vision and “commissioned work” (in this case the Rome Commission is a strange geographical case that offers maximum liberty). It is this kind of tension that often defines the border between photojournalism and auteurship, just as it defines literature and journalism. It is a delicate field, brimming with tension, interesting auteurs and so-called “one trick ponies” on both sides. With this new work, Pellegrin reinforces his identity and turns his decision into a strength: he brings his vision of the world into his home city, where he was born, and reinforces that this is what he sees and what he will always want to see. Its task is of a strong condivision with the protagonists of his photographs, it is the renunciation of the city for the family. A family with few superstructures, big, large, with a sense of respect for the time and seniority, different from the western disintegration, warm.


[1] Valerio Magrelli, Il viaggetto, L’Obliquo, Brescia 1991.

Curated by

Marco Delogu

MACRO, XIV edition