Art & Photography

Images from Italy

Henerico Rossi captures the sun-drenched faces and places of his home country

2020 was the year of alterations, with many fleeing the cities in search for space, greenery and calm. Henerico Rossi was one of those, having abandoned his post in London (he’s lived abroad for 13 years) to return back to Italy. “Since then, it has been like looking at my home country for the first time,” he tells me. “What a stunning place on earth.”

Sometimes a little space for reflection is all you need to view the world with a different lens. This is exactly the case for Henerico, a photographer who’s released an ongoing series named Images from Italy, a tranquil and sun-drench project documenting the faces and places of those living across Sicily, Puglia, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Liguria and Friuli. After returning to the country, it was like a flash back in time as he began mingling with the local kids that “would spend their days at the beach until the sun sets,” just like he did. The project is still in the works and, enlivened by his new found inspiration, what keeps him going is “the idea of creating a body of work that can be timeless.”

There’s something so effortlessly nostalgic about Images from Italy, which, by the way, is an apt title for such a series. Doing what it says on the tin, so to speak, Henerico has angled his camera at the daily lives, moments and meetings of the local people around him. The style of which is saturated, rich and sensory; even the occasional monochrome piece evokes a feeling of warmth, as if we too are bathing under the rays of the Italian sun. It’s a skill that not all can achieve, but Henerico does it with ease. “Inspiration comes from everywhere,” he adds, “you just need to look at it. I love digging into my roots as much as I love exploring local communities. The energy of a place can also play an important role in my images. But these are all foreplay of a picture – what ultimately strikes is the emotions that are embedded with it.”

While out shooting, Henerico finds himself drawn towards people with a narrative. Rather than pinpointing an aesthetic or photographing someone for the way they look, he instead prefers to “speak the truth” and portray the encounters he has with his subjects – either friends, creatives he admires or those he meets on the off-chance during one of his trips. “I tend to prefer people who have a story to tell rather than people based on the way they look,” he explains. By working this way, Henerico strives to combat the often surface-deep aesthetic that’s typically displayed in fashion photography. “I am all about images that are able to transcend the mere aesthetic.”

There are a handful of tactics that Henerico adopts in order to achieve such emotive and honest imagery. The first is talking to people, approaching each subject with an open mind. There’s a black and white portrait that defines this , where a man gazes almost sternly into the lens with the hard working lines of his face exaggerated by the beaming sun. The photo was inspired by Henerico’s family roots after he travelled to Mount Etna in Sicily while working on a cover story for Primary Paper. “While driving around, I stumbled onto a cave where the stonecutters were carving the lava stone from the nearby volcano. I asked them if I could take their photograph; they replied to me and they kept doing their thing. I though of waiting and carried on by asking them questions about their craft. The conversation went on. We spoke about how it feels to be a creative soul and how every day isn’t the same. After that moment I knew it was time for me to get my camera out.”

The series presents the intuitive and quick thinking mindset of the photographer, who’s able to capture fleeting moments on the go – like two local boxers who were taking a break from set and sharing a plate of paste together. He also knows when to take a step back from the work and reassess which, at the beginning of his career, was a vital move in determining his future process, “I felt that all my photos looked pretty much the same as if there was no room for inventiveness,” he shares. “I thought that if I wanted to take a great portrait, I had to get close enough to my subject. Later on, I realised that only 50 per cent is true.” After learning this, Henerico snapped a vibrant coastal image of beach-goers joyfully soaking up the rays and salty water – which is perhaps pinnacle to the way in which he views the world and his practice. “The moment I was able to step away while still maintaining a good connection is when I understood something greater was possible,” he concludes. “So although some could say this is a landscape photography kind of picture, for me it is as simple as a portrait taken from afar; a portrait of a place.”