Sport in contemporary photography. A talk with the minds and eyes behind Pellicola Mag

Pellicola Magazine is an independent online magazine, a fascinating project driven by the desire to share, nurture and analyze the contemporary photographic universe.

Pellicola is a constant visual flow, it’s a refined gallery formed by the imagination of many current photographers. It’s an active archive of inspiring thoughts, words and, above all, images.

We contacted Simone and Greta, the minds and eyes behind Pellicola. We talked with them about the sports theme, which inevitably crosses their research. Enjoy the reading.

How was the Pellicola Mag project born?

Pellicola, as it’s known today, was born in 2015, but it’s a project conceived earlier as a Facebook page abandoned due to lack of time. In 2015 Simone Corrò took over the project, from that moment Pellicola started all over again by changing its graphics and moving mainly to Instagram, where intriguing photographs and images where inititally reposted.

In 2017 we opened the website and started to further deepen this attention to images through a more direct approach with photographers, publishing more exclusive content such as articles, interviews and stories made by the artists. The core idea of ​​the magazine has always been the desire to give voice to the works of photographers from all over the world regardless of their notoriety, ranging from emerging personalities to more well-known ones. We want to investigate and outline the various directions of the contemporary photographic panorama.

What are the artistic principles and evaluations behind your content selection?

One thing we learned with our experience in the magazine is the importance of analyzing the photographs beyond their surface, of fully understanding their origin and the reason for their existence, especially in a historical context in which, thanks to the democratization of media, we are all simultaneously consumers and creators of images at an unsustainable pace. It becomes increasingly necessary to distinguish serious in-depth works from exclusively aesthetic products, and in this sense we are increasingly looking for personalities moved by a real intention: people whose photographic projects are the result of an urgency that opens up new insights into the knowable world.

Our goal is to transform the experience of the people who follow our project into something that goes beyond the aesthetic exclusivity of the images and that claims the right space for their content. Then, obviously, what emerges from our selection is at the same time a personal taste which, like an implicit thread, binds all the publications together.

How does sport fit into your photographic universe and how does it fit, in your opinion, into the entire world of contemporary photography?

Unfortunately, sport has never found much space in Pellicola’s research, we have had very few opportunities to publish artists with projects related to this world. We think that, in general, the perception of sports photography is still today linked to the main communication channels, to the visual standards that still influence the journalistic field. The strength of your project, Athleta, lies precisely in the desire to undermine this trend, in showing new facets of this photographic genre and narrating sport from a freer and more independent point of view.

‘Rise of the Mongolians’ by Catherine Hyland makes us discover a fascinating territory which, despite its relative size, is capable of creating sumo demigods. What inspired you about this reportage?

Surely the relationship between the subjects and their environment is a very strong and interesting aspect in Catherine’s work. The photographs could have been taken in other contexts, such as in indoor gyms or during official athletes’ competitions, but the rural landscape of Teriji National Park becomes the main visual expedient to develop the project and the answer to her own research. It’s right in landscape that resides the answer: in the living conditions of its inhabitants who transport and melt the ice of the rivers in order to drink, who split the wood to keep warm, who travel kilometers on horseback. Habits that become synonymous with strength and endurance. Catherine’s photographs show this strong contrast between the desolation of the territory and the strength of the sumo fighters, two components that ultimately turn out to be one, marked by a profound causal link: being one consequence of the other.

A common thread seems evident between Catherine Hyland’s work and Joseph Fox’s ‘Against the Elements’. Icelandic football like Mongolian sumo: communities that unexpectedly carve out a prominent space in the sports scene. What struck you about Fox’s work?

Of course, in this sense the two projects carry on the same discourse and deepen this curious relationship between identity and the great echo obtained with sports competitions. What is particularly striking in ‘Against the Elements’ is the combination between football and Icelandic landscapes: a combination that creates an almost surreal atmosphere precisely because it is far from the common imagination that this universal sport has built over time. The causal relationship that characterizes ‘Rise of the Mongolians’ here is replaced by a strong enigmatic component, a sense of suspension that continues throughout the series.

‘Goshogaoka Girls Basketball Team’ shows a game that is at the same time ‘in absence’, without the ball, and ‘in presence’, characterized by strong expressiveness and gestures. What value does the sports portrait assume in Sharon Lockhart pictures?

As you say, the absence in Sharon’s work leaves room for another type of presence, the bodily, performative, expressive one. The choice not to represent the ball throughout the series allows to approach basketball with a point of view that goes beyond the game itself and focuses on all those more subtle aspects that are always part of this sport: aspects that are usually less visually investigated. Sharon’s portraits are close to the emotions of the players, they are filled with tension and leave us waiting. The same waiting that precedes every movement, every decisive moment for the athletes. But the photos are also filled with a kind of sacredness: it’s precisely this waiting, which immortalize the subjects almost like sculptural groups, that become a celebration of the sporting world beyond victories and great moments. A celebration of the humility of every look, of every breath held, of every tense muscle.


Text by Gianmarco Pacione

Pellicola Magazine
IG @pellicolamag

Photo by Catherine Hyland
IG @cathyland1

Photo by Joseph Fox
IG @josephfoxphoto

Photo by Sharon Lockhart