"Life and Death at the Castle" through a photographic lens, Pino Mongiello
The castles that we see in story books look like they are made of marzipan and have pastel colours. In some of the towers reaching towards the sky, you can often see a maiden with blue eyes and golden hair. All the castles have a hidden secret; without it they would lose their aura of myth and legend.
It is from a young age that l carry these beliefs: my imaginations are fired reading tales of fantasy figures and listening to stories of adventure, spells and magic. Italy is rich in castles, from mountains to seas, from countrysides to lakes, to cities. Sometimes the castles look like fortresses, more suitable for war than for a royal life; other times they are hunting lodges or palaces where domestic life flourishes and where artists, philosophers, writers and musicians are hosted. Often a lady is the central figure of castle life; around her legends grow and versions of unthinkable rumours multiply.
It is likely due to this background that my visits to a castle are always accompanied by curiosity and a sense of mystery. I rarely remember stories with a happy ending but carry with me tales of intrigues, betrayal, and tragedies that end with a murder or a suicide.
For example, the story of Paolo and Francesca, which is narrated by Dante in the fifth canto of Inferno, has traditionally found its tragic ending set in the Malatesta’s castle of Gradara, even though the place of the murder is not mentioned in the Divine Comedy.
The lake holds many dark secrets.
A less known tale associated with the castle is that of the death of girl drowned in the lake during a stormy night at Isola del Garda. The reasons and place of her death remain unclear but tradition tells of a doomed love story, born within the walls of the castle many centuries ago, which ended in tragedy. The birds that fly among the top of the trees continue telling her tragic tale even today with their haunting song.
Murders carry with them darkness and sinister lights. How can we give life back to whoever has been buried under earth for a long time, perhaps without even a tombstone or a flower to make memories less painful? Photographic research aims at least at recovering this memory through an instrument that collects and filters lights to transform them into images, and to rewrite stories in so doing. It is said that a camera objectively relates events. But here is the challenge: while a camera is a mechanical instrument that answers orders, human mind is open to the variability of inspiration and thought. This is why the intuitive tension of a photographer can get as far as to make a dream visible, to show what you cannot touch, to represent and follow a presence, which is light, evanescent, but real, not a ghost. The camera is then able to document that visual flash, surprising itself to be able to do it.
The ghost of the castle is the last inhabitant left within the walls, and it lives and appears coming suddenly out of the shadow. It is elusive but suggestive in its unstoppable dancing. It will wander for eternity, shadow among shadows, or until a quick snapshot captures it forever.
Salò, april 24, 2020 - Pino Mongiello