by Steve Bisson

Where are you from? Could you describe the place where you grow up?

Rocco Venezia (RV): I grow up in a small village near Matera in South Italy where I lived till I was fourteen. This place is that kind of place where nothing happens and life goes on as always has been; religious rituals and seasonal activity linked to the country side are imposing the pace of life to its inhabitants; the air is clean and the amount of food offered measure the love people feeling for you.

Can you briefly introduce how you get into photography?

RV: In 2011 I have attend a “photojournalism” course organised by a photo agency in Milan. I then started their internship program and for 4 months I worked as news photographer. I started to hate all that shortly after, I felt as a device for creating contents where image were treat as a superficial product, devoid of any kind of depth. I was 22 and I stopped to take pictures for a full year disillusioned by the medium. After this time several external factors made me decide to start a Ba in documentary photography.

About your education, where did you study? How those studies affect you work? Any particular reference of professor and programme that affect your own vision on photography?

I studied in Newport at the University of South Wales. Before starting the course I had in mind to become a photojournalist because I was thinking that was the only “true” way to do photography, and of course I was wrong. The course in Newport had a good balance between theory and practice, it made me discover new approaches to photography and made me re-discover the passion for reading and researching on a deeper level. Tutors rather than impose their vision have guided us supporting and challenging our ideas. Amongst the things I have learned I will pointing out 2 that for my practice became the most significant: the importance of researching outside of photography and the potential of the photobook format almost as a new language, things quite obvious now but 3 years ago, when I was just 23, they arrived as a kind of revelation for me.

© Rocco Venezia from the series 'Nekyia'

© Rocco Venezia from the series 'Nekyia'

© Rocco Venezia from the series 'Nekyia'

Now what about your personal research. How would you describe it?

RV: I do like mythology and literature who with history are my main source of ideas for projects, like is the case in my last work 'Nekyia'. I get interested in old stories that can have a relevance in contemporary scenarios, usually main themes of my works are linked with real geographical areas which I then investigate. Once I have an idea of project, my working methods is composed by two approaches, one is more structural and precise, the other is more spontaneous and almost visceral: with the former I try to read as much as I can around the main topics, I take notes which then become ideas for pictures; the second approach is more related to the field and the actual act of photographing and travelling around the actual place.

© Rocco Venezia from the series 'Nekyia'

© Rocco Venezia from the series 'Nekyia'

© Rocco Venezia from the series 'Nekyia'

In May 2017 Nekyia became a book published by Witty Kiwi. Can you tell us about this project?

RV: The idea came when a Greek friend of mine told me of her camping along a river in the previous summer, soon as she pronounced the name of the river I had like an epiphany. The river in question is the Acheron, that nowadays rises and flows in Epirus a region in northwestern Greece. It has been used in classical poems such as Odyssey, Aeneid and Divine Comedy's Inferno as the first boundary between this world and the afterlife.

The main characters in these poems had to descent at some point into the underworld to acquire knowledge after facing various quests or dialogue with the spectres, this made them stronger, enabled them to understand the past and made ready to face the future.

Aware of the difficult economic and political situation in which modern Greece is, it seemed challenging for me to try and create a body of work that uses allergies and metaphors to give a personal view to the current Greek situation. Using the river of “death” as metaphorical guide, I have been travelling Greece trying to capture in the everyday situations, allusions to rituals, characters and places depicted by these myths.

Since I have been always fascinated by literature and mythology the three epic poems were the first level of influence for my work but after coming back from my first trip while researching for my dissertation I came across the term NEKYIA a very interesting concept that become not only title of the project but also allows a more deep reading for my practice.

The term Nekyia from ancient Greek Νέκυια, from νέκυς / Nukus, 'the death', it is a word used for indicate a type of divination which served those who performed a ritual to recall their deceased’s ghosts and then questioned them about the future. Nekyia is also a concept been used in the early 20th century by the psychiatrist Carl Jung as part of his Analytical Psychology where he define the Nekyia as the inner journey into the unconscious a necessary process for achieve self individuation and healing, this is also what I think I have achieved after my trips in modern Greece.

Images of the book 'Nekyia' by Rocco Venezia

Can you tell us about the Residency Programme Melligoi?

While travelling the length of Greece, in a small village of 200 souls near the city of Ioannina I have luckily crossed path with Periklis Pappas a pharmacologist University professor with strong passion for arts. With him we decided to create a summer residency program, where the main aim of the residency is to create a visual representation of the area. We launched our first free open call in May 2017, the winner of the first edition has been Antonina Gugala, she has been awarded of the sum of 500€ and she spent 20 days in the area developing a body of work that investigate the contemporary landscape of Greece from a very personal prospective. We are currently working on a new edition for 2018 and early next year more info will be added on our page here.

Antonina Gugala presents her work and researches during her stay at Photo Meliggoi

You are also involved with PHmuseum? Can you tell us a bit of this online editorial platform? 

RV: PHmuseum is the first online museum dedicated to photography, since few years is a platform aimed to create active debated about any form of documentary photography and connect professionals within the industry. Since March I have started to collaborate with them as assistant curator, my main duties are assisting guest curators in creating our online exhibitions and I am part of the production team for the yearly grants (here you can check the winners of the first Women Photographers Grant. I feel quite lucky to work already within the photography world, it is challenging, creative and I have the opportunity to discover new and emerging works daily.

Are you working on any new photographic project? 

RV. Since few months I am researching and working on a new idea, but at this stage I can say only that will be a body of work that will be inspired by some historical events succeeded during the 19th Century Italian unifications.


Rocco Venezia
urbanautica Italy