A path through the secret rooms of fantasy and enchantments, visions and ironic spells. That is The Elsewhere Among Us, by Fiorenzo Niccoli, fashion photographer and all around artist, from a concept of Piero Tosi, the Oscar winner and sublime costume designer of Visconti, Zeffirelli, Fellini and Bolognini. This photographic book has a complex genesis, and is the syncretic son of a Nativity scene and the secret will of a circus.
Everything started when the Carla Fendi Foundation asked to create a Nativity scene on panels arranged in the Chiesa degli Artisti in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo. “I wanted Danilo to have his own Christmas”, Piero said one day. He wanted “to pay tribute to the memory of Danilo Donati, his colleague, Academy Award winning costume designer and childhood friend”, says Niccoli.
The Nativity experience may be over but the end does not destroy this worthwhile thrill. The game must go on. You start with the idea. The energies and devotions of Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia students that Caterina D’Amico made fully available, are essential. You go back and rummage in dusty chest drawers of celebrated theatrical tailors. Like a game of disguise between kitsch and humor, astonishment and dreams grow; thus the shepherds chant fades away in a comic marching circus.
The selected approved costumes by Tosi are those from the tv movie Clowns by Fellini, created by Donati. Those neglected costumes from great italian cinema get a new chance to live a second life and simulate new vibes. “Three generous friends, Susanna Guida, Giosetta Fioroni and Mirella Haggiag gave us the support for the book”, explains Fiorenzo.
The creative, in part controversial and rebellious gesture that this book provokes has nothing to do with nostalgia, an antiquated return. To use Tosi’s words ”brings back to life” concedes the passing of time without giving in to its cancellation. Where this “second time” initiates in the present time, functions and meanings that did not exist in the “then”.
Before Niccoli’s lens parades a heterogeneous world of models, friends, characters and professional actors. On set, the skillfull hands of the make up artist Mariano Sabatelli turns Alvia Reale, Lucia Poli and Milena Vukotic into unworldly presences. By paradox, costume designers are posed, Maurizio Mellenotti from a mephistophelean frown and Sandra Cardini, a lingering creature of a circus without a public.
“All the pictures of this book have been taken in the digital system but actually, digital technology and I are opposites. All this technique is not me. It does not belong to me. All you see in the book is how it has been grabbed by the camera, almost without photoshop adjustments or other deviousness. My pictures are all fondly made by the gut and not by technology. The quality, the art lies in those who create it, not in the instruments” ends Niccoli. “To be honest, I agree with the French essayist and semiologist Roland Barthes. “Tout d’un coup il m’est devenu indifferent de ne pas être moderne”.
L’altrove tra noi di Fiorenzo Niccoli da un’idea di Pietro Tosi
Quodlibet edizioni – Euro 25