alessio delfino

Tarots – Allegretti Contemporanea

Tarots by Alessio Delfino. Notes for an initiatory photography

There is synchronicity between our state of mind and the figure of the Tarot that appears and, beyond words, puts us in a total listening that touches the body, passes through the belly, the heart, the head becoming then thought and action.

Carl Gustav Jung

In his recent book dedicated to the Tarot Alejandro Jodorowsky condenses 40 years of studies on the Tarot of Marseilles, revised and modified by himself, which led him to found his own school of public reading of cards thanks to which he plans a “social therapy”. The symbolism, the initiatory language, the synchronicity, the symbolic-psychological interpretation and the practical work that takes place in his crowded seminars have spread to the psychologist disciples around the world. It is a form of modern exoterism bordering on psociterapia and psychogenealogy. Even if the origin of these cards sinks with the myth in the mists of time, they unquestionably represent an important reservoir of initiatory meanings because linked to the great questions that have always persecuted man: who am I, where I come from, What good is my existence? One version traces the origin of the Tarot to ancient Egypt of the God Thot, creator of writing (according to ancient Greek sources) and of every science, including magic. Some sources speak of the Tarot as a book, which contained hermetic knowledge and was lost. The cards are the traces and like every track or fragment, they stimulate and require a continuous proliferation of interpretations that make them immortal and always contemporary with respect to the historical periods that alternate.

It is therefore not important to know the truth of the Tarot, more important is to approach them with the correct mental predisposition. A predisposition that becomes photography in the case of Alessio Delfino who decides to interpret in a personal way the 22 Major Arcana, starting himself a journey of reading and discovery of the deep meaning of the Tarot. As a mirror they are also able to reflect in part the personality of their interpreter. But it is the power of the symbol, the strength of the archetype, the suggestions of the images and the symbolism of the colors, which make the Tarot an excellent test for those who want to try their hand at the richness of the images. The Mantenga Tarot are famous, but even today artists and graphic designers, cartoonists and photographers are appealing to archetypal figures, which Jung already appreciated as many viaticums of an inner search, Per Jung, come per Jodorowsky, Tarot cards appear as hermetic figures but can become a shared language thanks to their symbolic and iconic nature. This aspect fascinates the photography of Delfino, who chooses to stage, in a literal sense, his Tarots enhancing the monumental aspect. Etymologically, the monument represents a “warning”, an exhortation, an invitation to understand and memorize a message that is concretized in a statue, in a sculpture that in the public space of the square is located at its natural seat.

In this case it is photography that wants to achieve the strength of the monument, the ability to urge to a research that the artist together with the women he photographs is doing, thanks to a relational process whereby it is the model who chooses the character of the card she wants to play. A detail not irrelevant to obtain a final result that has the taste of a timeless image, statuesque but also vital, mysterious yet vivid. The Major Arcana of the Marseillaise Tarot deck is perhaps the highest expression achieved in the art of Tarot depiction. This interpretation was commissioned in the first half of the 15th century by Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan. The gigantic print of the photo, thanks also to the very high quality with which the details are taken, make you find yourself in front of a “paper” that has the taste of a tableau vivant. Stature is not an exercise in style for Delfino but represents a declaration of subjection of the human being to destiny and the masculine to the feminine. The question of the eternal female emerges in the series and outlines a female universe out of time and immersed in a world of symbols, that of cards that were used as divinatories in Europe only from the use that the Spanish Gypsies learned from the Arabs during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. The exaltation of the fluid beauty and the artistic nude does not prevent Delfino from reaching conceptual results, the final result of which is a search around the relationship that we have modern with the “myth” of knowledge.

In a post-rationalist era like the one in which we find ourselves (in which the economy depends more and more on the psychology of the masses as well as the equally irrational boundless greed of a few powerful and where the society of entertainment has taken on paroxysmal tones) this work of Alessio Delfino reminds us that the Tarot are inextricably linked to Hermeticism, Kabbalah and esotericism in general and have their roots in the origins of our culture, which are mythological and symbolic, even before rational and scientific. Tarot cards are one of the most popular symbols, also thanks to the fact that each major Arcane is a complete image, of this esoteric relationship with the understanding of the authentic and the origin. Also in the Tarots, Delfino develops his own relational photography, fed by the relationship between the artist and the muse, which sees women presenting themselves to the photographer with the clear intention of interpreting the paper of their choice. Delfino speaks, knows, listens to the deep aspirations of his women, then works on it, creating for them the environment that best suits. The Empress is the engine of this process, the first card made.

Just as the world is “representation”, the life and destiny of men is also subject to the power of the symbolic. Photography is therefore called, beyond any objective reference, to recreate atmospheres Beyond an operational and content originality, Delfino’s theoretical and stylistic reference points can trace us in “models” such as Erwin Olaf or Helmut Newton, via David Lachapelle. If the first Delfino admires vintage and elegant, evocative and mysterious atmospheres, the second appreciates the use of models with a post-feminist beauty, more aware and aggressive, decisionist, managerial, even sadistic. Of the last mentioned master Delfino instead takes a certain taste for the game, for the winking (in him just mentioned) and for a baroque taste that, if in lachapelle knows the well-known ultrapop excesses and mannerists, in Delfino remains subdued not to break the balance imposed by the seraphic afflato of the cards of destiny. Their “tightness”, offered also by the compositional rigor, bursts from a post-modern symbiosis in which photography exploits every possibility to create a space in which the senses and symbols can hover with dramatic lightness, without losing the depth of an original feeling and without plunging into the obsolete splendors of rhetoric.

As Roland Barthes points out in his capital book, for the viewer it is as if the public had to “read in photography the myths of the photographer, fraternizing with them, without believing too much”. Delfino’s photography produces exactly such an effect of non-violent fascination, of playful seduction, of serious hilarity giving the image the possibility of being read on several levels, stratifying the sense and announcing a photograph capable of combining glamour and suspense. As if beauty were only the mask of a deeper truth. Delfino creates his sets in a maniacal way, studying all the details and making up the characters for hours in order to make them statuary, softening the eroticism of the scene and enhancing the personality of the protagonist of the card. The vintage taste allows him to give an idea of “timeless” image, moved into a past that can be remote but also recent or eternally present. This “timeless” rigour is reflected in the character’s porcelain skin, which is thus covered with a mask that, like that of ancient Greek theatre, allows access to the figure’s symbolism.

The use of photoshop in post production is banned. Use only the print preparation functions, which are also done analog. Photoretouching would be the negation of a work that loves detail, the minute imperfection of the skin, the hidden wrinkle that gives real substance to the image. A fold, a small ravine or depression, made almost imperceptible under the makeup, become stories for those who can nourish a certain fetishism of detail. The final photograph is only the last step of a long journey of the imagination. Improvisation and photo-retouching are two extraneous elements to the work of Delfino, who likes to approach the ideal image step by step. “I stop when the energy comes out, which I ask the image because I have the composition in mind before shooting. While shooting I see the work in progression, the images come out on the screen and I screen them with a quick look. I wait for the image that has magic, after which the others do not exist”.

Nicola Davide Angerame