“There’s an intricate beauty in the mundane that often goes unnoticed. Everyday scenes, moments, and details contain hidden layers waiting to be captured.” – Francesco Gioia
“57,” the debut monograph from London-based photographer Francesco Gioia, is a poetic and visual tribute to the intricate tapestry of everyday life.
The Florence-born photographer has been a favorite of The Independent Photographer’s editorial team since September 2020, when his striking image was selected as third prize winner of our Street Photography Award by Magnum Photographer Richard Kalvar.
The same year, he went on to claim first prize in our 2020 Open Call Award, and in 2o21 was twice selected as a finalist – for our Color Award by Brandei Estes, (Head of Photographs at Sotheby’s London) and the Open Call Award, judged by FOAM Magazine Editor in Chief, Elisa Medde. Most recently, he won 3rd prize in our 2022 Street Award, judged by Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden.
While Gioia had considered publishing a book for some time, he reflects, “the right occasion never presented itself”.. That was until he was approached by Jonathan Zaoui, the founder of publisher Parallel Editions, who proposed the book, providing Gioia with the freedom to express and explore as he wished.
For Gioia, his practice is not about focusing on specific narratives or messages. Instead, he aims to “provide a canvas for individual interpretation”. Photography is subjective. Each image carries the subjectivity of the photographer and the individual who is viewing it, allowing one moment to be captured and interpreted in myriad ways.
“I like the idea that people can find their own stories in the photographs and feel a connection that goes beyond my intentions and becomes something deeply personal for them. “
This project encapsulates Gioia’s practice thus far. Similar to many great photographers before him, he is fascinated by the intricacies of everyday life, uncovering “a vast tapestry of visual possibilities” within its apparent mundane simplicity.
With acumen and artistry, Gioia captures the minute details of quotidian life on the city streets — fleeting moments that, to most, pass unnoticed but, seen through his eyes, evoke a powerful sense of intrigue. He flirts with abstraction, utilizing a variety of techniques such as creative framing, close-ups, or long exposures, to convey the dynamism of the scene. Occasionally, he shoots through windows, their surfaces partially obscured by reflections, light, or moisture, reminiscent of greats like Saul Leiter and Ernst Haas.
Gioia’s timing and eye for composition, texture, and color are truly impressive. Each frame is captivating, a fitting tribute to photography’s ability to transform everyday scenes into beautiful compositions, but become even more powerful when viewed collectively, creating a sum greater than their already compelling parts.
These are not mere depictions of everyday life (moments of humor or beauty) rather, they are subjective representations of how he perceives the world: reflections of his own identity.
“It is like a portrait of myself, reflecting my contradictory, elusive sum of different realities, where all the possibilities of my being, the layers, come through.”
Gioia is based in London, and regularly visits Paris, while many of the images in the book were captured in New York. Such cities are filled with excitement and opportunity, yet also permeated with melancholy and loneliness. He reflects on this, particularly in relation to New York, a city where he states he ‘experienced both his lowest and highest moments for various reasons, but the mixed emotions I felt while in its bustling streets still haunt me in a good way.’
“I felt an intangible emptiness and, at the same time, a formless delirium, a congestion of an intersection of contradictory forces. There are people who, exhausted in the streets of New York, decay under the choking grip of modern life. And they will die beneath the lamp of an office. New York drags you and bewitches you in its serpentine and incessant rhythm.”
As with life, the images in 57 are not fixed in one particular meaning. They convey a myriad of stories, each of which will take on a different meaning to each viewer. And, for the author at least, they engender a profound desire to experience what life has to offer: to go outside. to photograph. to dream.
“Photography increasingly makes me fall in love with life, its fabulous peculiarities and its absurd symbols. Instead of anchoring me, time increasingly causes me to overflow to the other side. It unfastens me from my certainties and urges me to explore, experiment, and be curious.”