gianluca tamorri – the hornet’s nest

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Gianluca Tamorri

The Hornet’s Nest

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San Luca, a remote hill top town in southern Italy, is the ancestral home and principal headquarters of a criminal organization that has emerged as the country’s most powerful and dangerous mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta.’ San Luca was an unfortunate city even before the mafia took over; a succession of tragedies scar its history. In December 1972, a flood destroyed the beautiful scenery of San Luca, tearing apart the upper section of the city, famous for being a “hornet’s nest.” Though the name originally came from the shape of the streets and buildings in the neighborhood, it is now sometimes used as a hideout for Ndrangheta fugitives.

This project was born from an encounter with Mrs. Rosy Canale, the chair of the Movement of Women of San Luca, a group engaged in the development and awareness of the village. I spent a week in San Luca, hosted by one of the families working in the neighborhood, trying to show the cultural isolation of the community. My interest is to raise awareness about a little known part of Italy that is often connected only to news reports about mafia without real understanding of social and cultural dynamics. This work is ongoing.



Gianluca Tamorri was born in 1971 in Rome, Italy, and currently lives in Paris. He holds degrees in political science from the University of Rome “La Sapienza,” and the Rome School of Photography. Tamorri assisted various photographers in Italy between Rome and Milan, and moved to Paris in 2005 to work with the artist Michael James O’Brien, known for his collaboration with Matthew Barney in the Cremaster series 1,2,4,5. 
Concurrently, he has worked on his own personal projects in still-life, portraiture and street photography.


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18 Responses to “gianluca tamorri – the hornet’s nest”

  • Gianluca,

    congratulations to being published. The places look very abandoned and the pictures make appetite for more.

  • Gianluca, my surge of anger when the 2nd photo came up with the young boy–I almost didn’t click to go to the next one. That surge in the beginning set the edge for viewing the rest. My heart still pumping fast.

    Photo one set the mood of pink, then anger with 2, past 3 and 4, and finally #5 I breathed easier. Then the door of #6. Four photos as foundation for this story (IMO). One week has given you a good place to begin finding the rest of the story. (IMO)

    Thanks for sharing these and so glad to see you here on Burn.

  • This is a serious & beautiful story. Congratulations!

  • Some nice, evocative imagery, but if you tell us a place is like a hornet’s nest, you should probably show it as well.

  • Gianluca, congratulations on being published here on Burn! Photo 1 reminds me of just how good the light in Italy can be! The essay as a whole certainly captures the destruction of the flood; the link to the Mafia is not really present and I don’t think that you would be able to gain any kind of access in a week or even a month (ask Anton). The isolation of the town and the area certainly does come through. I see that the work is ongoing, so I wish you good fortune with the essay. I don’t have to wish you good light – it’s Italy (laughing).


  • Nice work, Gianluca. However… I feel #5 and #7 don’t quite fit with the rest of the series. Not the same feel or look.

    Glad to see this essay on Burn, though. Keep pushing on.

  • Thanks Burn team, thanks for watching “the wall”, and for Your comments
    mw: You’re right, in my next trip to San Luca I will realize more shots to best represent this peculiarity.
    However as you rightly pointed out, I want to have an evocative taste, trying to refrain me from making only descriptive pictures of urban/architecture view.
    Mike R: Actually in a certan way i got the access,who knows, San Luca is very tiny village and there when you are a foreigner they know, about my project would have been impossible to take pictures.
    Anyway mi interest is not to show a link to the mafia, but the cultural isolation, however that is a consequence.
    San Luca is located in one of the most beautiful parts of Italy the Aspromonte with a lot of history and traditions, for this reason my project is still ongoing, beacause i want to suggesting stories abaut all of this.

  • I really don’t think there is any ‘story’ here, yet. Certainly nothing to support the text.

    To me, a few derelict architectural details and a handful of expressionless portraits don’t
    do much to engage the viewer.

    I don’t get, at all, the significance of the child image to the piece

  • Hi mtomalty
    Thank you for your comment,
    I don’t want to tell a story, for me photographs aren’t good to tell a story, but i hope with my picture to suggest story, this essay showed on burn is only 14 pictures, on my web site you can see more about the project, but for me is not finished yet, I want to do more picture that i do not understand to understand more.

  • Gianluca

    This autumn I was privileged to attend a lecture given by Alec Soth. He presented a wonderful slide show of a road trip to visit William Eggleston, which he simultaneously narrated. Soth was able to tell a story both visually and verbally that would have escaped even the most associative and interpretive of critics. (He even stated such.) It was there that I realized that although one may never understand the narrative and purpose that a photo-essayist wishes to tell, it is the realization that there is an existing narrative that may be satisfaction enough. Similar to Robert Franks’ “The Americans”, here we need not know the storyline, we just need to accept that there is one. I get a strong feeling of the narrative in your essay, and agree with you that it beautifully tells a story – and tells it evocatively.

    My imagination runs with your images, and on that level your essay is a success, but when I add your written preamble to the experience, my car becomes stuck in a snowbank, and no matter how much I shift forwards and reverse, my associations of the essay – to your words – remain spinning motionless. An almost complete impotence comes over me and I cannot relate your photographs to your images.

    Lee Guthrie:

    I’d like to know just what within the image of the little boy sets your anger so? I find it very tender; his head relative to the size of his body indicates his age – give or take – and to me he stands in the corner either for disciplinary reasons, or because there is something there that fascinates his youthful imagination.

  • LOVE the first photograph….it’s beautiful, painterly quality…love that voluminous, gorgeous green light coming through the window….

    LOVE also the second photograph of the child….not only tender photograph, but for me, seems to set up the narrative…this is HIS dream, his home, his essay….the tenderness/nervousness of how he twitches the fingers of his left hand…the shape of his hair…he is an uncanny resemblance of my nephew, when he was 8, 9….the bit marks/scabs on his legs, the story of a child…and because we will not/cannot know his face, in a way, we cannot/will not know his story…..that image, coming second, sets up the entire rest of the essay for me….

    his dream-tale….

    Lee: what was it about this photograph that troubled you?…..

    you may not know, but i love stories/narratives that are both abstract and conceptual…haunted…i have never really like the literal…doesn’t make sense to me at all, because it is this strange, mysterious causality of life that is so rich, so nutrient, so haunting…and so, the less i understand, the better….because the working toward understanding, the working toward poetry, the working toward working, is what makes live and ideas/stories so rich…at least for me…i dont want to be told anything, i want to discover it, grow toward awareness…get bugged…

    as always, i look at an essay 2 or 3 times before reading the statement…and statements are tricky for me, since I am a writer and i incorporate text in my own photography (for essays, for exhibitions, as ‘prints’ themselves, words, etc), so i get nervous each time i read an artists statement….somehow, this statement, took away from the delerium i was experiencing with the pictures….the mystery, the nostalgia, the loss, is there…and, although i didn’t need it at first, when i saw the last picture, i wanted images from the outside more…

    i am intrigued by what you’ve shown and where you will go….and i love your painterly pallette…..keep that in mind…

    Jeff: WISE, ASTUTE comment! :)))…Alec and i talked about that idea over drinks before the Magenta talk…bang on….;))…..i wish more photographer and more viewers got that :)))…

    the odd thing is that NONE of us know our OWN LIVES’ storyline…and yet we embrace it, for it’s oddity and strangeness and miraculous quality…why not the same….

    Congrats Gianluca for your work and i look forward to seeing where it goes further….

    Remember that child! :))


  • Once again, either there is something I am missing, or there is nothing in the essay.

    As the introductory text explains, this is about the decadence brought to an Italian village by the presence of the Mafia and its ‘cultural isolation’, right? Then I see some pictures of derelict houses, some portraits… A boy turned around…

    I don’t see any essence in this work. The fact that it was done in one week is clearly a factor, but then there are pictures which (always in my humble opinion, of course) simply don’t communicate anything. There is very little content (figurative, abstract, indirect…), poor lighting (e.g. pictures 5, 9, 12, 14) and it left me with the feeling that a good idea was in the very earliest stages of being developed.

  • My interest is to raise awareness about a little known part of Italy that is often connected only to news reports about mafia without real understanding of social and cultural dynamics……… If you wanted to do that an article accompanied by images or a narrated video would have been more applicable media.

    Unfortunately this essay took a wrong turn and you will never reclaim it with the same mindset that you have employed. If you are hell bent on pursuing this essay my suggestion is that you do some more research, start with a more substantial concept and a fresh set of images.

  • Thank you all for your comments
    Imants and Eduardo: I agree with you my project needs more, to be cohesive and understandable, but I feel, the way I approached it belongs to me , Bob talked about delirium and all my work in a certain way talk about this every day life delirium where many things are incomprhensible.

  • Nobody disputes that the approach belongs to you that is evident delirium I don’t see any ……. just a bunch of old building shots with a kid in one which almost seems a token gesture to some sorta lost cause. Anyway it is your essay do as you please I’ll sign off on it…..

  • Great work, Gianluca.
    Phillipe Halsman said that the head of the photographer is more important than his camera.
    Tout à fait.

  • Hi Jeff
    Thanks for your comment
    Behind these pictures i see many stories linked from backwardness cultural, and the impotence to change this status of things, because in many years nothing has changed , i push my self to find a different meaning behind the pictures and sometimes my photos does not look what it seems, this beacause i want to make every time a second reading thinking about my dream my hopes and my nightmare.
    Here on burn they published only 14 pictures but i sent 22 , there was one showing a forest near San Luca part of Aspromonte natural park, and this pictures in my mind show first a beautiful place ,and at the same time a sort of inestricable place.
    Thank you Michael,Lee and mw for your comments too

  • Thank you Cecilia
    I LOVE Philipe Halsman and his surreal univers

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