“Spada’s images of young women are highly charged; there is a tension at play, a sense that something is amiss.”
Allie Haeusslein, Director Pier 24, San Francisco, USA



‘Spada’s book – self-published, stapled together, a brilliant combination of the roughhewn with the exquisite – is a memorial for a dead girl, a cri de coeur for vulnerable young women and a penetrating examination of the social ills resulting from a corrupt and rotten political system.’
Martin Parr / Gerry Badger, The Photobook: A History, Vol.III – Phaidon


"It's exciting to name a hundred and seventy-three new Guggenheim Fellows," said Guggenheim Foundation president Edward Hirsch. These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best. Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we're thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It's an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do."

2011/2017 

Previous Guggenheim Fellows include Robert Frank, Cindy Sherman, John Gossage, Edward Weston, Diane Arbus amongst others.

Valerio Spada


Upcoming exhibitions:
Benrubi, New York, Solo Exhibition, March 2019
Museum of Modern Art SF MoMA, San Francisco,
The impact of Guggenheim Fellowship on history of Photography, 2020, TBA, Book (Aperture) and Group Exhibition



Gomorrah Girl

Reviewed by Allie Haeusslein, Director Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco, USA

Gomorrah Girl
By Valerio Spada
Twin Palms Publishers, Santa Fe, 2014. 78 pp., 57 color illustrations, 9x13".


"Many of these girls will soon marry Camorristi... Many will bear children who will be killed... But for now they are just little girls in black. They weep for a friend... Annalisa is guilty of having been born in Naples. Nothing more, nothing less.”* —Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah
On March 27, 2004, fourteen-year-old Annalisa Durante was fatally shot in the back of her head outside her family home, caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting; the intended target, nineteen-year-old Camorra boss Salvatore Giulano, was accused of using the young girl as a shield. Though Italian journalist Roberto Saviano had spent some time infiltrating the Camorra — the centuries old mafia-like organization that controls Naples — it was ultimately Annalisa's tragic death that encouraged him to write his impassioned exposé, Gomorrah. Annalisa’s death is also the backbone of Valerio Spada’s Gomorrah Girl, an examination of the fraught relationship between female adolescence and the culture of violence defining present-day Naples.

Gomorrah Girl. By Valerio Spada. Twin Palms, 2014.

Gomorrah Girl combines Neapolitan landscapes and portraits by Spada with rephotographed pages from the police investigation of Annalisa’s death and exists as two intermingled books. The worn pages of the police report — printed on something akin to newsprint — are interspersed with Spada’s own smaller, glossy photographs. You cannot view one without seeing the other. As a result, the lives of these young women and the landscape they occupy can only be viewed within the somber context of Annalisa’s death, producing a disquieting overtone regarding the future of the young women depicted.

The crime scene photographs from Annalisa’s death are analytical, unsentimental and sterile — ballistics images, streets covered in evidence markers, approximations of bullet trajectories. They attempt to document and explain. And while they are necessary, there is a dark irony — no matter how much this crime is picked apart and the evidence is analyzed, it is ultimately an unsatisfactory explanation for a senseless event.



Gomorrah Girl. By Valerio Spada. Twin Palms, 2014.

Spada’s images of young women are highly charged; there is a tension at play, a sense that something is amiss. Allusions to childhood — Hello Kitty, Daisy Duck, oversized headbands and plastic jewelry – appear duplicitous in the company of his subjects. They do not feel like children; they appear sexualized and desensitized to the violence that surrounds and subsumes them. The faces of these teenagers are viscerally hardened, projecting austere personas developed for survival.




Gomorrah Girl. By Valerio Spada. Twin Palms, 2014.

A jarring picture that presents a telling metaphor for both the loss of innocence and the marginalization of women depicts a lone woman shooting up, completely ignored by the three men to her left. The photograph was taken in one of the most dangerous places in Italy known as “La Scuola” or “I Puffi” (The School or Smurfs House), a name that refers to the locale’s former life as a kindergarten. A place intended to educate and nurture youth falls victim to a culture with little room to experience childhood.



Gomorrah Girl. By Valerio Spada. Twin Palms, 2014.


Italy is often associated with the Coliseum, Pompeii, Tuscan hillsides and quaint cobbled roads. It is a struggle to conceive of the inhumane underbelly of a place we so blissfully romanticize. Hollywood portrayals of mafia-like organizations such as The Godfather or The Sopranos conceal the reality of these groups and their implications on society. Spada pulls the rose-colored glasses from our eyes, forcing us to consider how the intimidation, violence and machismo perpetuated by the Camorra reverberates through the fabric of a major city — the third largest municipality in Italy. The final photograph in Gomorrah Girl leaves us uneasy. The thirty-one year old “killer of Scampia” is positioned on a motorcycle in front of a series of apartment buildings, staring straight into the camera’s lens. His girlfriend, who did not want her portrait taken, is almost entirely obscured; all that is visible is a small sliver of her face and downcast gaze. Leaving us to wonder — what will become of these Gomorrah Girls?—ALLIE HAEUSSLEIN


*Roberto Saviano quoted by Ed Vulliamy, “In the grip of Italy’s bloodiest mafia clan,” The Guardian, 4 October 2008.



i-D no.352
Super Youth
The New Fashion Rebels
Summer Issue 2018 


ADOLESCENTS IN MARSEILLE
Valerio Spada chronicles the lives of teenagers of the melting pot port city of Marseille.
One of Europe's most deprived areas, but also a city full of light, energy and beauty.

PHOTOGRAPHER VALERIO SPADA STYLING MICHELLE CAMERON


“I feel drawn to port cities. There's a special something there that tourists fail to see, or just aren't into seeing. I’m intrigued by places which are often out of reach to the tourist’s eye. I’m intrigued by those who live in those places and, above all, by the dignity I encounter in the adolescents who are living in urban environments abandoned by the government. More often than not it is about their beauty – which transcends gender – and the ways in which they inhabit these areas. In Marseille this is the Felix Pyat area, one of the poorest and most dangerous in Europe. It’s north of the city, removed from the sea and all the tourists. To my eyes it was like a replica of Scampia, in Naples, also out of sight and away from the coast. In these places, where time runs slower, I will always nd individuals willing to connect in one way or another. In the encounter I’m reminded of the ways in which human beings resonate with, and impact, each other. When I work I never go for a day or two. I move to the place and make it my home. Only by experiencing what life is like, I have a chance to capture it in my photos. I spent my time training at a gym during my stay in Marseille. I made many friends and a couple of enemies amongst ghters I trained with. I had a muscle tear, following a long and intensive training ten days. I could hardly walk as a result, so I spent a couple of awesome days with some friends who visited me from Milan with their six daughters. We looked like characters out of a Jarmush movie by the sea. I hope my images show both the diversity and equality I believe Marseille represents. Now that I know the city a bit better, I feel I can say this, without oversimplifying the issue. For what concerns the people portrayed, I am sure they will tell your readers about honesty, beauty, a little failure and despair, ghting no matter what. You just need to look into these great people’s silent eyes.” Valerio Spada.


        

AMANDA MURPHY shot in Harlem for MUSE cover story

Model Amanda Murphy IMG       Styling Francesca Cefis





Gomorrah Girl


‘Italy is often associated with the Coliseum, Pompeii, Tuscan hillsides and quaint cobbled roads. It is a struggle to conceive of the inhumane underbelly of a place we so blissfully romanticize. Hollywood portrayals of mafia-like organizations such as The Godfather or The Sopranos conceal the reality of these groups and their implications on society. Spada pulls the rose-colored glasses from our eyes, forcing us to consider how the intimidation, violence and machismo perpetuated by the Camorra reverberates through the fabric of a major city — the third largest municipality in Italy. The final photograph in Gomorrah Girl leaves us uneasy. The thirty-one year old “killer of Scampia” is positioned on a motorcycle in front of a series of apartment buildings, staring straight into the camera’s lens. His girlfriend, who did not want her portrait taken, is almost entirely obscured; all that is visible is a small sliver of her face and downcast gaze. Leaving us to wonder — what will become of these Gomorrah Girls?’

Allie Haeusslein, Director Pier24 Gallery, San Francisco, USA