Realpolitik offers a critical and satirical examination of the imagery of contemporary Italian politics were the authors, Luca and Marco, have embarked on a project that scrutinizes the iconography of communication and propaganda that characterizes Italy’s political landscape today. Since 2018, they have meticulously documented Italy’s political scene through a series of real-time publications by the independent publishing house affiliated with the photographic collective Cesura. Their impactful photographs have graced the covers of esteemed newspapers and magazines, including Time Magazine, L’Espresso, La Repubblica, Internazionale, and L’Essenziale, among others.
This visual narrative, largely shaped by the artistic vision of Luca and Marco in recent years, is characterized by a subversion of the traditional techniques of political representation. This is primarily achieved through a meticulous and systematic utilization of social networks, resulting in a shift from representative democracy towards an overt democracy of representation. Through their photographs, they expose the intricacies upon which the system of political representation in Italy is built, revealing the artifices used to create an illusion of authenticity, simplicity, and exposing the intricacies and artifices that underpin the political representation system in Italy, interrupting the chain of political communication as it attempts to present itself as straightforward and unadulterated. The project has not only been presented through traditional exhibitions, such as Realpolitik 2018-2023, presented last June at Base Milano (IT), but also through experimental installations in various locations including Cinema Palazzo in Rome, FotoForum in Bolzano, Magazzini Fotografici in Naples, and the Alcart Festival in Alcamo.
After Realpolitik, Luca and Marco’s attention turned to Matteo Salvini, the charismatic leader of the Italian Lega and centre-right forces, affectionately referred to by his supporters as “Il Capitano” (The Captain). Since October 2022, Salvini has served as vice prime Minister, as well as minister of infrastructure and transport, in the Meloni government. The authors closely followed party assemblies, celebrations, and demonstrations, focusing on Salvini’s unique use of his own body as a tool for political messaging. The Minister, in an unprecedented manner, personally documents his life and physique, positioning himself as a relatable “man of the people” while bypassing traditional photographer roles. Moreover, with a substantial social media following, Salvini directly engages with his audience, circumventing traditional media outlets.
His ability to absorb criticism and attacks has been equally remarkable and the authors experienced firsthand: an image of him from from “Boys Boys Boys,” the initial volume of the “Realpolitik” series, was selected for Time Magazine’s European edition cover. The image, featuring Salvini’s smiling face dramatically lit from below, loomed behind the title “The New Face of Europe,” influencing European perceptions of the leader. In response, Salvini reposted the same image on his social channels, using it to legitimize his political persona in national printed communications. Luca and Marco therefore adopted a photographic style that deviates sharply from the minister’s sympathetic, colorful and “pop” aesthetic, adopting a strict black and white with dark and dystopian undertones, with the aim of amplifying the grotesque aspects of Salvini’s narrative, and consequently provoking a counter-reading. This means to explore not only one man, but all the bodies he embodies: the national one, the electoral one, the one represented by the media, and the supporters and admirers that converge into one, that of the “Captain.”
Malatì, captured by Luca and Marco, is a photographic volume that immortalizes the joyous victory celebration of S.C.C. Napoli in the 2023 Italian football championship, a remarkable event last witnessed 33 years ago during the Maradona era.
This project, shot between April 29th and May 4th amidst the week marking the Scudetto win, is a vibrant homage to Napoli, its deep-rooted passion for its football club, and the infectious Malatì spirit, derived from a Neapolitan catchphrase. The photographs in this volume weave together a chaotic, exaggerated, daring, and elusive tapestry of the city, its history, and its inhabitants, much like a Vespa speeding through the winding alleys at night. The cover features a Napoli-themed cake created by a local pastry chef, personalized for the authors. The back of the photographic volume cleverly concludes with a composition of cake remnants framing a fragment of Neapolitan poetry, symbolizing life’s sweetness amid its bitterness.
Luca Santese (Milan, *1985) pursued his studies at Monza’s Art institute and at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan, where he collaborated with Alex Majoli and co-founded CESURA in 2008. In 2010, he was selected by the World Press Photo prize with the project “Detroit 2009-2010” and in the same year he exhibited for the first time “Found Photos in Detroit” at Le Bal Space (FR), to which followed exhibitions at Kulturhuset (SE), OGR (IT) and the MoCP in Chicago (USA), among others. Luca’s photographs have been published and exhibited across Europe, the United States, Russia, and Asia, showcasing his diverse and impactful body of work.
Marco P. Valli (Monza, *1989) is an Italian photographer based in Milan and represented by CESURA. After graduating in 2009 from the Art Institute of Monza, in 2010 he attended the Art Academy of Brera before specialising in 2011 at CFP Bauer. Marco’s works have been published by national and international newspapers and magazines (Time, Vogue, L’Espresso, Internazionale, La Repubblica, Vanity Fair) and exhibited all over Italy. Currently he’s still producing individual and collective projects, focusing his work mainly on documentary photography and research in the artistic sector.