I was born in London. In my early teens I moved to Rome where I attended art school. Being an art student in Italy had its benefits. Beauty is all around, there a sense of history, fascinating textures, and an incredible light. My training was very formal; still life drawing, painting, sculpture, history of art, architecture and design.
Around 1974 I lost interest in drawing and started taking photographs. Initially I photographed the places I used to draw. Tor di Nona was a favourite. A short walk from school, just the other side of Castel Sant’Angelo and the Tiber. I used borrowed cameras until I could afford to buy my own.
After art school I worked at Cinecitta’ film studios for two years. With the money I earned I bought cameras and lenses, moved back to London and set myself up as a photographer working from a studio close to Hammersmith Broadway. Around this time I also had a brief flirtation with photo journalism working for Scandinavian publications Dagbladet and Aftonbladet.
Apart from documenting change, my main interests are portraiture and street photography.
I have exhibited my work in the UK and Australia and have further exhibitions planned in the United States and Europe. My work has been published in the UK, Australia and Africa.
AMEDEO CASTELLANI : AN APPRECIATION OF SORTS
1979 Exhibition Notes
As I remember it, I met Amedeo in Rome some five, maybe six years ago. It was a concert held at a small school hall just off the Campo dei Fiori.
Amedeo was into music then and used to play the saxophone. But he was best known among musicians as a talented young photographer who had done some fine and very different portraits of an American ‘avantgarde’ composer, Alvin Curran.
I was one of the performers at the concert. At the time, I wasn’t interested in Amedeo or his photographs. I was interested in the attractive girl he’d brought with him. Her name, I was to find out, was Alessandra and she had wide hazel eyes and olive skin and a smile that glittered like gold at the end of a rainbow.
After the concert I was introduced to both of them. Together, we went for coffee at the nearby piazza where the bronze statue of the heretical monk Giordano Bruno stands on the place he was burned at the stake and stares down disdainfully at the dope-heads, the petty hustlers and the teenage whores who hang out there.
I went out with Alessandra for a while after that evening but it was another year before I saw Amedeo again.
I came across him in one of the streets off the Lungotevere that were the backdrop of many of his photographs. As usual, there were a couple of battered 35mm cameras slung ‘round his neck. Over a couple of coffees, this time in a bar on Via dei Coronari, he showed me a dozen or so contact sheets filled with his work.
The first shot I saw was a haunting black and white portrait of the statue in Campo dei Fiori.
Amedeo grew up in Rome. His photographs are, therefore, a realistic view, unblurred by too much sentimentality, of a city in poor repair with the graffiti from a generation of social unrest daubed on its walls. Even the picturesque Tiber is just another muddy, polluted river tugging at the decaying hulls of the house-boats moored alongside its weed choked banks.
His people are subdued and reflective, no longer care-free. Times are changing quickly; “ormai, la dolce vita e’ finita” (Now, the sweet life is over).
Nevertheless, there are still moments when the sad streets come alive with flea markets and fire-eaters and costumed Neapolitan musicians, when school-children transform the walls of an abandoned palazzo into a fantastic multi-coloured mural.
Inevitably, there are images of the Catholic Church – a church which Amedeo sees as out of touch with the spiritual needs and modern dilemmas of its faithful. ‘Elemosina per la Madonna del Riposo, chi ben vive, ben muore’ reads the inscription on a marble alms box outside one church, while outside another the doors have been defaced with slogans which, in turn, have been obliterated by blotches of white paint.
Amedeo also catches the dime-a-dozen clergymen in the awkward moments when they are confronted with the troubled cries of their flock like, in one shot, the diminutive monsignor who ignores the call for ‘Aborto Libero’, ‘Free Abortion’, painted on a shop front.
However, his best photograph is an irreverent parody. A tableful of bishops, priests, a couple of altar boys and a Swiss Guard are found earnestly engaged in a card game; (they were, in fact, only extras waiting for their call on a soundstage at Cinecitta’).
Amedeo lives in London now where he is beginning to make a name for himself in the precarious and competitive world of photo-journalism. We see each other a couple of times a month. Sometimes we talk about Rome. Sometimes we don’t talk about Rome at all. But I’m glad he has these photographs. After all, photographs are more durable, and not as illusive as memories.
Alvin Curran. Rome 1974.
Statue of Giordano Bruno. Rome 1974.