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Mario Marino - Between Grace & Poverty. A Retrospective from 2011 - 2023
 

The capacity to perceive another person and, in the flash of a moment, capture them in a convincing portrait, may appear simple, made easy by using the technical apparatus that is the camera. The truth is that capturing a person’s true likeness is, in reality, a high art form.

 

Virtually no other subject has been pursued with such uninterrupted passion, intensity and directness, since the beginnings of photography, as the portrait. When photography was first invented, people were so amazed by its natural accuracy and detail that it was hailed as a mirror of nature. Even though the all-permeating presence of photography in modern days has robbed it of much of its magic and ability to awe, there are still some images that succeed in fascinating and captivating us completely. It is precisely in this digital age of endless arbitrariness that the essential value of a photograph as both an art form and a study subject has increased.  Artistic photography consciously asserts and establishes itself with self-confidence against the stream of mass usage by the media, evoking outstanding and thought-provoking imagery for our consideration.

 

Without a doubt, Mario Marino is one of the most talented portrait photographers of our times. His unique portfolio of work has been growing over fourteen years of travels throughout Europe, Africa, Cuba, Mexico, Nepal and, especially, India. It is the portrait that stands at the centre of his photographic exploration. Despite the fact that months of research precede every journey he undertakes, coincidence or synchronicity of events often determine his choice of whom to place before his lens.  “Because whom I will meet and how they might react is something I can hardly have any inkling about beforehand,” Marino explains. Whether on a street, in a market place, at a temple, park, or even an empty desert, the artist uses simple means and natural lighting to capture motifs of immeasurable poignancy. 

 

In her 1980 essay “On Photography“, American publicist and photo theoretician Susan Sontag postulated that, “All photo-

graphs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability and inconstancy.” Mario Marino likes to describe his portraits as “photographic psychogrammes”.  His portraits are both enticingly simple and artfully ambiguous. The individuals portrayed are almost always looking right at the camera. Their gazes, captured by the photographer, are open, calm, serious and tentative. The portrayals – in particular the frontal close-ups – seem to breathe with a profound honesty and dignified gravity. It is precisely through their reductive nature that these photographs seem to gain power. In each photo one seems to stand before a complete stranger and experience an immediate level of communication between souls, while on an outer level, one is barely able to understand the context of that person’s life. 

 

This reduction of something complicated by means of the simplicity and subtle atmosphere created in the photograph is extremely fascinating to experience. Even though photographs can only exist on a superficial, two-dimensional level, Marino’s images also trigger multi-layered thought associations and contemplation in the viewer, reaching far beyond the obvious.

The photographer cannot remain invisible during the creative process. In the moment of truth, the model is always aware of the apparatus and of the photographer handling it. The future viewer will also become aware of the creator, through the use of the equipment and the perspective chosen for the portrait. 

 

 

The presence of a camera always creates an unusual psychological situation. The words written by the French philosopher Roland Barthes in his 1981 book, Camera Lucida, still ring true today: “The portrait-photograph is a closed field of forces. Four image-repertoires intersect here, oppose and distort each other. In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.” This assessment and experience is something that we can easily comprehend with every portrait photograph. In particular, the powerful nature of a frontal pose cannot be underestimated. The absolute attention the subject gives the photographer at that moment is in turn transferred to the viewer – a two-person dialogue become a three-way conversation. 

 

 

With the subject’s consent, the photograph of an intimate moment is made public, revealing something about a fellow human being. The instant of communication between photographer and model is made available to the viewer. A well-done portrait offers us the opportunity to feel a closeness to someone we are unlikely to ever meet, and allows us to speculate about that person’s individual identity. Ideally speaking, this visual medium forges a bridge which reaches across cultural, religious, economic and societal conventions. Questions of naturalness, representation, idealism, beauty, foreignness and exoticism also come to the surface. How authentic does the portrait appear to be? How much of it is profiled, posed or staged? The viewer cannot always answer these questions with certainty, but may judge: am I convinced by this portrait? Do I find it coherent? Is it the subject‘s extreme drama or honourable gravitas that I find most appealing? Does this stranger‘s face entice me and make me want to gaze at it longer? Can I read and understand something in the picture; does it open itself to me? If this inner dialogue ensues, then the photographer’s aim has been fulfilled, and the work can be considered a success. Mario Marino is undoubtedly among those outstanding and extraordinary talents who manage to engage his contemporaries and awaken their empathy in an exceptional way.

 

 

This is a noble goal, when we consider the insane flood of images that overwhelm us every day. As hundreds of billions of selfies and self-validating images are generated and projected onto the web, it is soothing to see the work of a photographer who chooses to slow down his gaze, to focus on another, and capture that individual’s presence and preserve it for more than just a moment.  

 

Yet Mario Marino‘s portraits hold a secret. In spite of all their openness and directness

, there is always a level below the surface, beyond our grasp, just out of reach. This is the level that we, the viewers, must fill with our own experiences and interpretations. It is our own questions which may be able to stimulate further understanding. Mario Marino‘s images from India present ideal conditions for these processes of inner exploration to flourish. His portraits exemplify both a voyage into the unknown, as well as a journey of self-discovery and reflection.

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New Book, Children, Photographs 2013 - 2023, 90 Photographs, 176 Pages, Size 19 x 24 cm, Softcover.
Order your Book Now.
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New Book, Women, Photographs 2011 - 2023, 87 Photographs, 176 Pages, Size 19 x 24 cm, Softcover.
Order your Book Now.
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Members of the Legio Maria Church during the 1st Advent, Nairobi, Africa, December, 2023
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Coming soon, new book, The Townships of Nairobi , Photographs from 2018 - 2023, Africa.
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Photographs from Kashmir, India, June 2023.
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New Book project. World Nomad Games. Coffee Table Book, 34 x 27,5 cm, 220 Pages,
120 Photographs. November 2022.
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Himalaya - Photographs from the roof of the world, 2022

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Workers & Traders. long therme project. Coffee Table Book,
37 x 27,5 cm, 518 Pages, 356 Photographs.

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Recent Work. Cambodia mon Amour, January 2022. Cambodia.
Coffee Table Book, 27,5 x 34 cm, 432 Pages, 280 Photographs,

 

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Mauritania - People at the Port de Pêche, November 2021. Africa
New Book project. Coffee Table Book, 34 x 27,5 cm, 256 Pages, 190 Photographs.

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Books & Magazines & Portfolios

© Collection MARIO MARINO 2024


M A R I O  M A R I N O
P H O T O G R A P H Y

 

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