Following the river Acheron, and taking 'the river of death' as a guide, the Italian photographer alludes to ancient stories in everyday life
It was a chance meeting in Athens with fellow Italian photographer Mimi Mollica that led 26 year-old Rocco Venezia to study documentary photography at the University of South Wales. Frustrated by what he perceived to be a lack of depth in photojournalism, he had just quit a fledgling career in news photography, working for the agency Milestone Media in 2012, to go freelance and cover various political and social issues unfolding in Greece. Recounting his encounter with Mollica, Venezia says: “He told me he was a documentary photographer, not a photojournalist, and he explained the difference to me.”
Over the course of his studies, the young photographer has opened himself up to different approaches to photography, developing a non-linear practice of his own. “The course made me rediscover my passion for reading and researching on a deeper level, which helped me evolve in both my practice and on a personal level,” he says. “I had the chance to explore the medium with several approaches, where the tutors guided us, supporting and challenging our ideas rather than imposing their vision.”
Venezia graduated from university in 2016; starting life as his end-of-year project, Nekyia, demonstrates the research-based direction he moved into, drawing on classical literature to explore the complex economic and political situation of modern Greece. It focuses on the river Acheron, which flows through Epirus in northwestern Greece, and is featured in classical epics such as The Odyssey, Aeneid and The Divine Comedy as the boundary between this world and the underworld. Its name literally translates as the ‘river of woe.’
“Using the river of ‘death’ as a metaphorical guide, I have been travelling around the region trying to capture allusions to rituals, characters and places depicted by the myths in everyday situations,” Venezia explains.
Nekyia was also influenced by contemporary sources. “The term nekyia comes from the ancient Greek word, nέκυια, from νέκυς or nukus, ‘the death’ – a type of divination that served those who performed a ritual to resurrect the deceased and question them about the future. But nekyia is also a concept used in the early 20th century by the psychiatrist Carl Jung as part of his analytical psychology, where he defines nekyia as the inner journey into the unconscious – a necessary process to achieve individuation of the self.”
Rocco Venezia’s Nekyia is available at the Witty Kiwi stand at Polycopies http://www.polycopies.net/ veneziarocco.com http://www.wittykiwi.com/product/nekyia This article first appeared in BJP’s August 2016 issue.