Vincenzo Castella

Malta #3-12


Sorry, no image available

Not on display

Vincenzo Castella born 1952
Photograph, C-print on paper, dry-mounted to acrylic
Image: 859 × 1108 mm
Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from Massimo Prelz Oltramonti and allocated to Tate 2015


This is one of five colour photographs in Tate’s collection from Italian photographer Vincenzo Castella’s series Layers of Malta 2011 (Tate P13660P13664). They depict the urban landscape of the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea; the series consists of twenty-five images in total. Each photograph was shot on a large-format camera using 10 by 8 inch or 11 by 14 inch colour transparencies, in the style of historic landscape survey photography. The transparencies were then scanned and digitally altered by Castella to refine the colours into soft, painterly hues that render signs of modernity – billboards, cars and cranes – with a subtlety that brings them into harmony with the historical elements of the city’s landscape. The choice to use analogue film remains explicit, however, in Castella’s decision to leave the black borders of the transparencies in the final prints. Tate’s works are each the first in an edition of five and can be displayed individually or as a group.

Castella is a self-taught photographer who came to prominence in the early 1980s when he was selected for inclusion in two important projects: the exhibition ‘Viaggio in Italia’ (1984), which was curated by leading photographer Luigi Ghirri (1943–1992) and became the manifesto for the new school of Italian landscape; and the archive known as Archivio dello Spazio, which ran between 1987 and 1997 and involved documenting Milanese art and architecture for presentation in a series of exhibitions, books, panel discussions and a public collection. Since then Castella has become an integral member of a generation of Italian photographers who work in the tradition of landscape and architectural photography to reflect upon the modern, post-industrial city. Photography historian Maria Antonella Pelizarri has identified Castella within a discussion of this tendency, which she describes as resulting from Italy’s municipal governments, from the 1970s to today, commissioning photographers to document the country’s cities, with the goal of recording their changing infrastructure and also to ‘include Italian photography in international discussions on documentary practices’ (Pelizzari 2011, pp.150–9).

Layers of Malta is characteristic of the approach that Castella has developed from the late 1990s, when he moved away from small hand-printed colour images, predominantly of interiors, to large-scale images of city architecture. In these, he captures the city from a viewpoint that draws attention to its different cultural, social and historic layers. Castella has also applied this style to the Italian cities of Verona, Turin and Milan as well as to Amsterdam, Jerusalem and Ramallah. In each case, he applies the same high perspective and use of soft tone seen in Layers of Malta, so that while individually the different series offer a close-up and revealing perspective on the place that they depict, when considered together differences between the various geographies become blurred.

Further reading
Maria Antonella Pelizzari, Photography and Italy, London 2011.
Vincenzo Castella, Layers of Malta, Milan 2011.

Emma Lewis
September 2014

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

You might like