This is the briefest email of the week.
Hello L’Oeil de la Photographie,
This is Erik Messori photographer, with Corsiero Editore we just released the book: Independence On My Skin the unique trip into the IRA world through their tattoos.
We would like to ask you if you are interested in helping us to promote the book.
We like the pictures, so here there are, along with this text.
It all begins with a beer in the wrong pub, inside which no one enters who is not known and “family.” Thus, Erik Messori makes first contact with Irish irredentists, some still in hiding, and succeeds, in time, not without effort and courage, in gaining their trust to the point where he can portray them.
The result is a book that tells the essence of a battle set aside, but not dead. The strength, and also the violence, of a struggle animated by aspirations still unfulfilled by a truce that fails to be a peace. The historical story of the IRA, seemingly archived, lives on though without the violent outcomes of decades past.
Urban landscapes without human figures and faceless bodies: in these photographs, by Erik Messori it is not the portrayed men and women or the Irish walls and streets that speak, but the words themselves and the designs of the tattoos and murals. Weapons and flags, signs and emblems, words and names written in Gaelic, maps of Ireland and faces of lost family members and friends, of historical or iconic figures build, each on its own, an emotional story, beyond the chronicle, made all the more powerful by the alienating distance imposed by black and white.
These rough shots, often taken in a short time, with improvised poses or setting construction, do not grant distance to the viewer. They impose a close, shocking presence: we are called to engage, with no filter or way out. Our backs are to the wall; we cannot distract our gaze. Let us then rummage through these stories written for emblems, drawings, single words or short phrases, promises of love, and dates of death. Impossible, even futile, to reconstruct even a single one of these personal stories, while they emerge, photograph after photograph, in a collective dimension, their meaning, their strength, the plot that united these people for several decades in Northern Ireland’s struggle for independence from Britain. Alongside the display of arms and the display of faith in violence, there appear the Celtic leprechauns and crosses, the missionary St. Patrick’s shamrock, a symbol of the divine Trinity, the harp of the Benedictine monks, an emblem of Ireland’s opposition to the English invasion in the 13th century.
There are reminders of other related battles, such as those of Scotland or Native Americans, of revolutionary icons like Che Guevara; one recognizes the face of Bobby Sands who took his hunger strike to extremes, allowing himself to die in prison in 1981. There are religious (Only God can judge me) or battle sentences (Better to die on your feet than live on your knees). Then there are the death dates of comrades or husbands or sons who died in the struggle for independence, down to the extreme case of the cover photograph, in which the back of the man portrayed is a mausoleum for those who fell in the struggle.
Erik Messori’s Independence on My Skin (Corsiero publisher, 2023, p. 96, euro 70) is the large-format (30×40 cm) publication of the project of the same name conducted by the Reggio Emilia photojournalist from 2013 to 2018 in Ireland, between Dublin, Derry and Belfast.
Erik Messori : Independence on My Skin
Corsiero editore, 2023
Limited signed edition (at the same price)