Every photograph is a single ticket to time travelling. Of course, every image does have the power to conserve individual and sometimes collective memories of yesterday´s moments for tomorrow. Occasionally, they seem to spiral us into an endless loop of past and present, in which neither we, nor others will be able to locate our place in time.
Take one those last geographical preserves, in which tradition dresses all those present in some kind of antiquated dress code, like the Ascot horse races.
Mario Marino had to get his taylor-made grey cutaway and a matching top hat of some distinction, to be dressed appropriatelly for this time travel. The British modestly would describe his bespoke attire as „morning dress“, but put into place with a comfortable social juggling of the perfect connections into the country´s high society, this is that fine kind of fabric, which may open some doors on this island. And it did. On his second visit of the legendary Ascot horse track in Berkshire County, Marino ended up taking portraits of the Upper Class in the midst of the Royal Enclosure. The foreign visitor was moving on with ease from here to those off centered picnic tables, where tradesmen, clerks and smalltown shopkeepers were happily exchanging jokes with him on the good and bad of British tradition.
The Ascot horse race organizers are certainly relying on a long standing tradition, reaching back to the year 1711. The annual Royal Ascot Horse Racing Week in Mid-June has been founded those days by King George IV. Even today, Queen Elizabeth proudly takes her splendid old horse carriage over from nearby Windsor Castle every day of the races. If you look closer, you´ll find quite a few watery eyes in the crowds, when the old monarch is waving at them on her daily lap of honor. On a good day at the races, some 25.000 visitors will join their queen on the turf and territory of emotion.
Mario Marino has not been drawn to this place by those fine race horses and not by the presence of blue blood amongst all those visitors. He was attracted by the special lure of this place, an old fascination, which is still crossing all levels of society.
Ascot is a place, where emotions are expressed unhibited, as this 48 year old photographer got to experience. For this emotion, the portrait specialist had decided to make the trip from his native Germany. Here he is standing now on the ranks, focusing his Nikon D8000 and a D7000 on those psychograms of a moment.
Mario Marino´s black and white project is presenting a British society, which still follows its rites and habits with joyful lust. „At times, you still feel today like being part of a old tale by Charles Dickens“, says Mario Marino. There are zones for the working and the middle classes here, just as well as for those members of the High Society. Each area has ist own dress code.“ Whoever attends this event, will dress up appropriatelly.
You´d find ushers at this event, who have been working for five decades at the races. And visitors trying to find their luck betting on horses for just as long.
Mario Marino was thrilled by the energy of this place, where winners and losers sit next to each other. For his Ascot project, he has chosen a reportage approach, drifting away from those formal portraits of people in front of neutral backgrounds, which have made him famous. He lets us share the collective mood of the masses, while the horses are speeding on the turf. His camera finds the winner´s adrenalin kick and the depressed mood of those lonely loosers trotting homewards. He follows that grandpa explaining the race to his grandchild for the very first time and somehow almost makes us hear the sound of champagne corks shot across the scenery, while tipsy ladys in over-the-top designer hats are celebrating.
Over the past four years, this photographer has travelled the poorest countries in the world. Here, he is capturing quite a different kind of portrait. „It´s my eye contact with those people, that´s working as an opener“, the Austrian born photographer knows. A friendly glance, a twink of an eye, an openness to all things encountered appears more of value here, than language skills and all the money in the world.
Mario Marino´s talent, besides all obvious photographic skills, lies right in his eyes. It´s this look of empathy and curiosity, combined with spontanious sympathy for those people he is meeting along his travels. He´s able to transport these emotions in a sudden glance towards a stranger. „I can get enthusiastic with a new face and someone´s character“, he marvels. It´s at those moments, when the photographer finds the drama of a life buried in the wrinkles of a face and the joy and happiness of the world in the blink of an eye. In his Ascot project, you´d certainly find more of the later.
At the end oft he day, Mario Marino has only brought one image of a jockey and a horse from his trip to the races. You´ll see them in the transit zone, between stable and turf. In a way, this may be considered quite symbolic of the photographers role here: being in transit between the social classes.