contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the month / February 2019

Untitled (Series Fata Morgana)
Alessia Rollo

Print on RC paper matt
Edition of 7 + 2 PA, 100 cm x 60 cm

Alessia Rollo’s photo from the series Fata Morgana shows illuminated greenhouses in totally dark surroundings. They are positioned on the horizontal axis in the middle of the image plane. It is not to identify, what is growing inside. Due to the black environment, the greenhouses seem to float somewhere in the nowhere, like a spaceship in the universe. In combination with the series title, one might think of a Fata Morgana: the optical phenomenon of a mirage, produced by rays of light passing through air layers of different temperatures.

The artist, who wants to question about reality and myth in her series, intends this uncertainty. Her starting point was the ambiguous image in the media of her home region Salento, in the south of Italy. On one hand, it is promoted as a touristic paradise; on the other hand, there are images of the migrant’s plight, who at their turn came through the Mediterranean to find the Promised Land. Alessia tried to overcome these two extremes in opening another vision, a storytelling between reality and fiction.

Accordingly, it is to be neglected, whether the greenhouses are an authentic documentation or an accurate depiction of an illusion. More important for the understanding is, to what they refer to. On her website, Alessia states that the greenhouses are an allusion to the decayed economy in her home region. Moreover, they could hint to other issues of the series.

There are photos referring to the exploitation of migrants by the tomato harvest, for example empty vegetable boxes or a grape of golden tomatoes. Others indicate the illegal rose sellers, by an image of flower leaves on the street or roses in plastic film. The vegetable or flowers could have grown once in the greenhouses of our photo. Additionally, there are portraits of individuals, often partly hidden by darkness or other elements, to animate the observer to question about the person. Besides, have they worked in the greenhouses or sold the harvest? Therefore, the photo of the greenhouses could be also a mirage of different concerns.


It is only consequent, that the whole series will soon be published as a photobook, made possible by the grant “Fotocanal. Libro de fotografia 2018” by the Department of Culture, Tourism and Sport of Madrid, Spain. One picture might stand-alone. Nevertheless, it is interconnected with the rest of the series. In passing through the book, one could find more connections and mirages, to explore different images of the region of Salento.

Like a Fata Morgana the photos are showing a kind of reality, which is concealed like in a myth. The mountains of Albania, visible sometimes from the Salento coast, are a reality. Nevertheless, they are not as close as the mirage of them suggests. The featured greenhouses are a physical reality, but they are not as isolated as depicted. Behind there are many stories of needs, lives and dreams.


Alessia Rollo

Born 1982 in Lecce, Italy, Alessia studied first at the University of Perugia to obtain her BA and made then a Master in “Creative Photography” at the Escuela de Fotografia y Cine (EFTI – School for Photography and Cinema) in Madrid, Spain. Currently, she frequents the State University in Milan, Italy for her Master in Publishing. Besides her studies, she participated in many workshops with international artists like Peter Funch, Mauricio Alejo, Denis Darzacq, Jill Greenberg, Matt SiberJames Casebere and Mary Ellen Mark. Additionally, she was selected for the international Default – Masterclass residency in 2011 and the MO.ta residency in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 2013.

Since 2010, Alessia had several solo exhibitions, mainly in Spain, but also in Brazil, Italy and Japan. Moreover, she participated in many group shows. At the beginning of her carrier, the focus was in Spain. Nevertheless, in the last years her works were as well on view in Italy, Netherlands (Unseen Amsterdam), France (Arles Cosmos) and England (Lens Culture Award, London Photo). Outside Europe, her works were presented in Brazil (Galeria Mascate), Shanghai (Shanghai Photofestival) and Ethiopia (Addis Foto Fest).

Alessia’s first photos were still life’s, close to Italian renaissance painting. After a period of experimenting with different techniques and combining diverse genres, her work became more conceptual. She creates series by investigating an issue from various angles, with the result that the single shooting gets its importance mainly in context with the associated photos. This becomes evident in her most recent series “Fata Morgana”, where our artwork of the month February 2019 is taken from. Here she is questioning the ambiguous image of her home region Salento between reality and appearance.

Fata Morgana was in November and December 2018, at the Gallery Photographs in Tokyo, Japan on view. The Spanish editor Ediciones Anómalas will release a photobook of the project in March 2019. Her series “Dialoghi Italiani” was also published as book in 2018, where Alessia enquired about photography itself and the loss or change of meaning in an image, when the original context is no longer available. Earlier series questioned about changing eating habits (Happy Meal and We eat what we are) or depicted unusual arrangements at home (In Domestico).

Alessia lives and works in Lecce.