It’s a strange thing that photography allows us such an easy and immediate insight into a particular subculture, from romanticised images of a Brooklyn gang by Bruce Davidson or John Deakin’s shots of the hidden corners of London’s Soho to the all more morbid shots of Weegee, capturing death on the streets of Manhattan; but it’s a very different thing to find yourself figuratively side by side with those you would actively avoid in life, those you not only don’t identify with, but actively object to their cause. For five years, from 2009 to 2013, Paolo Marchetti has been doing just that. In the hope of uncovering the rhyme and reason behind the actions and iconography of Italian skin heads, the photographer has trailed what is now a burgeoning fascist movement; documenting their appropriation of historical and religious imagery (their badge emblazoned with the Colosseum highlighting their respect for both the Roman empire and the more recent fascist regime) and those appropriated in repeat appearance tattoos (featuring the Fasces symbol, portraits of Mussolini, swastikas and the Celtic cross, appropriated from Christianity as the image of racial identity), action, (using a gladiatorial ‘arm-shake’ in the place of hand), down to their collective name (SPQR skinheads, named after the city’s motto – Senatus Populusque Romanus, or the Senate and People of Rome). It’s easy to look into images of long since past times and imagine them existing in the context of a very different world, but these men, and women, exist within what I had believed to be a more progressive and increasingly accepting society, actively rejecting it in favour of their 9% supremacy. Below the photographer explores his findings alongside Sang Bleu’s selection from the series.
I spent time up close with members of the Italian extreme right in order to understand why they are afraid. Why they feel the need to gather together in a herd, and why they need an enemy. Rage is growing rapidly in societies affected by the banking dictatorship… with anti-semitism, a strong intolerance of the gay community and a growing hatred of immigrants. [Their growing fear and rage is] a frantic search for identity – racial, cultural, religious, national and sexual. Taking these pictures gave me the opportunity to investigate that rage. In the era of globalisation, there are those who scream to the world, ‘I exist. I exist and I am not the product of your corporations. I exist because I belong to a people, a religion and a race.’