The art of memorial sculpture has by its nature an emotional resonance due to its role in honoring the dead, but there’s a living, human beauty to it as well. It’s these aspects of cemetery sculpture that Italian photographer Mattia Mognetti captures in his 2013 Graveyard People series.
All of the images are from the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan, just a few minutes from Mognetti’s home. “Since the first time I was in that graveyard, I think two years ago, I’ve been touched by the unusual atmosphere of the place,” he explained to Hyperallergic. “An extended quiet and striking place next to the busy center of a congested always-in-a-hurry city, with thousand of awesome sculptures by famous and unfamous artists, architecture… silence everywhere… It’s easy to spend hours walking, in aestethical and emotional contemplation. To me it’s like some kind of meditation.”
As a photographer with a background in both neuroscience and clinical psychology, he’s been interested in experimenting with reality and perception since he got into photography in 2010. Architecture has been a particular focus with manipulations of modern buildings into mind-bending kaleidoscope forms in Istigkeit, the abstraction of a viewpoint in AbstrAct, and the symmetry of museum spaces in Symmetry. The architecture series in particular, like Unending Lightscapes, have this thwarting of space and time, breaking the manmade architecture away from the brevity of human life into some sort of enteral perfection. All of these also have his play with light and shadow, some in the moment of the photograph and some in postproduction.
“The graveyard photographs are simply a more explicit example of this: portraits of eternal people, the statues as symbols of the desire of perfection, of eternity, of the life after the death,” he stated. “The subjects are selected with an eye on the major themes of life and death and the sculptures are treated like human living models.”
He acknowledges that some could find the subject macabre as “it’s for sure about death,” but that he thinks “it’s also about life.” He hopes to expand he project to other cemeteries in Italy and beyond. Below are some more selections from Graveyard People:
View more of Mattia Mognett’s Graveyard People on his website.