In Between Life and Death


by Paul Johnathan

Abuse II, The Uncanny,
by Alessio Bolzoni

Alessio Bolzoni’s sophomore effort finds him intimate with the human form. The photographer’s new book, Abuse II, The Uncanny, features tense shots of subjects in twisted, disjointed states wavering between elasticity and fracture. Sprawled across the floor as if dispossessed of strength, the subjects’ bodies are captured in highly choreographed poses, dramatically amplified by the concealment of their identities, their faces indiscernible to the viewer.

In his first Abuse book back in 2017, Bolzoni captured decaying flowers, examining the passage from life to death. In the sequel, he reflects the emotional and physical damages we sustain as humans. The minimal staging—white background, bright lighting—underscores the suffering endured, piercing the viewer’s gaze through the explicit focus on a single subject.

Bolzoni’s framing might be documentary-like, but the mood evoked feels rooted in the rigidity of ballet. This is far from an aesthetic choice. Movement is paramount to the project, with the subjects seemingly caught in a dance sequence. Bolzoni freezes the action somewhere between control and surrender, prowess and frailty, illustrating the urgency of bodies dominated and defeated by their very own human limitations of flexibility.

The photographer’s exercise in movement is no accident, nor is the theatricality inherent to the subjects’ compulsion to capitulate to a dance of death.  Bolzoni’s practice centres on motion, applied to all sorts of subjects, from human to inanimate, as can be seen in his commercial work for Adidas and Dior, with dance driving his collaboration with Luca Guadagnino. In Abuse II, this framing sees the young photographer capture bodies about to smash and shatter, mere moments before they’ve mastered the most delicate, yet explosive moves.

The repetition only heightens the emotional effect of the photos, while the impossibility of identifying the subjects serves as a nod to universal suffering, from which no one can ever be exempt. Bolzoni’s images evoke empathy for the twisted bodies lingering between life and death, as well as memories of physical traumas the viewer himself has experienced in the past.

The book is accompanied by a zine titled Abuse II, Event, which is comprised of images of clothing. Trousers and t-shirts are turned inside out, arranged in shapes that echo the bodies that wore them. At first glance, these items resemble rags a model has walked out of prior to storming the stage at fashion week—Bolzoni is, after all, a fashion photographer. The human absence in these images, however, echo the refugee crisis that has rocked the Mediterranean. This is then how Bolzoni’s study of concepts of abuse progresses from the metaphor of flowers to the concrete reality of bodies, culminating with the all too human inevitability of death.


About the Author:

Paul Johnathan is a writer living in London.

Images via Abuse II, The Uncanny, 2018 © Alessio Bolzoni. Republished here courtesy of the author.