Tomaso Clavarino turns his gaze to nature and the quieter moments found in his home in the Italian countryside

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Through closely observing the nuances of the environment around him, the photographer expresses the tensions and emotion that defined his lockdown experience

Bathed in the blissful light of golden hour, the pictures in Tomaso Clavarino’s book are warm-hued and rich, depicting sublime scenes of swaying grasses, rural paths and hanging fruit. People are present too, appearing from time to time in the form of a hand or an arm. But mostly their presence is merely suggested through a limb or a trace, no faces are seen. A palpable uneasiness builds throughout the edit too – emphasised by images of long shadows, forest fires and snarling dogs.

Born in 1986, Clavarino grew up partly in Cocconato d’Asti, a small village in the foothills of the Piedmont region. “It’s the classical Italian countryside,” Clavarino explains, “a rural area, with woods, fields, red wine and a peaceful atmosphere.” He still thinks warmly of the place, and so when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, he left the city and returned there. “I found myself in a very strange period, with the pandemic, the news of my girlfriend’s pregnancy and the loss of a loved one,” he explains. He was overwhelmed, and searching for a safe place amidst the chaos. Home – where his parents still live – offered just that.

From the series Balland of Woods and Wounds, 2020 © Tomaso Clavarino.

All of the photos in the series, titled Ballad of Woods and Wounds, were taken between March and May 2020, during Italy’s first lockdown. “I was interested in what was surrounding me, and what would define the identity of this place,” he recalls. “And so, I searched for moments in the garden, outside the gate, in the house, and in the woods behind it.” He took pictures of fractured rocks and sunburnt skin and anything else that intrigued him. “I was also exploring life at the time, so I wanted to create an atmosphere that could represent the tension of the period we were (and still are) living in,” he says. 

Prior to making this work, Clavarino travelled frequently shooting documentary projects, but pandemic restrictions pushed him to view his world differently. Turning his gaze towards the quietest corners of his existence, he says, he discovered a new way of taking pictures, away from the direct purpose of his previous work. It was an exercise in letting go of plans, and figuring out how to make work “personal, but not self referential.”

Published by studiofaganel, Ballad of Woods and Wounds is also punctuated with abstract, line drawn illustrations by artist Patrizio Anastasi that respond to the mood of the photographs. Given the circumstances and challenges of the lockdown, the book was edited without those involved ever meeting. 

Clavarino is now preparing for an exhibition and book presentation at Leporello Books in Rome, opening 04 May. Following this, the work will be shown in a solo exhibition at Studio Faganel gallery in Gorizia, from mid-June.

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London