Through the Lens with Photographer Paolo Morello

Rocco Forte Hotels

Visitors arriving at our beautiful Villa Igiea in Palermo will meet a cast of beauties in the hotel’s marble hallways and airy corridors. Mesmerising in black and white, the monumental photographs are the work of respected photographer Professor Morello, an expert with a global reputation, born in nearby Palermo.

Inspired by the images on display? Our Concierge Philio Kamel can arrange your own private photo shoot with Professor Morello in the magnificent mirrored ballroom of Basile Hall at Villa Igiea.

An Authority on Photography

An author and lecturer, Professor Morello studied at the Scuola Normale in Pisa and St John’s College in Oxford. His seminal works on the history of photography in Italy are an invitation to get acquainted with the great Italian photographers. In La fotografia in Italia he sets out the formative years of the medium following the birth of the Italian republic in 1945. 

His books on individual photographers shine a light on self-taught 1950’s photographer Alfredo Camisa and reportage genius Gianni Berengo Gardin, whose editorial work has featured in Le Figaro and Time Magazine.

Ideals and Identity

Studying his display at Villa Igiea, you’ll discover the Professor focuses on one simple philosophical question: Who am I? Helping us to unearth the mysteries of image and identity, his Helen in the Maze series, displayed in our hotel, was inspired by Helen of Troy. Named after Aphrodite’s beguiling half sister, his portraits of modern women also challenge our ideals of Mediterranean beauty.

, Professor Morello
“Mythology, for the ancient Greeks, played the same role that psychoanalysis plays in contemporary culture,”

Grounded in Greek Mythology

Undoubtedly beautiful, Professor Morello’s photographs are an invitation to delve deeper than aesthetics. Rooted in Greek mythology, the portraits are a portal into human psychology. “Mythology, for the ancient Greeks, played the same role that psychoanalysis plays in contemporary culture,” Professor Morello explains. Through his photos of contemporary women we are invited to become detectives investigating doubling and projection, patterns of behaviour which frequently recur in Greek myths.

Sicily, The Birthplace of Myths

Citing Sicily as the birthplace of a number of Greek myths, Professor Morello is fascinated by the transformative adolescent leap from childhood to adulthood.  It’s a puzzle which his photographic work encourages us to unravel. After more than six years of research, Professor Morello’s insights on the subject are laid bare in his book, Facing Artemis, published in 2019.

Portraying impactful portraits of powerful women, Dolce & Gabbana model Giulia Maenza among them, Professor Morello focuses on one particular myth of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. On discovering that the hunter Actaeon has seen her undressed, the goddess turns him into a stag who is then turned on and killed by his own hounds. The moral of this ancient myth: seeing is a crime, punishable by death.

Portrayal and Identity

For Professor Morello, portraits do more than merely capture the essence of the sitter. Identity is a fickle creature, constantly shifting and being reinvented. “In spite of its name,” Professor Morello shares, “the term identity denotes the very opposite of identical to itself.”

Be What You Would Seem

Professor Morello leaves us with his enchanting portraits and a thought-provoking quote from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, “Be what you would seem to be”, as the Duchess said to a bewildered Alice. In a world where appearances can be deceptive, how do you want to be seen?

If you’re inspired by Professor Morello’s philosophy and photography, contact our Concierge at Villa Igiea, by email or phone +39 09 16312111, for your own private shoot with the talented photographer. Choose to have our beautiful frescoed ballroom, suites decorated by Olga Polizzi or our palm-tree filled gardens as your backdrop.

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