Title of publication: Aliqual
Name of artist: Massimo Mastrorillo
Editor: Skinnerboox
Design: 3/3
Year of publication: November 2015
Edition size: 1000
Book Size: 28×19.7 cm
Number of pages: 128
Price: 35 €
ISBN: 9788894031935

When I first came along to Aliqual, I had a strong but undefined sensation, a kind of intuition based on a deeply-rooted inner reference that I I was not able to put clearly into focus. It was when I started to write this review, many months after, that I had the eureka: Aliqual reminded me of my math classes in primary school. Aliqual is a cartesian book. It is as solid and basic as the rectangular coordinates can be, and it seems to determine the position of its inner elements as if on a geometrical manifold.

The horizontal axis is based on letters: ALIQUAL. An awkward word that could sound like ancient Latin. A word with an esoteric touch - when you read it backwards, or either pronounce it again and again, you actually obtain an existing noun: L'AQUILA. For non-Italian speakers, l'aquila means "the eagle", but it's also the name of a city in Southern Italy that in 2009 was heavily stroke by an earthquake. Unofficial reports said it caused damage to between 3,000 and 10,000 buildings and around 65,000 people were made homeless.

The vertical axis is constituted by images. All the pictures in the book are vertical. They stand one next to the other, but each of them is on its own, alone. They mimic what happened in L'Aquila after the seismic disaster, both on its physical presence and its spiritual character: what once was an organic system of structures became a chaotic aggregate of elements and fragments. There is no trace of narration, no history left - only pieces of an incomplete puzzle. 

Puzzles and tong-twisters are innocent amusements which are here turned into very serious statements of claim. This subtle twist, this simple but sharp connection of word (in its wider sense) and image, is in my opinion what makes the book successful, preventing Massimo Mastrorillo from the risk of falling into the realm of a distinct aesthetic tendency in photography. Let's take, for example, the pervasive use of the flashlight: for Mastrorillo, it is a true necessity ("Aliqual is a flashlight pointed at the suspension in which ordinary people are often forced to live in, due to globalization, economic and political choices where their voices often remain unheard", we read in the book's crowdfunding campaign), while very often it's employed only on a superficial level due to its hip and cool effect.

Aliqual is a visual analysis of a disastrous event and its unresolved consequences, realized through a precise language that manages to be contemporary, functional and personal at the same time. On top of that, Aliqual is also a good example of a fortunate encounter between photography and its editing and design (curated by 3/3, a Rome-based studio for photography projects) and a demonstration that a photobook is something more - or better said, something else - than the presentation of a photographic project on pages.

Buy the book here