Johnnie Shand Kydd is an acclaimed documentary photographer perhaps best known for his portraits of artist friends such as Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst. In 2000 he embarked on a longterm project to capture the dramatic and chaotic world of Naples. Having never visited the city before, he soon developed a relationship with it that he described as 'akin to a drug habit', returning again and again over the next eight years.
Naples is known as the 'Siren City' because of the legend of Parthenope who, having failed to seduce Ulysses with the beauty of her song, threw herself into the sea and was washed ashore at the place that was to become Naples. Documenting the city's streets, culture, traditions and people, Shand Kydd was seduced by its contradictory and complex nature – sinister yet humorous, sacred yet profane, theatrical yet real. He observed a darker side to Naples, related not only to its infamous corruption and criminality but also to the city's inherent pagan character. Whilst seeing Naples as a tough, noisy and anarchic city he also finds beauty and a particular light-heartedness which, he argues, can be 'discovered in the detail rather than the overview.'
'Every street and piazza is a stage, with the Neapolitan people responding to the camera lens in a very unique way. Soldiers strike poses and old ladies reach for their fans with an odd mixture of pride and innocence reminiscent of nineteenthcentury photography, when the camera still had an air of mystery.' Shand Kydd's decision to shoot in black and white and use an old-fashioned film camera further endows his photographs with a sense of timelessness.
Influenced by neo-realist filmmakers such as Luchino Visconti, he documents the city with an honesty and visual poetry that avoids the clichés found in both lifestyle photographs and gangster movies. The fifty striking pictures featured in the exhibition - the first time they were shown in the UK - remain a fitting tribute by an accomplished photographer to the Naples he has grown to love. The exhibition was accompanied by a hardback book published by Other Criteria.