The excitement of spring was already on the minds of the Italian image makers, Scandebergs, when Jo Malone London called to invite them to contribute to the Spring Artist Series. ‘The enquiry kind of came at the perfect moment,’ says one half of the duo, Alberto Albanese. ‘I was reading Metamorphoses by Ovid and had arrived at the part where a goddess was praying and transforming people into flowers, which was where the idea for the work came from,’ he says, delighted by the perfect timing.
The duo, which consists of Alberto Albanese and Stefano Colombini, took the stories of Narcissus, Hyacinth and Adonis from Metamorphoses, and visualised the key moments to create a series of images that are drenched in drama and saturated with colour. Daffodils reflect against a shiny black surface to represent Narcissus who pines for his lover who is trapped within a pond, and not, as is the popular misconception, because he was staring at his own reflection. ‘Well, it’s true that he was vain,’ says Albanese who is keen to set the record straight. ‘But the reason for him staring into the pond is because of his lover.’
In the Hyacinth myth, he is accidentally killed when, during a game, his lover Apollo throws a discus into the sky that cuts through the clouds before falling and striking him. In his grief Apollo transforms the blood of Hyacinth into the purple blooms that we know today. For this image, the duo scattered hyacinths onto a mirror to reflect the sky and clouds of a bright spring day. In the legend of Adonis, his lover Venus, transforms his blood into a red rose, after discovering that he has been killed by a wild beast in the forest. For this final image, a single red rose burns incandescently against the haunting green of the forest.
In all three legends, the characters summon the power of Chloris, the goddess of spring, in order to transform their lovers into beautiful flowers, which for Albanese is the perfect metaphor for the season of spring. ‘I’ve always found it really beautiful how the flowers were born out of grief and out of a love story that went really wrong,’ he says. ‘Spring is the season of transformation, when nature flourishes everywhere after the stillness of winter.’
This kind of storytelling is an essential element to how the duo creates drama and excitement in their images. ‘We take a very cinematic approach to our photography,’ says Albanese. ‘We usually look at our images as stills from a movie, where we try to capture characters in a moment. We are always trying to tell a story.’