The subject of Marco Delogu’s photobook The Thirty Assassins are the jockeys who have participated in of the bi-annual horse race in Sienna, called the Palio. The introduction provides the back story that this horse race, ridden bare back, is a throwback contest to an earlier age as well an event intertwined with ancient treachery and sinister intrigue. How else can a jockey who finishes 8th end up with more cash than the winner?
We know not of the danger and intensity of this particular race, in which the rider does not need to be mounted on the horse at the end of the race to become the winner. Instead Delogu tightly crops and frames these portraits and narrowly focuses his lens on their eyes at the exclusion of almost all else. It is about the gaze of the subject and the direct connection with the photographer, and ultimately with us, the viewer.
I feel a tension and observe an intensity in these eyes before me, dark orbs with glints of light, frequently lurking beneath darkly hooded eyelids. I perceive defiance, challenging me with their gaze, a stare-down I recall from my own youth that these jockeys might level at their opponents as their horses are about to bound from the ropes and plummet down the narrow corridors within the city.
These photographs are stark, almost graphic in these high contrast Black & White renditions. I am slightly un-nerved by the intensity of their stares bridging the span between me and the pages of this photobook
Some of these riders are well past their prime, while others are still seeking glory. Nevertheless, I have been convinced by Delogu that these are indeed the assassins of Sienna and the Palio.
This is a stiffcover book, printed and bound in Italy; the interior photographs have an excellent range of black and whites. This is a review of the third Edition in which the size has been increased with an additional six portraits. The essays by Massimo Reale, Alessandro Falassi and Adriano Sofri as well as accompanying captions and quotes are in Italian and English. A glossary has been included that provides more insight into the mechanics of the Palio.
Douglas Stockdale for The PhotoBook
Other photobooks by Marco Delogu reviewed on The Photobook: Noir et Blanc