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Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

A glimpse of the village.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

The community’s church, which was destructed during the Soviet period and renovated during the 90s.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

In the church’s crypt there is constantly someone who recites prayers, day and night.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Autumn’s Ball, for the occasion the girls tailor their own dresses.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Maria, who was born in Syria, after the war returned to Russia with her family and now lives in the community with her brother.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

In the old gymnasium corridors live many animals. Children have to learn how to take care of them.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

The blessing of the well’s water, the only source of potable water in the community.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

In the evening, after the dinner in the communal canteen, the attendance call of the young men of the internal military academy takes place. Physical, moral and intellectual discipline are considered fundamental.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

The mass celebration.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Children play in a snow fortress.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

On a winter night

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

As in old Soviet schools, girls have to learn how to dismantle and reassemble a kalashnikov.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

The community keeps around 30 horses. Students have daily riding lessons with Cossack instructors.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Two drummers run to roll call at the community’s military academy.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Creating a museum that hosts archaeological and naturalistic findings along with traditional and cultural artefacts, has been one of the great achievements of Father Peter, the community’s founder.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Autumn. The children help with the up keeping of the park, but later they inevitably start playing.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Under the canteen’s tarp.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

During the after-school activities Dasha plays with her mates.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Viktoria, one of the many girls living in the community. Originally there were only orphans and kids with family problems, but now there are many youngsters whose parents wanted for them an upbringing according to Christian principles.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Kids help adults working in the fields. In periods of intensive work, school's lessons are suspended.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Igor, the tractor driver. The community lives out of farming for self-sufficiency.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

In the gymnasium hallway, during the break.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

The library contains circa five thousand books.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

A Cossack instructor of the military academy in front of the church and the small graveyard.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

The kids of the church choir.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

On a Sunday, getting ready for a horse ride.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Autumn Ball.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Maria and Alexandra help harvest potatoes. They have become inseparable friends.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

On the 19th of January the community members challenge the low temperatures and immerge in the freezing water as a commemoration of Jesus’s baptism, a way to purify oneself from the evil.

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello
Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

Isle of Salvation - © Francesco Comello

In the Orthodox tradition, in order to get access to religious ministry one has to either become a monk or get married. Vladimir is marrying Vittoria, both were part of the community some years before.

 

Francesco Comello was born in Udine in 1963. After attending Arts School, he worked in advertising graphics and illustration. In the meanwhile he started photographing and developing his own projects. His work has been exhibited on several occasions, among which, a solo exhibition at the San Fedele Gallery in Milan in 2013. He has been shortlisted for many international prizes and in 2011 he received the Special Audience Award during Portfolio Italia. L’isola della salvezza (Isle of Salvation) is his most recent project.

As if it were the ideal sequel of his previous series Oshevensk - exhibited at MIA 2014 - L’isola della Salvezza is the account of a small Russian community immersed in a sort of 19th century utopia. In a region North of Moscow, an orthodox priest has founded in the early 90s a confraternity made of circa thirty people, with the intention of leading a life according to the gospels, which then turned into something else.
Comello describes it like this: «During the years it has become a community that hosts more or less 300 children and young adults, many of them ill-suited of with family problems. There’s no television, internet, cell phones and no money, which are considered the evil products of modern society. Here the kids work in the fields, study, dance. The soul is forged, the body is trained.»
It’s a world on its own, where prayer blends with military training, school with kid’s games, work in the fields with readings in the library. An autarchic community that sees in the strictness of traditional values a way out of contemporary society, which the community members have refused or considered no longer suitable for them.
An intimate and crepuscular account, inevitably suspended in time, that can fascinate and scare at the same time.

Isle of Salvation is among the selected projects concurring for the World Report Award - Spot Light section - of the next Festival della Fotografia Etica in Lodi.

 

Gabriele Magazzù

 

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Francesco Comello: Isle of Salvation”

  • Cecilia Terenzoni

    Tuesday April 4th, 2017 at 02:51 PM

    Gentile Francesco,
    mi chiamo Cecilia Terenzoni e sono una collaboratrice della rivista +31mag.nl, un giornale online con sede ad Amsterdam che si rivolge alla comunità internazionale che vive qui. Il nostro focus è su tematiche politiche, sociali e culturali legate ai Paesi Bassi.

    Stiamo realizzando alcuni servizi su World Press Photo 2017.Uno in particolare sarà dedicato agli italiani vincitori. Saremmo lieti se avesse tempo per una video-intervista. La durata sarebbe di circa venti minuti e le domande verteranno prevalentemente sul suo lavoro.

    In passato abbiamo già realizzato servizi simili: qui, può vedere l’intervista realizzata con Massimo Sestini. Qualora fosse interessato, la pregherei di comunicarci quando sarà ad Amsterdam così potremo fissare un appuntamento.

    Cordialmente,
    Cecilia

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzPPEZQA0gQ

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