The poetry of wrecks

The bright and melancholy photographs of Stefano Benazzo

By Cornucopia | January 19, 2019

In the Rahmi M Koç Museum on the Golden Horn, an institution that has rescued so many from the wrecker's yard, it is salutary lesson to see what might have been: vessels that have succumbed to the vicissitudes of time and tempest.

Stefano Benazzo – photographer, sculptor, model maker (both architectural and naval) –  is the ultimate beachcomber. From his home in Umbria, the 70-year-old former diplomat tours the world in search of vessls stranded and forgotten on distant shores. This exhibition of his photographs at the Koç Museum in Istanbul serves up some of his favourite finds.


Benazzo's new book Wrecks/Relitti (Skira, March 2017, in English and Italian), and his exhibition at the Rahmi M Koç Museum from January 15, 2019, Duty of Memory, reveal the poetry of shipwrecks. What appeals to the former ambassador is not what the ocean sucked down 'with a bubbling cry', as Byron put, but vessels abandoned by man, such as the magnificent Sicilian tunny fishing boats in Barche di tonnare a Bonagia, at the beginning of this article, and the barge at Boretto on the River Po, below, its rusty iron hulk glowing in the sun, like some huge garden urn.

Stefano Benazzo, Chiatta sul Po, Boretto

Below, at Grado, to the west of the Veneto, is the wreck of one of the sailing ships that once carried the treasures of Venice – graceful even as somewhat less than a shadow of its former self.

Stefano Benazzo, Burcio a Grado

In complete contrast, Benazzo captures the drama of the high seas, with his photograph of the Zeila, a deep-sea fishing vessel wrecked off  'Skeleton Coast' of Nambia in 2008 and still being pounded by the surf.

Zeila, Costa degli Scheletri, Namibia

Calm returns, along with the cormorants, in Mauritania, below.

Relitto, Capo Bianco, Mauritania

And below, in South Georgia, the nests of blue-eyed shags can be found on the wreck of the three-masted Bayard, built in Liverpool, as it is gradually swallowed up by the hilside where it ran aground in a gale in 1911.

Bayard, Georgia del Sud, Atlantico meridionale

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