All product photos courtesy of The Palomino
To an outsider, Sicily feels like a skateboard fairy tale. It is where Mauro Caruso filmed a part in a ghost city once intended to be an eminent destination for art lovers. It is where Jacopo Carozzi et al. found an abandoned post-WWII era seaside resort that seemingly shares ancestral DNA with a skatepark. Almost every spot in Danny Brady’s “Welcome to Palace” part that isn’t British crust is in Sicily. A seasoned Euro T.M. once told me that it’s the best spots/cost/wow-factor combo for a not-obvious skate trip in all of Europe. The Dime guys echoed that sentiment, saying Sicily was maybe the best trip they had ever been on — oh, and, a volcano erupted while they were there.
Except what do any of us know about Sicily’s skate scene? Outside of that Mauro Caruso coverage, practically nothing. The aforementioned T.M. said that you need to pay a guide to drive you around to spots and handle things, because otherwise, you’re pretty much helpless.
Claudio Majorana is an Italian doctor, photographer and skateboarder. Head of the Lion chronicles six years (2011-2017) that he spent photographing a group of young locals in the suburbs of Catania, Sicily. (Catania is Italy’s 10th largest city.) It is the exact opposite of his first skate book, 2015’s The Recent History of Sicilian Skate Tours, which is about just that: foreigners skating Sicily.
The title refers to a cliff from where the crew would jump into the ocean, a rite of passage that signified they were no longer kids. Between a prologue and epilogue of blown-out video grabs, are photos of play-fighting, teenage make-outs, and religious ephemera — staples of any photo book about youth.
But what catches the eye are the images of the kids’ makeshift ramps, piles of plywood, and my favorite, a boardslide on a toppled mannequin. Sicily (and especially the suburbs of Catania) is so isolated from the greater skate world, yet these fixtures look exactly like what drifts into Tompkins day after day, year after year. Without devolving into “skaters see the world differently,” “you grew old because you quit skating,” etc. axioms, the innocence and universality found in curating a city’s debris so that it could maybe-kinda-sorta be used for fun is at the heart of Head of the Lion‘s photographs.
Regardless of our individual reasons for picking up a skateboard, once we open a magazine or see a video for the first time, a greater narrative emerges: pros, sponsors, standards. At some point, the dust settles. For some, it’s when they accept skateboards as nothing more than tools to make our time on earth a bit more enjoyable. For others, it might be when they realize a pro career was never in the cards. But when it does settle, we retreat to this baseline setting where we get the same joy from skating a pile of street rubble that a child first learning to roll off a curb does. Not many things in life feel as pure as making your friends laugh after you land a trick on a mannequin that was abducted from its voyage to a landfill.
I’m no psychologist (the photographer, however, did write his med school thesis on brain development during adolescence), but I imagine this pleasure we retain in playing with skateable garbage comes from the same part of our psyche that was responsible for building forts with furniture in our parents’ living rooms, or pretending parts of the floor were made from lava when we were kids. Head of the Lion is a portrait of the enduring child inside of every skateboarder.
Head of the Lion is available from The Palomino. No idea where to buy it domestically ¯\_(ツ)_/¯