Francesco Mastalia has traveled the world photographing tribal, religious, spiritual, and indigenous people. His first book DREADS, published by Workman Artisan, is a photo-documentary on the history of dreadlocks. Photographed on location in Ethiopia, Kenya, Angola, Namibia, Senegal, India, Japan, New Zealand, Jamaica and throughout the United States, now in its eighth printing, DREADS includes an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker.
His second book “ORGANIC” Farmers & Chefs of the Hudson Valley, documents the Hudson Valley’s organic sustainable food movement. Published by powerHouse Books, the 17,000-mile journey includes over 100 of the regions farmers and chefs. The portraits for the project were photographed using the wet-collodion process, a photographic technique developed in the mid-19th century. Works from ORGANIC are included in the Permanent Collection of the Library of Congress.
The current book YOGA The Secret of Life is a photo-documentary about the spiritual and physical journey of yoga. Through photographs and text this fine art book explores the personal experiences of 108 of today’s leading yoga practitioners and how this ancient practice has transformed their mind, body, and spirit. YOGA The Secret of Life is included on Elizabeth Avedon's list of Best Photography Books of 2017.
"Francesco Mastalia's ambrotypes are among the finest being made in the world today. His prints, equal in beauty and power to the ambrotypes themselves, are sensual and stunning."
- Gail Buckland
The discovery of the wet-collodion technique in the mid- 19th century allowed for the majestic work of early portrait photographers Julia Margaret Cameron and Matthew Brady.
Mysterious, alluring, and elusive, the charismatic force of the collodion process propels us into the union of a known and unknown world. As a manual art this labor-intensive craft requires each step be performed by hand. During its fragile journey, it is essential that the glass plate be sensitized, exposed, developed and fixed while remaining wet.
The collodion process transports us to another place and time. Glass plates are hand coated to produce one-of-a-kind "ambrotype" images, positive images on glass. The process begins by hand pouring an emulsion of collodion and light sensitive salts onto a sheet of black glass. In ceremonial fashion, the plate is then bathed in a solution of silver nitrate to render it sensitive to light. Waiting, under the mystical shroud, the “wooden-view-camera” sits in silence, as the glass plate is brought to light. With the subject holding perfectly still, the lens cap is carefully removed from the antique brass lens and the seconds are counted. Eager to reveal itself, the glass plate is quickly brought to development. Appearing as a negative, it is immersed into a fixing solution, and as it clears, the image magically comes to "life."
An “ambrotype” is miraculously brought to light by a divine force. When the light-sensitive chemicals absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays, we enter a mysterious world where art and alchemy embrace. “Ambrotype,” from ancient Greek, means “immortal,” capturing an impression for eternity, its essence revealing the spirit of the soul.