The Celestial Eye by Joseph Cucciniello

When you first glance through Joseph Cucciniello’s work you can’t help but wonder, “are these objects subjects, or some sort of physical obstacle that the revelation of his work hides slightly behind?” Undoubtedly he is a photographer, but his goal feels less to capture than to search. These images are taken in Indiana, Philadelphia, Buffalo, New York, and Ohio. Yet, they could be taken anywhere. There are no grand panoramic landscapes or iconic towers in Mr. Cucciniello’s work. Instead he provides a piercing gaze into what each everyday object that he shoots is. One can’t help but feel a certain phenomenology in his work, as he frames an everyday streetlamp under, in front of, the celestial eye of the moon.


Mr. Cucciniello’s work has long been focused on “quiet moments and the symbolic form of religious motifs”. Yet if you’ve been following his progression for long enough one will begin to notice an increased tension in these themes, as crosses lay discarded, upside down, and surrounded by death. The word “soul” will be seen peeling off the back of a dilapidated van, or funeral wreaths appear mass produced and for sale. Still, none of this appears depressing or stark. Joseph has a way of cradling these objects within his viewfinder until they feel comforted and familiar, until they seem at home with you.


In the below photo we cannot help but feel the care, not only of the photographer, but of the car owner. Against the fall colours and sparse shadowed leaves the hint of an old and loved car peaks out from under its protective tarp. It feels as coveted as your dad’s best jeans. Beside its still shining rims, hidden partly by shadow, a stock of new life grows.


It is the light that makes the next photo. Not the lamp, but that warm protective glow that we’ve all felt under the right streetlamp, on the right street, somewhere late at night. It is that which makes the bird look safe, almost proud, and it is again the light which makes the lamp itself seem not stark and classical, but weathering well.

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The browns which pervade this workman’s scene bath us instantly in the calm of a heatwave. It could almost be a modern rendering of O Brother, Where Art Thou? However, it lacks that pace. Instead, whether work remains to be done or not, this photo encourages us to step back and appreciate the day.


There is something divine in these two opposed shots. I think it has more to do with the hand and the car light than the sky. The sky seems at most a perfect reminder of the heavenly beauty of that most simple act. It holds within it that wonder children feel pressing the light in and watching it shine down onto them. In a way it is Cucciniello’s most religiously optimistic work.

new indiana dyp

Oh, what a perfect day. What else could one say when presented in person or photograph with the otherworldly sparkles that bless this lakeside day. Between the warm browns and the coolest of blues, Cucciniello holds before us the promise of a very fine afternoon.


Perhaps, then, it is suiting that we follow these last two joyful photos with what is undoubtedly the most disturbing of Cucciniello’s work. Parched of the colours Joseph uses so gracefully to save the situation, this automotive overlay of confusion renders itself understandable after a view or two, but never does it provide comfort. Instead we feel pitched, as each angle tells us something sudden is about to happen.


“As one grows older there’s a struggle between what we are taught to believe in and what we have come to know through personal experiences now. I try to make my imagery respond to how that motion of life works.” These are Mr. Cucciniello’s own words, and I think that they can say more about this last image than any we here could provide. Let it sink in.

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You can see more of Joseph’s work on his instagram.



Kira is an avid enthusiast of photography, poetry and the arts in general. She holds a degree in Communications and English Literature at the University of Ottawa.

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