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      Photographing An Annual Ritual

      Feb. 23, 2017

      Vincenzo Pietropaolo - RitualThis month, photographer Vincenzo Pietropaolo is set to publish a unique coffee table book titled, Ritual, that chronicles one of the largest processions in North America – the Good Friday Procession in Toronto’s Little Italy. Published by Black Dog Publishing, the book features over 150 photographs of the annual procession between the years of 1969 and 2015.

      Pietropaolo’s work capturing the annual procession started as a sort of fluke. In 1969, Pietropaolo lived in Toronto’s Little Italy and was interested in photography. All he needed was a subject.

      “In a way I cut my teeth in photography with the procession. And I went back the next year, and the next year, and the next year,” Pietropaolo explains.

      “I was interested in immigration. I photograph the Italian community, life in general in Little Italy, Italian workers. The procession is a narrative of the immigrant experience in the city. We are a city of immigrants. It’s what makes Toronto such a unique city,” he continues.

      The annual Good Friday Procession runs along an 8-kilometre route over a 3-hour period in Toronto’s Little Italy.

      Vincenzo Pietropaolo - RitualVincenzo Pietropaolo - Ritual“People often mistake a procession with a parade. A parade is a secular event. A procession is an act of prayer, an act of devotion. It’s a spiritual event. And in the case of the Good Friday Procession, it’s a sad ritual,” Pietropaolo comments.

      “The Good Friday Procession is a special one because all parts of Italy take part in it. It’s not particular to one town. It’s become a meeting place for Italians from everywhere.”

      Although it is not heavily publicized, the annual procession is now a ritual for many spectators. When the weather cooperates, as many as 100,000 people line up along the route to watch.

      Unable to find an publisher at first, Pietropaolo resorted to a crowdfunding campaign last year to raise the funds necessary to publish Ritual. His campaign surpassed his expectations. He was able to hit his $24,000 goal in 35 days.

      “Publishing an art book like this is a very expensive proposition. I feel so much gratitude to my supporters. It couldn’t have been done without them,” Pietropaolo explains.

      Crowdfunding campaigns always include a variety of “gifts” that donors can choose. The Ritual campaign included a hard copy of the book as one of its gifts. 200 donors chose to receive about 300 books – an impressive “pre-sale” in the world of independent publishing.

      “Books have a lasting value. It’s an artifact, an art object. It becomes a lasting document. Books are forever. Even today, people just love holding a book in their hands.”

      The official Ritual book launch takes place tonight (February 23, 2017), at 6:30PM, at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto (496 Huron Street). The reception will also celebrate the launch of an exhibition of photographs by Pietropaolo that will be on display until March 16, 2017.

      Next week, on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto will host In conversation with the artist: Vincenzo Pietropaolo. The event starts at 7:00PM, with Professor Don Snyder in conversation with Pietropaolo.

      To order a copy of Ritual, please visit

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