From Friday until early May, Sacred and Profane: A solo exhibition by Danilo Arata is open to the public at the Malta Society of Arts (MSA), Palazzo De La Salle. Arata’s keen eye and passion for photography accompanied him during his work as a pilot, and flying around the globe has profoundly shaped his work. The photographs range from black and white to coloured and were taken over the past three years. The Malta-based pilot’s aim is to stimulate a discussion about diversity and respect towards one another irrespective of origin.

Most of the images are displayed in pairs. “The coupling is not casual. The shaman on top, which is the archbishop locally, naturally touching the leg of his wife, would be considered inappropriate in a lot of places in the world. I’m just trying to show how something normal in some countries is not normal at all in others,” Arata told Eve.

Family in a nutshell – Laos Luang Prabang

Born in Rome in 1976, Arata studied Photography at the Roman Cinematography Institute ‘Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia’. As a professional pilot, he started from photographing landscapes. He is still an active pilot, with his last flight having taken place last week. The idea behind his work is to display a penchant for visual story-telling and capturing the essence of people and their humanity, irrespective of the environmental influences created by societal norms.

Focusing on how similar and yet different societies are, Arata is keen on using photography to immortalise what is perceived as sacred and profane, with the boundaries often blurring. These works engage with contrasts in how children are brought up, how love is perceived, and how adulthood and life are rougher to some than to others. Hence the coupling of images from different places. Manhattan, familiar to many from films and personal travels, appears no less exotic as Peru or Uzbekistan.

Curated by Marisabelle Grech, the material was collected from eleven countries, including the USA, Cuba, China, Iceland, Italy and Armenia. “There is something magical in every place,” Arata comments dreamily, but admits facing different reactions and perceptions as he pulls out his camera to document daily life in the countries he visits. “[In East Africa,] they don’t like it at all. You have to hide, or convince them slowly.” Having lived in Malta for five years, the artist is impressed by the openness of Maltese people to art. “It’s amazing when you get close to somebody and you approach them art-wise, all the doors open!”

Arata has already exhibited his work at MSA in January 2017, the display being the first version of A World of Human Shadows. The second version appeared at the local council in Swieqi, where he lives, in May 2017. He takes the exhibition as an opportunity to collaborate with the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society (PFWS), by donating proceeds from the sales. The funds will be used to assist in the research and projects aimed towards creating a better environment for various groups of people.