There is an inherent shock value when viewing the work of Enzo Sarto. Executed in a clean and crisp manner, Sarto’s photographs highlight a deceptive innocence that demands attention. Although stating that his work “is about passions, prejudices, and fear,” a specific clarification, such as why a little girl wears a bandana around her face like a vandal and holds a gun as if she just committed murder, remains elusive. Politically and socially charged images, such as Candor Dat Viribus Alas (Truth Gives Wings to Strength), infiltrate much of Sarto’s work, producing a dialogue that begs for an explanation.
The portraits of Sarto’s work tend to revolve between two categories: women and children. While these two subjects exude virtue, beauty, and grace, they also display a degree of weakness, both in terms of natural physicality and socially-constructed standards. Through the combination of beauty and weakness, the women are children appear harmless. They are figures designed to care. As a result, Sarto’s placement of weapons creates an unsettling juxtaposition. Along with immediate association with violence, the weapons also imply notions of power. Through the possession of a weapon, the subject gains control over the health and safety of herself and others. The emblems of nurture and weakness immediately transform into a force of destruction and power, reminding the viewer that, in the words of Sarto, “women and children count and are powerful. There is comeuppance by marginalizing them.”
If such a fateful occurrence is the result of institutionalized undervaluation, Sarto reimagines the revenge as an uprising that invokes fear with the potential for actual violence. The female figures within his photographs must assert power out of necessity. In Aut Viam Invenium Aut Facium (Either Find a Way or Make One), a young girl holds both a stuffed lamb and a rifle that nearly matches her in size. Despite being polar opposites, neither accessory appears misplaced. The toy animal aligns with one’s natural expectations of a child; however, her intense and direct gaze assures the viewer that she is capable of using the rifle and ready to do so. Sarto describes that “[his] work is not a dialogue about society and violence. It’s about inequity and its future cost.” The specifics of such repercussions from power imbalances are unclear; however, Sarto implies that expectations of the female role and representation will change.
While Sarto’s use of weapons implies power over another, they are likewise a tool of defense. The need to defend oneself arises from the threat of an opposing party. If the subjects of Sarto’s work engage with weapons from a defensive standpoint, the women and child are, thereby, protecting themselves. It is from an unjust state of disparity that the need for defense emerges.
Despite the serious overtones of Sarto’s photography, he simultaneously creates work for humorous reason. The playful imagery emerges most often in his stickers, such as his Alarm Pull series, which incorporates clever phrases on tools used for public emergencies. Such a contrast in themes demonstrates Sarto’s wide range of ability and work. Furthermore, as one of the only street artists who works almost exclusively with photography, Sarto contributes a unique element to the world of urban art. Controversial and shocking, the work of Enzo Sarto engages with the public in an unparalleled manner, sparking conversation and critiques of modern society.