Moving on


The passing of time may be relative but my passing through this life is just fact. 
Nothing wrong, of course, I find that getting old can be a rather fascinating process, as long as your old bones and grey cells remain reasonably reliable. 
So when I realised that living in the workshop was beginning to bring more damages than advantages I decided to turn to something less tasking and equally rewarding.
Photography, more precisely the darkroom part of it, is an art (and I mean it in the old Greek sense of techne) I learned in my late teens well before I could afford buying a camera. With time it developed into a passion that accompanied me for several years, until it became obvious that my personal approach to it would have never had a chance to turn into a bread-earning profession (and, unlike today, it was much too expensive a hobby) whereas lutemaking, my other passion, did. 
A selected part of my reportage in the slums of Ostia, Rome’s seaside neighbourhood, has become a book – that old dream of mine – but the pics can be viewed here too, in Via dell’Appagliatore (Almost a Story).
India is the result of a fairly long stay in former Bombay, plus a number of stints in New Delhi and around the southern subcontinent; the pictures are set in no particular order, except for the bunch about the Colaba Kolis, the ur-population of fishermen whose traditions survived the historical upheavals more or less unscathed.
NOTE: it may help, seeing several of these pictures, to bear in mind that in the meantime the population has doubled, the share of wealth of the bottom 50% has nearly halved to just over 6% and that of the top 1% has nearly tripled to over 31%.
Pictures at no Exhibition (almost none of my pics were ever exhibited anyhow, except for Bambini, Roma, Palazzo Braschi 1979 – UNESCO proclaimed 1979 as the International Year of the Child and most of these pictures were part of a wider exhibition marking the event in Rome) are a freewheeling selection from the stack of negatives accumulated during my globetrotting years.
The Sicilian fragments are just that, some sort of sketchbook of impressions as I was touring the Island on a wider project that never materialised at the time: some of them are not necessarily the most interesting pics I ever took, but they did serve as an immediate reminder of the emotional state I was in as I was roaming around and just for that important enough to be included as a unit. 

NOTES to Via dell’Appagliatore – Almost a Story 
At the end of the 1970s, in Rome’s seaside neighbourhood of Ostia, via dell’Appagliatore was the boundary between two clashing worlds, the creeping gentrification and the slums that at some point were to be razed to the ground to make room for a very ugly concrete church and a shopping complex.
The development of most of the area was under the control of a well known roman building speculator (belonging to the entourage of a much talked about top politician at the the time).
The slum was a tangle of hovels grown like a tumour, just impossible to descibe in any systematic way without the help of modern technology like satellites and drones.

Meeting Antonio P, Massimino (little Maximus), and Mrs was a fluke and the key to enter that rather impenetrable and mistrustful microcosm, where existance could be solidary in the common needs but also not free from conflicts. (The two-word threat semicapita / qualcunolocacciaibudelli translates if I bump into someone I’ll disembowel him).
All sort of petty activities, very often collecting and recycling waste and refuse, were for many the core of daily life.
In fact, somebody had been assigned a flat in the nearby social housing complex, the flat being then sublet – the only source of a certain steady income – while the assignee went on living in the slum: may sound like a paradox, but for a population that was mostly illiterate, uqualified and often too old for the labour market the outlooks were very limited.

When the bulldozers were put into action – at some point we knew that would happen, but all the same it came as a surprise like any catastrophe – I was abroad on a job and thus unable to put on record the most brutal part of the eviction, but what was left on the ground a couple of days later spoke for itself.
Hearsay had it that brand new skis and TV sets were found in some of the hovels; I don’t know whether that was just urban legend (hard to imagine anybody hoarding skis in a seaside resort, but what do I know) or, indeed, part of some ‘recycling’ activity: I never saw those people again and never found out where they had been displaced.
Meanwhile, the construction of the church proceeded grandly… 


IT – VANITAS – retoriche sulla morte

è stato l’unico progetto per il quale non ho fotografato umanità viva, mentre cercavo piuttosto di coglierne qualche carattere socioculturale pietrificato, per cosí dire.
Mentre cercavo di mettere a fuoco le assurdità di una ritualità largamente dettata dalla religione, il mio scopo non è mai stato ridicolizzare le singole persone e i motivi alla base del loro rapporto con la morte – che è sempre un avvenimento drammatico – cioè cosa le spinga a cercare di perpetuare, e come, la memoria.
In molti casi è stato impossibile evitare di includere dati anagarfici, però nei limiti del possibile ho perlomeno cercato di non metterli in evidenza; cosí come ho evitato di fotografare casi involontariamente umoristici (come accostamenti di nomi strani o altre situazioni ambigue – giusto un esempio, una lapide dedicata ai coniugi XY con sotto elencati tre nomi, uno maschile due femminili).
Mi è impossibile sapere se questo lavoro possa disturbare, oltre 40 anni dopo, i sentimenti di qualunque persona possa sentirsi coinvolta (parenti, discendenti o semplici conoscenti) ma, se qualcuno dovesse in qualche modo sentirsi offeso personalmente da una qualsiasi di queste immagini, non è mai stata mia intenzione e me ne scuso.
Fra tutti i temi alla base di questi ‘monumenti’, quello che alla fine non sono riuscito a catturare è il dio, quel grande assente.
Sia chiaro che rispetto profondamente il comune desiderio di lasciare una qualche memoria di sé; per quanto mi riguarda, dei 10^27 atomi che costituiscono questa mia macchina da sopravvivenza qualcuno potrebbe essere appartenuto, viste le mie radici, a Galileo, Leonardo o Dante: anche questo un modo di ricordare. Chiamatelo vanità…

EN – VANITAS – rethorics upon death

has been the only project for which I did not picture living humanity, seeking rather to grasp certain sociocultural traits, petrified, as it were.
While trying to focus on the absurdities of a ritualism largely dictated by religion my scope never was to ridicule the individuals themselves and the motives underpinning their approach to death – which is always a dramatic issue – i.e. what drives them to try and perpetuate, and how, remembrance.
In many cases it was impossible to avoid including personal data but I tried, as far as possible, to avoid at least putting it in the foreground; just as I avoided shooting unintentionally humourous cases (like funny name combinations or other ambiguous situations – just an example, a stone dedicated to spouses XY with three names underneath, one male and two female).  
I cannot know whether this work may upset, 40 years on, anybody who may feel involved (relatives, descendants or simple acquaintances) but, if so, that never was my intention and I do apologise for it.
In the end, from among all the motives for these ‘monuments’, I failed to capture the god, that great absentee.
Let it be clear that I deeply respect the common wish to leave some memory of oneself; as far as I am concerned, out of the 10^27 atoms making up this survival machine of mine the odd one may have belonged, seeing my roots, to Galileo, Leonardo or Dante: also a way to remember. Call it vanity…

uite a few of these digitised pictures betray rather clearly, when enlarged, the ravages of time on the old negatives, often well beyond seamless repair but, on the other hand, the fact that they still exist is already a bit of luck.
My ideal analogic picture size back then was 20×30 cm (I used to halve the standard 30×40 paper for printing) which fits perfectly the 24×36 mm negative frame and is pretty good to look at while holding it in your hands; a 16” full screen will bring it fairly close to that (at least my Mac PC does).

If you think you may have some sensible use for any of these pictures do feel free to download them – or simply ask me, as long as it is for personal interest with no commercial purposes. 

Vivi felice.