Tag Archives: Italy

Forcella

Forcella is photobook by two photographers who have a history of working together on long-time projects and assignments: Valentina Piccinni and Jean-Marc Caimi. It was  first published in 2015 with Witty Kiwi as a 132-pages trade edition. The book takes us on a rough ride through the oldest neighbourhoods of Naples: Quartieri Spagnoli, Sanità, the city beaches of the Caracciolo broad walk and of course also Forcella,  an infamous quarter “stabbed in the deepest guts” of the city.

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© Valentina Piccinni & Jean-Marc Caimi

In its introduction the authors write: “In Forcella time is suspended, frozen in a undefined era that holds the breath from postwar to the Eighties; modernity and globalisation didn’t make their way through the daily life of common people.”

The authors could not have given us a better lead to their work. Indeed, Jean-Marc’s and Valentina’s Naples is far away from bling-bling Italy as it is stage-managed by Silvio Berlusconi on his television channels.  We are far away from temptation island where the grass is green and the botoxed girls are pretty. We are are also far away from urban, progressive but alltogether petty bourgeois subcultures. Forcella is presented as a rather uncomfortable setting, frozen indeed in cold and hard contrast B&W’s. We see tough plants resistent to the leaden sun on the city, tough animals showing their teeth, and tough folks in the austere conditions of their bare appartments.

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© Valentina Piccinni & Jean-Marc Caimi

The people of Forcella seem to be enjoying the nearness of the sea and the coolness of a shadow in town, but it is also clear that a walk and a talk is all they really have. Their skins may be elegantly tanned by the sun, our attention is only drawn to the moles of imperfection or to tattoos showing enigmatic messages. The looks in their eyes are not seducing the reader not even pleasing the photographers.

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© Valentina Piccinni & Jean-Marc Caimi

In an interview Jean-Marc Caimi explained that the neighbourhoods they photographed harbour a unique way of living. “A pure, old fashioned humanity is reigning, instant friendship is offered, derived from a widespread and unconscious awareness of all being in the same boat.” It is suggested that the locals are living along ancient mediterranean rites and codes of friendship, politeness, honour and hospitality. They seem to be leading their lifes as it was taught by their mothers, fathers, grandparents, uncles and aunts. The loyalty to their traditions makes them resilient against economic and cultural transitions that are making the powerless even more vulnerable.

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© Valentina Piccinni & Jean-Marc Caimi

But places like Forcella are also notorious enclaves in modern Italy; homes to the fiercest mafia groups of the continent. Their feuding is ruthless. The list of victims of extortions, crossfires or brutal targeted killings remains always open. When the state comes to find the perpetrators, codes of silence keep all mouths closed.

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© Valentina Piccinni & Jean-Marc Caimi

Jean-Marc and Valentina write about the neighbourhoods of the camorristas and their victims that these are “places where poverty is the queen and camorra the king.” The book is following a trail through these quarters, from beach to square to church and back. The social reality over there is evoked by details. We often find cheap, kitschy objects that are most probably “Made in China”: The only products of globalized culture that wash ashore in such environments. On the same trail that we follow,  we discover also effigies of the Madonna or parafernalia of SSC Napoli, highly valued objects that can offer hope and redemption.

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© Valentina Piccinni & Jean-Marc Caimi

Remarkably, the Neapolitans that we see, show themselves without any reservation. Sometimes they expose us their bodies, languorously. The looks at the camera and the bodies make me wonder who is leading the dance in Forcella. Is it “the queen” (poverty) or is it “the king” (traditional culture)?

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© Valentina Piccinni & Jean-Marc Caimi

Maybe “the unique way of living” is only a weak bid against a society where wealth and power are concentrating in ever smaller circles. Mental or emotional attachments to the codes of the past are maybe the last  straw for people that – in our challenging times- have been deprived of a proper education system. Maybe the barbaric vendettas  are only weird relics of the past, cultural fossils. Maybe they are practised only for the sake of local culture, maybe they are harmless for those who live outside Naples.

Let’s read the baffling but beautiful quote by Pier Paolo Pasolini about the Neapolitans at the beginning of the book: “I have realised this: Neapolitans are today a big tribe who, instead of living in the desert or in the savannah, (…) live in the belly of a great port city. This tribe has decided (…) to die out, by rejecting the new power, that is, what we call history or modernity. (This rejection) give a profund (sic) melancholy, like all tragedies that take place slowly (…). Neapolitans have decided to die out, by remaining until the very end who they are, that is unreachable, irreducible, and incorruptible.”

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© Valentina Piccinni & Jean-Marc Caimi

Pasolini is apocalyptical and hypnotising as ever. But we can also see the old, popular cultures of Naples as a fertile soil for a positive solution to the eternal conflict between the powerless and the system. Apparently, Naples has become “one of the most important examples of a European ‘rebel city’, in which municipal power is shared with social movements and civil society organisations to further the commons and innovate new forms of democratic participation“.

Anyway, Forcella’s trade edition is sold out now. Luckily,  the “binomial production team” self-published a “special dummy book edition” (30 copies) in June 2016. This second version is a 90-pages spiral bound notebook with a new selection of the images, xeroxed on French Lana Paper. It is presented as “the photographer’s cut“. And the photographer’s cut is even more uncompromomising than the trade edition. Against all the odds in Italy’s post-Berlusconi surreality, the authors clearly side with the rebels. Good stuff!

Thank you very much Mrs Piccinni and Mr. Caimi!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Amore e Piombo The Photography of Extremes in 1970s Italy (1)

The ninth publication by the Archive of Modern Conflict Books (AMC), which appeared after the summer of 2014, is nothing less than a landmark edition, both in its own publication line and perhaps also in the whole flow of this year’s photobook publications.

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cover (Melanie Mues)

We are presented with a selection of 110 pictures that were originally diffused in the press by the Rome based agency Team Editorial Services (TES), whose complete records are nowadays kept by the AMC in London.  The series of high-contrast black-and-white tabloid photographs lead us back to the 1970’ies and is breathtaking because of its moments of glamour and violence, both presented as two extremes that are  touching each other in mysterious ways.

But the series is also breathtaking because of its beautiful and clever presentation. The insertion of (the right) quotes by Federico Fellini, Italo Calvino and Dario Fo into the sequence of pictures is a stroke of genious because of the “trick with the spread” (see last image below) and because of the choice of the red-orange-yellow colours of the quotation pages. These fiery colours make the blacks-and-whites of the pictures all the more telling. The quality of the paper seems to be superior as well. We will try to focus on the records of Team Editorial Services in the AMC, the selection procedure and the production of this journal in a following post together with the authors (Roger Hargreaves and Federica Chiocchetti).

But, let us first be taken back to the 1970’ies in Italy by leafing through their highlights as they were captured by the TES photographers.

Like most western countries, Italy was then reaching the point of no return in its definitive conversion from a pre-war economy to a new, global economy that is sustained by the consumerism and sometimes hedonism of each and every individual citizen.

In the photographic testimonies of TES we can see how – in this new societal context – some major ideologies were coming to an end: the wrist watches of some far-left supporters seem to announce the end of socialism (p 22-23), women en route to a religious ceremony are holding their ritual attributes in an awkward or improper manner (p 12), some humble catholic nuns and their ecclesiastical authorities do not know how to look to those weird paparazzi (p 51), the respecatble jesuit father Bartolomeo Sorge even begins to look like a samourai in high tech Japan (p 36).

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p 22-23 © Team Editorial Services/Alinari/AMC

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p 12 © Team Editorial Services/Alinari/AMC

 

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p 51 © Team Editorial Services/Alinari/AMC

Definitely, a new era is changing tack through the emancipation of a complete generation from its past. “Maria” is claiming her rights as a woman (p 64, 74) “Guiseppe” as a transvestite (p 28), others are advocating the right to abortion (p 30), divorce (p 65, 88) or non-normative lifestyles (p 14-15). And people also started to hit the streets in order to vent their discontment about the new realities. Wine and milk producers for example were claiming back their old local economy (p 71,77).

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p.64 – 65 © Team Editorial Services/Alinari/AMC

We also see how, in the spotlights of stardom, many new societal identities and archetypes were staged. Many Italians seem to have been eager to adopt these identities in their own lives in spite of the fact that these were completely ficticious set-ups and “did not bear the noonday sun of reality” as we can see at the snapshots of Brigitte Bardot’s (p 72) or Gabriella Ferri’s (p 41) prosaic everyday life.

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p. 72 © Team Editorial Services/Alinari/AMC

We also see many cars. Symbols of individual freedom where they are vehicles to access frenetic nightlife (p 16-17) ; symbols of private comfort where they function as a protective luxury cage for the shy empress of Iran (p 24); symbols as well of domestic violence where they serve as vehicles for explosions (p 100), murder (p 115) or police apprehension (p 120-121) …..

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p 115 © Team Editorial Services/Alinari/AMC

And here we are at the dark heart of the “Years of Lead” in Italy. The peninsula may have been on the verge of civil war with its ever changing government coalitions, the permanent occupations of universities and factories, furious industrial conflicts, right-wing terroristic outrages masquerading as acts of left-wing radicalism, theatrical assassinations which were all leading up to one traumatic climax: the kidnap and subsequent murder of former prime minister Aldo Moro.

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p 122-123 © Team Editorial Services/Alinari/AMC

This tragic, ultra-violent and highly mediatised murder also constitutes the finale of Amore e Piombo (Love and Lead). And all of a sudden the reader realizes that this book is more than an album of historical highlights. The photographs seem to be collated and presented as a rebus, a riddle in images, a graphic cryptogram sheding a subtle light on the dark and mysterious mechanisms behind the violence.

Was there any orchestration behind the violence? The authors of the book are writing: “There are no paper trails, just whispers in the deep shadows. Unseen hands certainly stirred the ingredients of the season – gnostic terrorism, conspiracy and collaboration – into the already toxic brew of perpetual coalition government, economic stagnation and industrial unrest as Europe’s fiercest and most radical working class movements took the streets“. But, ultimately the authors are also adding: “All the while, the true puppet-masters and string-pullers remain just out of frame“.

Therefore, the clues to decipher the rebus are impossible to find. Although maybe, maybe, maybe the Italo Calvino quote is an important clue. “Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else“.

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p 7 © Team Editorial Services/Alinari/AMC

Throughout the book we witness the desires and fears of the Italian society. We see the absurd rules and the deceitful perspectives. We realize that everything conceals something else. We want to understand the secret discourse. We want to catch the true puppet-masters and string-pullers.

The spread with the Calvino quote is ingeniously seperated between pages 26 and 111.  Maybe it is an important clue because ugh oh, who do we see each time on its opposite pages (pages 27 and 110)? A man with a mission?

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p. 27 © Team Editorial Services/Alinari/AMC

David Nollet