Out-of-place(s): Histories and Geographies of the Peripheral
(Fuori-luoghi: storie e geografie del periferico)
Places live an existence partly independent from those who live there, cross them, observe them. They are filled with a matter of their own, with a variable degree of consistency/evanescence. A matter that these places release in times and ways not always easy to understand.
We propose here a fragment of survey of contemporary peripheral states. A collage of visions of places like out-of-place: so distant, yet so close in our daily existence. Places to explore without haste. Places to literally put back under our feet to explore them against the indifference and oblivion to which they are destined, even though they are the landscapes we frequent most often and have before our eyes more than others.
We walk through these places to recognize them in their consistency of houses, streets, open spaces, fences, terrains vagues. Abandoned things, but still waiting for something. Repertoires of heterogeneous objects, now devoid of any ambition, which nevertheless deserve something more than a distracted perception. Places that ask to be considered as real presences.
These images show Eboli, a small town in southern Italy, but they could be the portrait of any other suburban place today.
The artist, writer and film director Derek Jarman spent much of his later life on the shingle of Dungeness at his home, Prospect Cottage. Jarman had purchased Prospect Cottage impulsively with an inheritance received from his father and used it as a second home and as a source of escape from his central London studio.
With declining health, Jarman engaged with the landscape of Dungeness and returned to his first loves of gardening and nature. Jarman described in his diary his experiences of nature and the landscape surrounding his home. Published as Modern Nature, Jarman’s diary is a poetic record of his life between 1989 and 1990, and recounts the wilderness of Dungeness and his time spent at Prospect Cottage in reflective detail.
My own time spent in Dungeness in the summer of 2020 was inspired by the literary descriptions of Jarman and a desire to engage and explore what he had found so mesmerising. My aim was to photograph the spaces he so vividly described and to create my own visual response to the landscape, as he had when writing his diary. I recorded my own written responses to the landscape in my diary as I too immersed myself in this wild place.
When I leave the Ottawa area the first thing I miss is the river and its spirit. The river is a part of me and I’m part of it.
My relationship with the Ottawa River started as a child, when water was the site for play, love, solace, and later, tragedy, following the death of my mother in the river. As an adult I scoured the forests and shorelines of my youth for images that illustrated a private history and framed rarely-seen landscape vignettes of the Ottawa Capital Region.
Using a plastic Holga camera I shot from the banks of the forest near Aylmer, Ottawa and Hull. The Holga captured the unrefined quality that my memory of the river demanded.
Lozhok is a place in Siberia about 60km from the city of Novosibirsk, where I was born.
From 1929 to 1956 there was a Gulag prison camp with a particularly brutal operation. In 27 years more than 30,000 people died there.
After the closure of the camp, the barracks in which the prisoners lived were destroyed. In their place, in the 1970s, a Palace of Culture, sports stadium and a school were built. Underground water sources filled one of the quarries, making it a lake. At its bottom there are tractors and other equipment from the time of the work camp. Another quarry is overgrown by vegetation.
I am interested in revealing the narratives contained within the local landscapes. The land here shows itself to be an agent of change and the field of human endeavour.
Despite the attempts of people, nature, and time to disguise the traces of those terrible events, this place definitely remembers everything.
My project Fading Away takes inspiration from some lines of a poem titled “Last Hours of the Promised Land” by the well-known Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti.
Ungaretti wrote the poem in his old age. He recounts the journey of man’s life on an autumn afternoon. Absorbed in his thoughts, he retraces moments and memories that built his life.
On one of my train trips to Rome in 2018, looking at the landscape from the window, I remembered this poem by Ungaretti. I had a small camera with me and began to take pictures, freeing my mind from all thoughts. I wanted to be totally part of that moment and I knew that it would become part of my most intimate emotions.
These are small snapshots taken from the window of a train. I became lost in memories in this blurry landscape, which passes quickly, dissolving in a gaze. It was a journey of looking for my true self, an ephemeral path obscured by the daily whirlwind.
In this series I explored how the natural landscape of Savannah, Georgia, a port city in the USA, has been manipulated by the people who live there. I looked for scenes that show how the natural side and the artificial side of the city interact with one another. The subtropical climate creates a unique ecosystem within the city that is lush with natural growth.
Isolation due to the quarantine led me to examine the landscape and the repercussions of human activity on it, using Google Earth.
An instrument almost unknown to me suddenly turned out to be inspiring. The time has passed for searching for beauty. It’s time to look at reality and avoid looking elsewhere. It’s time to look the landscape issue in the eye and avoid rejecting it by chasing to the myth of the lyrical landscape. The landscape is spoiled, distorted and deformed. It’s imperative to have full awareness for the damages which our way of living keeps on producing in the whole planet.
These homemade collages, compositions of photographs drawn from Google Earth, create patterns which can alter reality and confuse the vision. The esthetic dignity, however, hides that which humans still struggle to recognize as an epochal disaster.
Paradoxically, what interests me most in photography is not the immediacy of the shot but the duration: a temporality made up of suspended moments, waiting and absence in a world in balance, a world of “almost nothing” where the presence of man is only suggested. This contradiction serves as a motor for me: before the natural observation of things, awareness of fleeting time and the desire to grasp it amalgamate.
More formally, the search for this same balance between opposing forces is found in the objects and structures photographed: play between full and empty, dialogue between the animate and the inanimate, fusion of the masculine and the feminine.
This series, titled Interstices, shows us how natural and modern elements coexist and interact. The architecture of structures and the architecture of nature seem to be animated by one and the same energy. All of these photographs were taken in France and Spain in 2019.
The day before climbing Mount Fuji, I stayed in Fujiyoshida, a few miles from the mythical mountain. Of course, the Japanese town is far from prestigious, but its apparent beauty is precisely what attracts and interests me. Moreover, as I discover it, and as I delve into its nooks and crannies, its contrasts appear to me and captivate me.
It’s raining. The streets of Fujiyoshida are deserted as if the city had been abandoned. But housing, crossroads, dead ends, parking lots speak for the absent population.
A scene painted on a garage door evokes the history of Japan and the patriotic sentiment of its owner. Household and computer equipment thrown away speaks of technology and Japanese capitalism. It suggests a hasty departure, an impression which is underlined by the wild vegetation seen in a parking lot or a cramped no-man’s land, old posters plastered on a dilapidated wall.
But ruin, decline, exile even, are merely an appearance, an illusion quickly swept away. In fact, the tidy habitat and open shutters evoke life like the gleaming cars, flowerbeds, advertising signs or that of a bar…
My journey through Fujiyoshida is formally punctuated by right angle shots and blind spots, which precede the discovery of new spaces.
My family’s past is connected with the places flooded to create the Rybinsk Reservoir on the Volga River, in Russia. This reservoir was once the largest man-made body of water on Earth.
Joseph Stalin forced more than 130,000 people to leave their homes and businesses between 1937 and 1941 to make way for the reservoir. Stone houses were destroyed, while wooden ones were dismantled and transported for use elsewhere.
Those who became homeless were given money, but had to find new homes on their own. Most people moved somewhere nearby, but some died, unable to survive the shock, the cold, illness and poverty. About 700 villages were flooded, along with over 50 churches, three monasteries, wealthy estates with surrounding territories, gardens and parks. The whole city of Mologa was flooded.
I was drawn to these places, to find people who would tell about the flooding. Articles from books were not enough. I needed live witnesses, those who kept the stories of their relatives. I needed photos, documents, letters and evidence. It is impossible to remain indifferent now, as it is impossible to change what happened. For a long time, there was a ban on talking about Mologa and people were afraid to share information. Even when it became possible, most people remained silent.
The portraits in my project are of people whose families were displaced by the flooding. They now live within 15 miles of the reservoir. I made the landscape photographs from a boat on the Rybinsk Reservoir or near its shore.