This month is the ten-year anniversary of the publication of my first trade book Ciociaria by Edizioni Punctum (Rome, Italy) in 2011 and a great time for a retrospective discussion. In summary, this is a documentary of a central region of Italy that is well off the usually tourist path, yet a region that is very well known amongst the Italians. I now think of this series as a remarkable book because of its unremarkable subject, in an understated Lee Friedlander sort of way. It is a body of work without drama or suspense, unless you consider hanging laundry, trimming grape vines, adjusting a cloth screen door, a dog laying in the sun or the gaze of a herd of sheep that had just wondered past the front of your car.
Thinking back I was really interested in knowing more about the day to day life in this region, what it meant to live here. Documenting the normal and daily events that occurred, many of which seemed like a page out of my home page but just a little different; such as the man doing the weekend task of mowing the grass. Of course, there is what is not seen; the guy mowing the grass had just yelled at what I guess was his son (my Italian is really lacking, but I did get an idea from the emotion of what was been yelled), a kid who apparently was not mowing the grass ‘correctly’. The young boy threw up his arms and stomped off and then this man proceeded to take over the job and who appeared not very excited about this unexpected task that he now had to complete. Yes, also memories of my dad and me about what was the ‘proper’ or ‘correct’ way to do some yard work and similar results. LoL.
I had yet to really understand how a body of work could conceptually investigate a theme, but what attracted my attention was the review by Karen Jenkins who stated “A theme of the memorial also emerges, wherein nature is shown as an inextricable part of how we commemorate loss and reckon with the passing of time, seen here in wilted bouquets, neglected fountains and shrines embedded in the rolling hillsides.” This was an aspect that I was not initially aware of as an aspect of this series, but I now understand her points.
I think that this project was a transitional touch-point for me. Prior to this, I had been really focused on the natural landscape and only recently started photographing the urban landscape. In 2009 I had my urban roadside remembrances (memorials), a black and white series, published in Lenswork. Thus I wanted to work on this new Italian series using color as well as a stretch goal of an urban landscape that included individuals who lived there. As you tell and was pointed out by Jenkins, there are some individuals, but they are really a minor element, usually off to the side. Like I said; this was a really big stretch goal! The photograph below was a case of wonderful serendipity; I had the camera on the tripod trying to document the memorial within this building when around the corner walks this woman and I quickly made two exposures, one of which was very powerful. In retrospect it was a sort of Henri Cartier-Bresson moment, as the right person walked successfully into my composition, but I knew her walking into the frame created possibilities because I made the exposures.
I think one of my immediate take-aways after the publication of this book is that I did not find ‘street photography’ as interesting and I was more intrigued in trying to develop conceptual projects. I did not have enough of a command of Italian that allowed me to introduce or explain myself and other than the photograph below, I did not seem to be capturing very many of the ‘decisive moments’. Interestingly the couple of other times that I thought I did, the publisher pulled those photographs from consideration for the book. So in some ways, this book is also a reflection of the interests of the publisher, another important take-away that I have become more familiar with.
I am honored that over the ten-years it has garnered some nice press by PhotoBook Journal and Lenscratch, and was my first artwork collected by a Museum, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma (MACRO), Rome, Italy, and a body of work that has been curated and accepted in a number of group exhibitions. One of my Ciociaria limited edition book + print has already sold out (Morolo, Persimmons) and I have a second that is doing well.
I think that some of the best compliments that I received was from showing this book to those who live and work in the Ciociaria region when they would become very excited and state that this book described exactly who they were. They had not seen anything like this before about where they lived. Lots and lots of big smiles. Big validations.
Ciociaria is available from me (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the trade edition ($50.00 USD) and one of my two limited edition book + print, Fiuggi ($150.00 USD) usually through PayPal. Included in this price is shipping within the USA and CA sales tax. Please inquire about international shipping.
I will be leading a Creative Photo Book workshop with the Southeast Center of Photography (SEC4P), a virtual event on Zoom; November 6 & 7th and 13 & 14th, 2021, 10 AM – 1 PM, EDT (3 hour session each day, with a week between the weekend sessions to work your book-dummy). Registration is now open, and there is a SEC4P membership discount. It is SOLD OUT & wait-list has been started.
Developing a Creative Photo Book, a virtual (Zoom) workshop I will be leading again in conjunction with Medium Photo with New dates: March 5 – 6, 12 – 13, 2022 More details and sign-up available now at Medium Photo.