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Vol. 2 No. 1 (2017): Crossing Borders, Shifting Boundaries: Photography and Architecture

Photography keeps an eye on the photographer




I think we can all agree on one point, that architecture is the main territory of photography. This is the case because ever since Atget’s time our way of duplicating the world has been done in the city; and probably without the city photography would not even exist. Architecture is the training ground for beginners, who take pictures of the street in which they live, shots of smoke- blackened industrial buildings or the notorious outskirts, intriguing because they provide indisputable proof of the decay of the contemporary city. Talking of decay, of squalor, no one takes photos any longer like the one of prostitutes on the corner of two narrow streets that Atget took in the twenties. Have we all turned into chaste artists who turn their gaze elsewhere?

Among the things that architecture reveals and clarifies I would definitely include the kind of connection we have with the past. Let me explain: in the city where I live Bramante is an important presence. When I come back from my travels I always meet him when I go to the bar or do the shopping. In a sense he is part of my genetic heritage, along with the contributions made by my father and mother. Well, for a while now I have been having a recurrent dream: I see Santa Maria delle Grazie wreathed in smoke and half-destroyed by a terrorist attack. But at that point, as I wake up in distress, I realize that the Milanese have brought in the best masons in Italy and that the apse (by a long chalk the part I like most) has already been largely reconstructed. A dream in step with the times, it’s clear.

Now, it seems to me that this sense of hospitality is no longer part of the genetic inheritance of architecture. Mind you, this is not meant as a criticism of Bramante’s successors, but contemporary architecture has become a difficult, almost intractable subject: perhaps because it no longer knows the distance between Venice and Los Angeles or between Baku and Milan; or perhaps due to the insouciance with which pops up on the aforementioned outskirts to suddenly alter their destiny.