Lifestyle

How to see (a contemporary) Rome

For Romans, writing about Rome is an impossible task. Seeing Rome could be difficult too. Some would suggest this is the result of Romans’ lack of knowledge about the city, and it might be true, but a doubt lingers on me. Do Romans really know nothing about Rome or are they too busy living it, or surviving it? Reflecting on my hometown, the fruitful, quite naïve, observation of outsiders may come at handy. For years, the Festival Internazionale di Roma, the biggest photography festival organized in the eternal city, used to commission international photographers to photograph Rome using their own styles, offering new visions and insights that might have been hidden to locals. During the whole run of the Rome Commission, I asked myself why the assignment wasn’t given to roman photographers but I also cherished, quite frankly, looking at Rome through the eyes of Josef Koudelka, Simon Roberts, Graciela Iturbide, Tod Papageorge, just to name a few. I let myself wallow in the excitement of discovering an outsider’s view.


I wonder what the Rome Commission would look like today if it was still in place. Would it still commission foreigners? And would it be right to do so? Current debates of what’s right to photograph or not, how close photographers should be to the community they choose to portray, or who is entitled to do so, may deliver a totally different outcome. Regardless, observing Rome is not an easy task. How do you picture the millennial history that comes with it? What is there that hasn’t already been photographed? What can you add to the thousands of photographs that circulate online? And why would you even want to add?


As I consume myself with all these questions, and research what is happening in the city, what’s there to be photographed, I, accidentally, turn my eyes to those artists who were indeed born in Rome, but have decided to leave at some point, distancing themselves from the city.

 

It’s in this estranged, yet familiar gaze, that I see a pattern and recognize myself. For this second iteration of the column, where I highlight the work of young artists, I asked Fabrizio Amoroso, Paolo Di Lucente and Giovanna Petrocchi, to send me photographs that were either inspired by Rome or represented the hidden beauty of it. What I appreciate about their work is the common pursue of a contemporary vision. Fabrizio Amoroso uses the medium of photography in different ways. His practice revolves around the research of photography archives constructing new narratives out of them, as in his forthcoming book Ore 12 Circa. He also investigates the odds and rituals of familiar scenes, creating allegorical still lives or quirk ironic portraits that leave a sense of disquiet. He’s represented by The Honey Pump in New York City. Paolo Di Lucente works between London and Rome, focusing on an extensive research of light, shadows and shapes. Both in his commissions and personal projects, Di Lucente’s photographs, imbued with warm, vivid colours, often capture humans inhabiting the space and how their physical presence defines the interstitial moments of everyday life. His forthcoming book Rome is an ode to the eternal city through images of different towns called Rome in the Unites States. Giovanna Petrocchi is an artist working at the intersection of photography and collage. She studied in London, first at the London College of Communication and then at the Camberwell College of Arts, where she shaped her artistic vision, strongly inspired by archaeology and sculpture. She combines her photographs with hand-made collages, found imagery and 3D prints to create oneiric and surreal worlds, discarding or subverting our idea of what ancient means or represents. By shaping otherworldly scenarios, she merges futuristic and historical elements, liberating the viewer from a defined idea of time and space. Her work has been recently included in the project FUTURES Photography 2021 by CAMERA, in Turin, and she’s also working on her first book that will include the series Sculptural Entities.

 

I asked all the artists to answer some questions to get to know them better. The selection of their photographs defies the perception of our museum-like city by letting us see Rome through a contemporary lens.

 

Fabrizio Amoroso

 

How long have you been working with photography?

I’ve been working with photography for the past 12 years.

 

What area/subject of Rome attracts you more for your photographic research?

I have always been interested on how to transform the city in something contemporary. It’s a very challenging task from a photographic point of view, a continuous research on how to make it look fresh and contemporary.

 

How did Rome influence your practice?

Visually, Rome has always been a very powerful city, I was attracted to it since I was a little kid. It’s particularly filled with images, from the paintings inside the churches to the statues on the streets, the figurative element is present almost everywhere; what I’m particularly fond of is how all these images live together in a very random and messy way, how those figurative layers co-exist one on top of the other. It’s both related to the history of the city and its very peculiar quality of the light.

 

What type of project are you currently working on? 

I’ve just started a publishing house called VEII with two friends of mine and published my first book called Ore 12 Circa.

 

What’s your favorite place in the city? 

My favorite place in the city is Villa Ada, which used to be the royal residence of the king in Rome. Now it is a wild maritime pine park in the heart of the city.

A horse is a horse but it’s not, 2017. Courtesy the artist

Of miracle, 2014. Courtesy the artist

Untitled father, 2017. Courtesy the artist

Tivoli, Villa Adriana, 2019. Courtesy the artist

 

Paolo Di Lucente

 

How long have you been working with photography?

I have been working with photography since 2008 when I’ve relocated to New York.

 

What area/subject of Rome attracts you more for your photographic research?

The south side of the city where I grew up: the suburbs near EUR and Ostia. 

 

How did Rome influence your practice?

The roman light played an important role in my practice, especially the hard shadows and golden hues during sunrise and sunset. When I moved to the US in my twenties, I’ve realised how much this aspect of the city influenced my sensibility to light, and, as years passed by, this became a defining element of my photographic language.

 

What type of project are you currently working on? 

I’ve just finished to work on my first book that will be released over summer. Titled Rome, it’s a long-term project documenting all the towns called Rome in the United States. 

 

What’s your favorite place in the city? 

The Villas (Pamphili, Ada, Celimontana), Testaccio, Garbatella, EUR and all the places where I grew up. Rome’s beauty lies in its slow changing appearance and I find interesting to walk in places that never seem to change.

Images by Paolo Di Lucente, courtesy the artist

Images by Paolo Di Lucente, courtesy the artist

Images by Paolo Di Lucente, courtesy the artist

Images by Paolo Di Lucente, courtesy the artist

 

Giovanna Petrocchi

 

How long have you been working with photography?

I started taking pictures during my last years in high school, but I began to work on personal projects while studying photography at college nine years ago.  

 

What area/subject of Rome attracts you more for your photographic research?

My research revolves around the archive, archaeological sites and collections in ancient art museums. So pretty much all the historical centre is my main source of inspiration!

 

How did Rome influence your practice?

I’ve always considered Rome as a city in between time and space and I find this contrast very fascinating. Also, antiques and roman findings are part of my cultural heritage and education and are impressed in my memory, as a sort of mental imagery. I use the photographic medium as an attempt to find a bridge in between the longing for the past and this increased expansion of digital worlds in the present.

 

What type of project are you currently working on? 

I am currently working on my first publication. It will include my latest project, Sculptural Entities, where I investigate the relationship between organic and artificial forms but at the same time between the ancient and the contemporary realms.

 

What’s your favorite place in the city? 

It depends on my mood. At the moment I feel at peace when wandering around open areas such as the Aventino and Villa Borghese.

Floating Amulets, from Modular Artefacts, Mammoth Remains, 2019. Courtesy the artist

3 Roman Fragments from Private Collection, 2018. Courtesy the artist

Page 487, From the series Modular Artefacts, Mammoth Remains, 2019

Terme di Diocleziano, 2018. Courtesy the artist