Module 1, Task 2: The stories behind a photo

by | Jun 15, 2022 | 5: Summer Course 2022, 5a Course Preparations | 1 comment


One of the latest projects I have dedicated myself to is a series of portraits of people from my hometown. This photographic project is still ongoing: I started it in December 2021, the moment I was able to return after two years of covid in which I was unable to travel. Probably all this time away led me to unconsciously develop a desire to rediscover those places and faces. I have never taken the time to really meet and listen to the people I share my birthplace with.
When I was a teenager, my hometown seemed too small to me and I never really cared about it, I just wanted to leave and see other places. Now that I am far away, I am rediscovering the pleasure to come back and photography plays a major role in this process. At the beginning of this project, when I still didn’t know who I wanted to meet and eventually photograph, the camera as an object gave me an excuse and also a meaning to my encounters. it is a tool that is visible and recognizable to everyone, a catalyst for curiosity and an object that allowed unexpected dialogues to begin. Sometimes people would mistake me for a tourist, as they were not used to someone coming to take pictures there. The moment they recognized familiar features in my face or my surname, I felt that I became one of theirs again and contact became even easier. I spent time with them listening to their stories and at the same time telling them what I was doing. I noticed different reactions: from shyness to pride in being photographed. In each case, the key word was always respect.

Gradually a question arose in me as I took time to meet and listen to these people: why did you stay? I had the privilege to leave many years ago, but the people I met were not there on holiday, each had their own reason for staying and living in the village. This question finds its meaning in the great depopulation that my region has experienced and continues to experience. By now, especially in winter, the village is only populated by a few thousand people, mostly elderly.
The photo allowed me not only to portraits these people, but especially to relate to them. Behind a photo here are many hours of trial and error, of speeches, of stories that have been told to me and that I would like to collect in a small exhibition in my hometown to give back those moments, those images and those words to the people who so generously gave them to me.
Not only are there stories, ties, relationships crystallized in a moment behind a photo, but in turn a photo can also become a pretext for other discourses, be interpreted according to the eye of the beholder, and different stories can arise just as different are the audiences who imagine and listen to them.

1 Comment

  1. Jennie Gubner

    Annagrazia, thank you for this. I am very glad to see that you were able to turn home and explore your town. The question of “Why did you stay?” is so powerful. I think we often ask “why did you leave?” but asking why people stay, whether by choice or necessity is interesting. Having lived in small towns in Sicily there was such a strong dynamic in the summers when everyone would come home. Then in late august, half the town would disappear and those that “stayed” would once again take their positions at the local cafes, plazas, etc. I hope you do continue the project. The images you shared are beautiful. It might be great to include the answers to the “why did you stay” below the images.

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