PHOTOGRAPHY AND CATASTROPHE. Antonio Di Cecco in dialogue with the collections of the Photo Library

spatial experiences

“In photographs there is no content, but in the reality of the architectural imagination, and in the reality of buildings themselves, the content is there: it consists of the men and women who inhabit spaces; the actions transacted in them; the physical, psychological and spiritual life that takes place in them. The content of architecture is its social content.” Bruno Zevi in Saper vedere l’architettura (1948) emphasizes the limits of the photographic image, its inability to express the social content of architecture or grasp the actions and experiences developed in time and in space.
It is just by investigating the potential and limits of the photographic medium that Antonio Di Cecco in this chapter proposes an interpretation of the social dynamics of how urban space is used in the long phase of post-earthquake reconstruction. Some of the historic photos presented here, in documenting the architecture and townscape of the historic town centres of Assisi and L’Aquila according to traditional codes of representation, also include the human element. Di Cecco, however, has chosen to reverse the perspective and shift the focus to micro-stories of workers and citizens, following their daily actions and their to-and-fro across the public space, in spite of the building work in progress. The buildings in the process of being restored thus become a theatrical backdrop that circumscribes the urban space. The public illumination of the piazza may itself become a protagonist of this process, restoring, evoking and favouring the return of social life in the Piazza Duomo at L’Aquila.
A diptych of photographic reproductions connects these different codes of representation. Placed on card mounts of the Photothek, they document the irreversible changes made by the restoration to the form and style of the façade of the church of San Pietro at L’Aquila in the 1970s. The dichotomy of the image of architecture before and after the restoration – which was not conducted in a situation of emergency – poses questions about the ethics of conservation and prompts a reflection on the dual facets of architecture, historic and aesthetic, and on the need to protect the stratifications left on its materials by a process of sedimentation.

Box of the Architecture Section, Photothek of the KHI

Unidentified photographer, ante 1972, coloured print, inv. KHI no. 280010 // ASSISI, View of the Upper Church of San Francesco // On 26 September 1997 a powerful earthquake struck Umbria and the Marche, causing the collapse of large frescoed portions of the vaulted ceiling in the Upper Basilica of Assisi (Perugia). Two technicians of the Soprintendenza and two friars intent on examining the extent of the damage were themselves victims of the sudden collapse of the vault of the first bay.

Unidentified photographer, ante 1939, gelatin silver print, inv. KHI no. 121102 // L’AQUILA, church of San Domenico.

Unidentified photographer, ante 1977, gelatin silver print, inv. KHI no. 280010 // ASSISI, View of the town looking towards the church of San Pietro.

Unidentified photographer, autotype, ante 1971, inv. KHI no. 276352 // L’AQUILA, Church of San Pietro a Coppito before and after restoration (1969-1971).

Antonio Di Cecco // L’AQUILA, June 2009 // Church of San Pietro a Coppito, first emergency measures to ensure the security of the church.

Antonio Di Cecco // L’AQUILA, June 2009 // Church of San Domenico, first emergency measures to ensure the security of the church.

Antonio Di Cecco // L’AQUILA, February 2010 // Piazza Santa Maria Paganica, a woman walking in the red zone. The first forms of protest by the citizens of L’Aquila about the slowness of the town’s reconstruction consisted of unauthorized trespass into the red zone.

Ivo Bazzecchi, 1966, gelatin silver print, inv. KHI no. 497287 // FLORENCE, Piazza Santa Croce shortly after the flood of 4 November 1966.

Ivo Bazzecchi, 1966, gelatin silver print, inv. KHI no. 498315 // FLORENCE, Piazza San Giovanni, view towards Via dei Cerretani after the flood.

Antonio Di Cecco // L’AQUILA, March 2017 // Piazza Palazzo, temporary lighting of a restoration site in the historic city centre.

Antonio Di Cecco // L’AQUILA, March 2017 // Piazza Duomo, the first public lighting begins regularly to illuminate the historic city centre after the earthquake of 2009.

Franz Stödner, post 1908, PE print, Foto Marburg, no. neg. 1090560 // MESSINA, Street of the town centre after the earthquake // On 28 December 1908 an earthquake followed by a tsunami devastated both shores of the Strait of Messina, destroying the cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria and causing between 80,000 and 100,000 victims. It was the greatest natural disaster to strike Italian territory in the last 150 years.

Antonio Di Cecco // SANT’EUSANIO FORCONESE (L’Aquila), June 2011 // A woman crossing through the red zone of the town to reach the only shop present in the area.

L’Aquila folder in the Architecture Section of the Photothek of the KHI // Josip Ciganovic photo, ante 1969, gelatin silver print, inv. KHI no. 252076 // L’AQUILA, church of San Bernardino.

Antonio Di Cecco // MIRANDOLA (Modena), March 2016 // A group of youngsters crossing the red zone.

© KHI in Florence | 22.01.2020 03:22:47