A few days ago, the great architectural photographer Gabriele Basilico died in Milan. With this translation of my article (that I published in Italian language few months ago), I want to make a little tribute to this great teacher and gentleman.
This work is based on the wonderful collection “Portraits of Factories” (“Ritratti di Fabbriche”) of Gabriele Basilico. Walking in Como with my Fed 3 loaded with an Ilford HP5+ film, I tried to document a world that no longer exists. After so many articles devoted to leisure and the joy of being together, I want to share with you some austere reflections on a topical issue: the factories are now closed.
Browsing through a book of the great architectural photographer Gabriele Basilico, I came across in his famous portraits of factories, made with a large format analog camera. He was a master of the exploration of the the suburbs of the main Italian and European cities. As a tribute to the great master, I decided to walk in my city Como with a Fed 3, searching for tracks and details of a world that no longer exists, the industrial world as we have known until a few years ago.
While I was writing this article, I thought to include some photos of some moving people, even fleetingly, to make the images less dramatic and distressing, or, with a change of framing, accentuate the drama. But my definitive choice was to to document the urban details without people. In these pictures, like in those of the great master Basilico, people are not present, but their presence can be imagined, remembering that everything you are seeing was built by human hands, populated by workers and technicians, and fully integrated in the social life of the city.
In recent decades, the high cost of labor and the appearance of new industries in China, India and in the former Soviet bloc countries has led many factories to close. Some of these have transferred its production in Eastern Europe or Asia. Before this, Como was one of the most important European place about textile production and silk processing. We are experiencing a major change, because for many years the industry has helped us to produce culture, and not only from the technical point of view. After the quick de-industrialization, our social and cultural context are rapidly changing, throwing us in a profound loss, but also leaving open new spaces for new ideas.
I do not like to think in a pessimistic way, although these images convey a sense of despair. I invite you to think about some words of Albert Einstein, from hispanicad.com
“Let’s not pretend that things will change if we keep doing the same things. A crisis can be a real blessing to any person, to any nation. For all crises bring progress. Creativity is born from anguish. Just like the day is born from the dark night. It’s in crisis that inventive is born, as well as discoveries, and big strategies. He who overcomes crisis, overcomes himself, without getting overcome. Who blames his failure to a crisis neglects his own talent, and is more respectful to problems than to solutions. Incompetence is the true crisis. The greatest inconvenience of people and nations is the laziness with which they attempt to find the solutions to their problems. There’s no challenge without a crisis. Without challenges, life becomes a routine, a slow agony. There’s no merits without crisis. It’s in the crisis where we can show the very best in us. Without a crisis, any wind becomes a tender touch. To speak about a crisis is to promote it. Not to speak about it is to exalt conformism. Let us stop, once and for all, the menacing crisis that represents the tragedy of not being willing to overcome it”. – Albert Einstein
All these photos were taken in an afternoon of the last part of November, with my Fed 3 loaded with an ilford HP5 film roll. The lens is the amazing Industar 10 (Fed 50/3,5), a Russian copy of the famous Leica Elmar, with an hard contrast and some vintage tones. The development was made in Rodinal Special, with a slight pushing and with a more than usual agitation, to have a dry grain and a great contrast, to emphasize the dramatic nature of subject
With this series of photos I merely report what my eyes have seen, trying to convey my mood with these images in black and white, as I was walking with my camera for a peripheral zone of my city. A neighborhood where, until a few years ago, coexisted residential areas, gardens and small and medium industrial and manufacturing companies. Sometimes, I think that the artistic aspect, that help us to see beyond what we normally perceive superficially with our eyes, can inspire us to find new ideas to overcome the difficult conditions in which we are now. I’m thinking to the beautiful image of Ernst Haas (Sunbathers), taken in Vienna immediately after World War II, in which a young mother with her children enjoys a moment of sun, with some buildings destroyed by bombing in front of her.
The deserts grow: woe him who doth them hide! – Friedrich Nietsche