Before leaving Gent to reach with trepidation CC Muze in Heusden-Zolder, I would like to publish this last post about the photographer Pepi Merisio born in Caravaggio (Bergamo, Lombardy) as me and whose opus I discovered meanwhile conceiving the project "Italianen".
It was more than a discover, it was a revelation! His photographic simplicity, his empathy towards the subject, his conceiving photography as a medium for building collective memory have been the start of a revolution in my way of conceiving photography. As I got the book "Ieri in Lombardia" (Yesterday in Lombardy) I said myself: "That's what I want from my photos! I want to photograph with those eyes".
From then on I took "Ieri in Lombardia" regularly out of my bookshelf. This time I do it for posting some sentences of Pepi Merisio cited in the introductions written by Gazzaneo and Ferdinando Scianna which I find fit very well my series "Italianen".
"Human being is relationship"
"It is fundamental that each picture conveys the ambient, the sphere: situations where people and things find, together, a precise position in time and space. Close-ups are very rare. My research is directed towards collective participations: human being is relationship". While selecting pictures for the book I realized how my pictures were most of the time "choral" participations, collective moments as playing cards in a bar, or participating to a colelctive lunch or just smoking a cigarette on the balcon all together.
Empathy and exchange
"I don't steal photographs and at the same time I don't want to photograph poses. Photography is a direct relationship and who is at the other side of the lens has to feel happy to be photographed". I shared entirely this statement and still I do: all my subjects knew I was photographying them. Technically speaking, this statement can be reformulated as "Introduce yourself and your photoproject, then listen to your subjects, their stories, feel their emotions and then (maybe) shoot!" Photography not as stealing moments, but building a dialog.
Collecting moments of life for building collective memory
"A camera is an extension of of sight and of mind and moments of life are what I sketch."
"Ieri in Lombardy" is a book full of life, moments of life. But most of all, full of past life, of collective memroy. His portrait of the rural culture, destroyed almost completely during the economic boom in the 60s, is pure memory.
2012, 20 years after closing the last coal mine in Flanders, I made a portray of Italian community which is in large part composed of ex-mine workers or sons of them. I felt immediately I was on the edge of a radical transformation, as Pepi Merisio in the years 60s -70s. What is the future of the Italian community in Flanders? What is the future of all Italian organizations (ACLI, ARCI, regional organizations, etc.) so needed during the years of massive migration after WOII?
"Photography not as denunciation, but as passion for the everyday common life"
In his portraying the decline of the rural culture, destroyed by the industrial and metropolitan culture, Pepi Merisio has never shout the scandal, has never tried to raise disdain as Gazzaneo wrote commenting the Merisio's photos. He documented, silently. I tried to do the same. "Italianen" is not a journalistic reportage, but a story or a document or even a rapsody (see previous posts) of everyday life. Moments of life which will never return again".
I hope to see you this evening in CC Muze, Heusden-Zolder.