Re-reading ruins with Davide Virdis
Italian photographer Davide Virdis captures ruins, forsaken, vacant and uninhabited places in Florence, Sassari, Rome, and Pontassieve, where despite the signs of abandonment, human presence is as alive as ever.
Abandoned industrial spaces, old factories, a mental hospital, and buildings in ruins… these are the subjects of photographer Davide Virdis’ latest project, Relitti riletti [“Ruins re-read”], which was developed in collaboration with anthropologist Paolo Chiozzi. Virdis photographed forsaken, vacant and uninhabited places in Florence, Sassari, Rome, and Pontassieve, where despite the signs of abandonment, human presence is as alive as ever, engraved in these images: an image emerging from a closet, writing on the asylum walls, a garment on the ground…
Virdis works with a large formar camera to patiently capture these images. He discovers abandoned places and, with an explorer’s spirit, waits to capture them: he rereads abandoned places, finding new meanings that have little or nothing to do with their original ones.
The photographer’s interest is not architectural even if his background is. Virdis’ interest is more anthropological and even social; as his first master Gabriele Basilico said, “life makes even ugly things beautiful and interesting.” And so Virdis portrays the life of abandoned spaces: floors trampled by innumerable passages that show the signs of the weight borne, open closet doors revealing some sort of personal treasure, a red bra abandoned near a makeshift bed.
Sometimes the life portrayed by Virdis is not the same life that originally inhabited these places. Often we find other, later traces as if the abandoned places were living a second life or as if they were given a second chance. Sometimes, sites that have been abandoned for decades reveal different layers — which are still changing. As Marc Augé eloquently pointed out, “humanity is not in ruins. It is being built. It still belongs to history, often tragic history, always uneven, but hopelessly commonplace.”
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