The Hidden Columns

Piazza di Campo Marzio, 46, Roma
Piazza di Campo Marzio, 46, RomaPiazza di Trevi, 92, RomaVia del Banco di Santo Spirito, 61, RomaVia dell'Orso, 92, 00186 RomaVia dei Chiavari 4, RomaVia dei Polacchi, 42, 00187 RomaVia della Maschera d'Oro, 15, Roma Via dei Coronari, 221, Roma Via del Banco di Santo Spirito, 61, RomaVia della Pace, 10, RomaVicolo del Fico, 19, RomaVia del Teatro di Marcello, 2, Roma Vicolo della Luce, 2 00153 RomaPiazza in Piscinula 44, RomaVia dei Quattro Santi 20, 00184 Roma Via del Teatro di Marcello, 32, 00186 RomaVia della Scrofa, 39, Roma - Via della Tribuna di Campitelli 23, 00135 Roma
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The Hidden Columns of Rome

In collaboration with Selena Anders

 

2018, ongoing

photography, black and white negative film

Partial selection

 

When I settled in Rome I was strongly attracted by the richly ornamented walls inside the Historical city. They are so captivating with all the details, marble tablets, immersive diversity of embedded ancient remnants, inscriptions, cornices, capitals and columns, decaying unrestored frescoes and small statues, empty frames of catholic plaques and abundance of handcrafted ornaments. These pieces of Antiquity and Middle Ages aren’t marked by any sign, many of them remain unnoticed by local people and are unfamiliar even to historians.

 

I decided to focus my work on the columns, because of their active presence on the ground level, closeness to people and active interaction with the street life. The columns which mark out the enduring in culture find themselves in the flow of fast-moving changes. Furthermore, I thought that their intriguing diversity in size, style and preservation state deserves to be visually documented. My curiosity might have also been unconsciously triggered by three nicely preserved columns with marble base and abacus less than 50 meters away from my residence place in the Monti area.

 

For centuries, ancient columns had been taken out from their original locations and as free enduring structures were incorporated in later buildings. Nowadays, their inconspicuousness in a city that is an open-air museum puts them between posters, signs, vehicles and even garbage bags. They are surrounded by contemporary building materials, doors and windows with contemporary design. Their presence as anonymous, timeless and silent witnesses of history creates an urban expression of the way the past survives and indetectably infiltrates the present world.

 

Purposefully walking all the streets in the historical town enclosed by the Aurelian Walls in 2018, I found some sixty locations with high density in Sant’ Angelo (the Jewish ghetto), Regola, Ponte, Parione and Trastevere areas. I marked these locations on a map and kept visiting them, capturing their appearance in different light and changing flow of urban life. As it is time and not transparency to be considered the main subject of black and white photography, I decided to use black and white film to reveal the distant origin and timelessness of the columns. It let me depict the urban context without overemphasising on its momentary states or bringing in too much distracting visual noise. As a historian of photography, I considered using a large format camera to reinforce the emphasis of the timelessness in Eugene Atges’ style and follow the anachronic approach of Berenice Abbott and some more recent photographers. However, this would restrict any spontaneous reactions to changes in street life and limit the points of view.  Another idea was to depict the columns in vertical panoramas on film 120, but I got the feeling that the compositional restrictions would make the series too monotonous as I had found not a dozen, but more than fifty locations to explore. At the end I approached the columns in an old-fashioned documentary manner, using 35-mm camera to express my feeling about their unassuming and reticent participation in street life. In this way I could also create homage to the great masters of flâneurs photography and experience a significant broad layer in history of photography, just as the columns were revealing such layer of history.

 

In 2019, after an year of work, I had the luck to be kindly advised by Prof. Hendrik Dey, to whom I owe my familiarity with the PhD Thesis of Prof. Selena Anders “Medieval Porticoes of Rome: New Methods and Technologies for Revealing Rome’s Architectural and Urban Heritage”. Her extensive research on the remnant columns, once used as spolia in medieval porticoes and later on closed by walls, shed new light on the locations marked on my map. By this common passion and sharing some urban customs, Selena and me came up with long conversations and hopefully interesting ideas, which are about to be displayed and published.