Andrea Dorliguzzo: Roma Ieri Oggi

Roma Ieri Oggi (1)

Novice, Italian photographer Andrea Dorliguzzo worked tirelessly between 2013 and 2014 to create a series of photographs that aimed to capture the timeless beauty of Italy’s capital, the place he had just relocated to. He called this project Roma Ieri Oggi, the literal translation being “Rome Yesterday Today“. Dorliguzzo came to photography fairly late in his life, but his passion for the city of Rome had been present long before, and lead him to collect thousands of old stills documenting its grand architecture and pleasant aura. He then had the idea to combine these photographs with his own, taken in exactly the same location, from the same vantage point, using computational re-photography. The results of this project cast a potent light on temporality, time, culture, consciousness and how photography penetrates these things, with its strange intermingling of reality and memory. Dorliguzzo’s work explores this concept in a literal way, by splicing together not only two photographic artifices, but also two different eras, a merger of two consciously separate worlds in one frame. Thus, creating a “thrilling historical sensation”[1], which both unnerves and enthrals.

Roma Ieri Oggi (6)

Computational re-photography is a useful tool, highlighting the ‘then’ and ‘now’ of history. It has been used to chart the progress of glaciers melting and other geological erosions, whilst also being the main feature of significant photographic works such as, ‘Second View’ and ‘New York Changing’[2]. Rome, with its ancient roots, stunning architecture, laid-back atmosphere and carefree elegance is certainly a prime candidate to be documented in a photographic endeavour of this kind. Computational re-photography creates stark and interesting comparisons surrounding fashion, technologies, culture and even conflict. However, it is through the re-photographic technique that I feel Dorliguzzo’s inexperience is slightly evident. Throughout the series of Roma Ieri Oggi photographs, the successful use of computational re-photography, in my opinion, varies, as can be seen in the picture above. Although many of his attempts show a seamless transition of one photograph into another, here, the contrast of the black and white against the vibrant greens and blues of his modern photographic effort, seem to particularly clash. Whilst the technical aspect and alignment appears accurate, the strange oval effect of the black and white atop colour seems alien and out of place, in a way that most others in the collection do not. Nevertheless, computational re-photography is known to be an extremely difficult enterprise, as Agarwala Et Al explain, “the task of re-photography is tedious and often imprecise, because reproducing the viewpoint of the original photograph is challenging”[3], especially using only the photographers eye as a guide. For this reason, the technical and in general, aesthetic condition of Dorliguzzo’s compositions are impressive to behold.

Roma Ieri Oggi (3)

The camera, by capturing slices of time, has often been said to blur the lines between past and present, between documented fact and inferred fiction, and therefore, precariously positions the practise of photography as a collision of truth and art. As Sontag explains, photography is “no generic exception to the usually shady commerce between art and truth”[4] as it attempts to remember, but also create. Photography craves the “dignity of language”[5], and the right to both record and construct visually. By placing two ‘truthful’ recordings of a single place together, Dorliguzzo painstakingly points out that photography contains “dualities that we can conceive but not perceive”[6]. It is a perfect embodiment of Barthes theory that, “whatever it grants to vision… A photograph is always invisible: it is not it that we see”[7], but the image world and possibilities it contains. In reality, these photographs are a ‘before’ and ‘after’ of the city, situated within each other, but what it is and what it represents are two different things entirely. The strange clouding or blurring around the area where colour photo traverses into to black and white, reflects this ambiguity. The vagueness of contained possibilities, the innumerable realities of the ‘in-between time’ which the photograph is unable to offer and the audience cannot to fix upon, creating “inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation and fantasy”[8]. This hazy dream-like quality that some of Durliguzzo’s work take on, when absorbing old photography into new, can be likened to a ‘Vintage’ style. An effect that is massively desired and replicated to this day. This phenomenon is known as the Faux-Vintage photograph. It reflects a modern aspiration to “view our present as always a potential documented past”[9], which is encouraged to those acclimatised in the social media age. Particularly, with the rise of smart-phone applications such as Instagram, which provide handy filters that mimic the effect with the simple click of a button. The ‘Vintage’ craze in photography, identified by its low-resolution imagery and artistic sepia, or black and white tones, has come to synonymise style and significance, adding status to a photograph that it might not otherwise obtain. This, and Dorliguzzo’s project overall, reflect a nostalgia and idealism with which we view history. It highlights the cyclical interdependence of the past on the present and the present on the past.

Roma Ieri Oggi (5)Roma Ieri Oggi (4)

Here, Dorliguzzo shows his knowledge of “aesthetic consumerism”[10] as he manipulates the element of the ‘celebrity’ into his photography. This is a clever technique to endear his work to an audience of “image junkies”[11], playing to the hands of media proliferation in popular culture. Mass production of famous celebrity portraiture, in a form of ‘human branding’, make the celebrity a familiar and comforting, visual device. Audrey Hepburn is a classic example of this. Her image is still constantly reproduced for advertising purposes, thirty years after her death. For example, in 2014, Galaxy manufactured a television advertising campaign, named ‘Chauffeur’, recreating the essence of Audrey Hepburn using CGI, a very arduous endeavour, only plausible when considering the “Image of ultimate beauty”[12] and “elegance”[13] that Audrey Hepburn’s profile still epitomises. Audrey Hepburn and Bridgette Bardot (pictured above), along with other famous faces were seen as “Hollywood royalty working Rome in the 1950s and ‘60s”[14] and enjoying the dolce vita (sweet life) that Italy offered. In using the ‘brand’ of these celebrities, and the romanticism of their lives played out on the silver screen, Dorliguzzo adds aspects of glamour and desire onto the overarching photographic subject, Rome herself. So, how does this work? Put quite simply, the “celebrity sells”[15], celebrities have been absorbed into a “most irresistible form of mental pollution”[16] and the result is, that they are no longer “something to dream about; they are the dream”[17]. By placing these figures at the forefront of Rome’s landscapes, the landscape itself absorbs the same sense of false familiarity and allure that celebrities’ denote.

Roma Ieri Oggi (2)

 To conclude, this collection of photographs boarders on the absurd, in that, it constructs a surrealist sense of geographical space and a postmodern deconstruction of time, in which more than one era can exist simultaneously. Yet, the overall effect, is less a sense of warping reality and much more a sense of credibly capturing it. These photographs offer understanding of what Rome is and has been, it reflects Sontag’s belief that “the most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads”[18]. The irony of these images, is that by omission of an ‘in-between’ time, they seem to invite the opportunity for imagining one, and therefore, create a sense of wholeness in understanding that they don’t truly possess. This is a façade. These slices of time, that seamlessly or not, have been engineered to interlink, hint at a momentum, movement, a flow, that most photographs cannot grasp. In pulling these two worlds together, Dorliguzzo has created the illusion of time passing from a still, fixed artifice. This is some achievement indeed. Despite some indication of inexperience, and the huge amount of material that Dorliguzzo has fashioned in this project, which could be argued to make some photographs feel obsolete, they have clearly been a labour of love concerning Rome and her heritage.

 

Bibliography:

Agarwala. A, Bae. S, Durand. F, ‘Computational Rephotography’. ACM Trans. Graph. 29, 3, Article 24 (July 2010), http://people.csail.mit.edu/soonmin/rephoto/rephoto.pdf , Accessed 02/01/16

Barthes. R, ‘Camera Lucida’ (London, Vintage Classics, 2000)

McGee. M, ‘How we resurrected Audrey HepburnTM for the Galaxy chocolate ad’, http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2014/oct/08/how-we-made-audrey-hepburn-galaxy-ad , accessed 20/01/16

Pringle. H, ‘Celebrity Sells’, (Chichester ,John Wiley and Sons, 2004)

Sontag. S, ‘On Photography’, (London, Penguin Books, 1977)

Styles. R, Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2599908/Elizabeth-Taylor-Audrey-Hepburn-Brigitte-Bardot-youve-never-seen-Hollywood-greats-star-intimate-collection-1950s-paparazzi-photos.html , accessed on 13/01/16

The Society Page: The Faux-Vintage Photo, http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/05/14/the-faux-vintage-photo-full-essay-parts-i-ii-and-iii/ , accessed on 05/01/2016

‘Warhol: ‘Celebritisation’ and Human Branding’, https://marketing.conference-services.net/resources/327/2342/pdf/AM2011_0352.pdf , accessed on 06/01/16

Zone Zero: Photographic Convergence, http://zonezero.com/en/temporality/268-roma-ieri-oggi , accessed on 02/01/16

[1] Zone Zero: Photographic Convergence, http://zonezero.com/en/temporality/268-roma-ieri-oggi , accessed on 02/01/16

[2] Agarwala. A, Bae. S, Durand. F, ‘Computational Rephotography’. ACM Trans. Graph. 29, 3, Article 24 (July 2010), http://people.csail.mit.edu/soonmin/rephoto/rephoto.pdf , Accessed 02/01/16

[3] Ibid.

[4] Sontag. S, ‘On Photography’, (London, Penguin Books, 1977) pg. 6

[5] Barthes. R, ‘Camera Lucida’ (London, Vintage Classics, 2000) pg. 20

[6] Ibid.

[7]Ibid.

[8] Sontag. S, ‘On Photography’, 1977, pg.23

[9] The Society Page: The Faux-Vintage Photo, http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/05/14/the-faux-vintage-photo-full-essay-parts-i-ii-and-iii/ , accessed on 05/01/2016

[10] Sontag. S, ‘On Photography’, 1977, pg.24

[11] Ibid.

[12] McGee. M, ‘How we resurrected Audrey HepburnTM for the Galaxy chocolate ad’ , http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2014/oct/08/how-we-made-audrey-hepburn-galaxy-ad, accessed 20/01/16

[13] Ibid.

[14] Styles. R, Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2599908/Elizabeth-Taylor-Audrey-Hepburn-Brigitte-Bardot-youve-never-seen-Hollywood-greats-star-intimate-collection-1950s-paparazzi-photos.html , accessed on 13/01/16

[15] Pringle. H, ‘Celebrity Sells’, (Chichester ,John Wiley and Sons, 2004) pg. 1

[16] Sontag. S, ‘On Photography’, 1977, pg.24

[17] ‘Warhol: ‘Celebritisation’ and Human Branding’, https://marketing.conference-services.net/resources/327/2342/pdf/AM2011_0352.pdf. , accessed on 06/01/16

[18] Sontag. S, ‘On Photography’, 1977, pg.3

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