This portfolio includes 3 images from 2 different series "Regular 8" are the first 3, and "Lacrimosa" the last 3.
REGULAR 8 project description:
Sara Angelucci’s Regular 8 series returns film to its origin in the still image, while turning our attention to the post-war nuclear family of the 1950s. A period characterized by growing consumption, new mobility, and a large population aspiring to middle class success, it also witnessed the spread of eight millimeter or “Regular 8” home movies. Playing on the idiosyncratic interference caused by Kodak’s punch-hole tagging system—a series of numbers appearing across the end frames of each film – Angelucci makes poignant reference to the last moments of such films, where a series of white dots dances across the screen as the action winds to a close. Preserved, yet already in the process of dissolution, as evidenced by the invading punch holes, these images describe a moment of in-between. Existing somewhere between film theorist Andre Bazin’s characterization of photography and film, these photographic moments are suspended like “insects in amber” while shifting perpetually between frames as “change mummified.”
Referencing scenes from found and borrowed films, Angelucci’s staged photographs portray celebrations, holidays, and outings – where family and friends were often recast in idealized, cinematic versions of themselves. Here, everyone dressed up for, and played a role in, the portrayal of the happy family. By arresting such moments, Angelucci both celebrates and interrupts the formation of such identities, pointing to the tensions that may exist outside of the frame. Using the qualities of analogue photography as the basis for a hybrid digital practice, Angelucci dips into the wells of multiple histories and processes. In their convergence, she captures the still revolutionary force of the “mirror with a memory” to fascinate, disturb, and seduce.
LACRIMOSA Project Description:
The term lacrimosa comes from a movement in the requiem mass, the mass performed for the dead. It has been said many times that a photograph itself is a record of death, as the image immediately fixes a time that has passed; what was of that person is no longer. Lacrimosa is originally derived from the Latin word for tears, lacrimare, and it was in this context that I first encountered it. Under the photo-ceramic portrait of a young woman on a gravestone in Ortezzano, a small village in Italy, was written the touching sentiment “Sinceramente Lacrimate,” sincerely cried for.
The photographs in the exhibition Lacrimosa were taken during a two-month sojourn in Montottone, on the central Adriatic coast, where there are living relatives who knew my great-grandparents and great-uncle, the village miller. The old mill still stands in this 11th-century Italian village, although is about to be torn down.
Days move slowly in Montottone. There is time for afternoon coffee, to sit and talk with the elderly, for stories to unfold, and for visits to the graves of the dead. As I settled into the village, I began to ask people to show me their old photographs. I wanted to understand what rural life was like during and after the war, the period before my family immigrated to Canada. Did women really carry water on her heads and wash clothes in the river? Where were the public fonts and bakery? What was life like during the war?
In the village, photographs play an important memorializing role. As most people were poor before and after the war, they had only a few photographs to show of their early years—usually taken on formal occasions. The ones they had became precious mementos of loved ones, or of the way they themselves were at an earlier age.
I photographed a number of these older villagers holding their favourite or most important photograph. In this series of women, the hands holding the image become the frame, a kind of mise-en-abyme, as the woman holding the photograph is pictured in the photograph she holds.
For my aunts, visits to the cemetery are an important part of the weekly ritual in Montottone. Here more stories unfolded as we gazed at grave portraits. The tradition of ceramic grave portraits is still thriving in Italy, as well as in many other countries. Though patented by two French inventors in 1854, the form was adopted and popularized by the Italians, who took the tradition abroad with them as they emigrated. Writer John Maturi explores the tradition of the photo-ceramic portrait and its relationship to Catholic cultures. “Within Catholic religious culture,” he writes, “…the realm of the spirit is not utterly transcendent to the world, and social and familial relationships and obligations do not end with death.1 Indeed, as Lisa Montarelli expands, “…the living have an obligation to pray for dead loved ones in order to speed their passage through purgatory, a transitional state in which souls who die in sin are purified.2 So the photo-ceramic portrait serves an important purpose; it keeps the memory of deceased persons vivid and alive.
Passing the cemetery one evening, I was struck by how it glowed like a small city; as the village went to sleep, the cemetery came awake. In many Italian cemeteries graves are adorned with a small electric light—keeping vigil in the darkness. By visiting this site at night, I was able to record the haunting beauty of these glowing portraits.
From the series of photo-ceramic portraits I photographed in Montottone and nearby Ortezzano, many stories arose. As I strolled through the cemetery with my two aunts, who have lived in the village for some seventy-five years, I heard fragmentary tales of the people there; what they were reputed to have been like, who was related to whom or the sad details of their passing. One story stood out—that of Pierina Bordacconi who died of tuberculosis in 1928 at just 16 years old. Pierina is said to have been the greatest beauty of the village, and indeed as her face shines out from her portrait, framed by schoolgirl braids, her beauty still radiates. More than eighty years after her passing, Pierina’s grave is adorned with fresh flowers from local admirers.
The images in Lacrimosa pay homage to the preciousness and importance of the photograph in the quotidian life of this small Italian town, and indeed in the lives of many people. From the few images taken during life, the family would choose the one that would represent a person for eternity. Like the lament in the requiem, Lacrimosa recognizes the role the photograph plays in ritualizing grief and remembrance, and in creating a link between the living and the dead, for generations to come.
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