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Industrial Civilization – Fields of White

I had the immense pleasure to finally meet Enzo Crispino while I was home in Reggio Emilia, Italy last month. Enzo is a passionate, warm, enthusiastic, and dynamic man. His images, especially of his (our) region, the Appennino mountains in the Reggio Emilia area, communicate his profound love for the land. His landscape photos are what first drew me to his work. The quiet, moody, enigmatic shots of a landscape I know and too love so well. Anyone from the area in Italy knows how these mountains, the Secchia river, and the flora of the region, transport the viewer into another world.

But Enzo also has a body of work that contrasts with this poetic interpretation of the land. This series: The Factory still has the poetic manner of capturing subject matter. However, in these photographs, Enzo is at a cooler remove of the images he captures. In this body of work Enzo visually comments on how the factory buildings, cement highways and bridges have displaced and replaced the fertile countryside with metal and concrete; the new visual images of our time and place. This series is a lament, an elegy to the lost natural countryside that was sacrificed for the concrete edifices that have become our new landscape.

Enzo describes this body of work in this way: “I began to explore this new subject matter after my exploration of my land and my mountains (the Appennino Reggiano ). What I seem more and more to see was the shortage of peasants, for years. The rural life and its people of the mountain were slowly disappearing. The call was strong, a new job that required less physical effort and was more profitable; A new way of working conception was born: THE FACTORY.

So men, without perhaps even realizing it, began to abandon his connection with the earth. The mutual respect of the laws of nature (…), as it has been for millennia, a sacred relationship disappeared. The newer generations no longer saw their future tied to their roots. Instead, they lost their cultural identity forever, one that was made up of traditions that have been passed down for generations where there was only one primary impulse: respect for the Earth”

Today, the abandoned mountains  have begun to change their physiognomy. Once extensive hayfield that beautifully caressed the mountainsides, today are only inaccessible fields covered with stems: an orphaned territory left by man’s hand. There was now a new commandment; “Work at the factory. Like the mountains, the green fertile plains also underwent a brutal and radical change. Buildings had to be built, huge expanses of green fields became cement soil. And so the immense grassy fields of the Po Valley have become the perimeter of what was born again: the factory.”

In this body of work. Crispino reveals a cool, crispy, clean detached world of beautifully designed structures. Using a brilliant, constant light, with no emotion, compositions eerily devoid of people Enzo here documents the replacement of the land with these concrete substitutes for mother earth. This is the new visual vocabulary to express the heartache of his (our) lost earthly paradise.

In conversation the morning we met in the beautiful Piazza Fontanese in Reggio Emilia for coffee, Enzo told me his work always reflects his desire to find his soul while trying to slow down the process of seeing life as it races by us. In quiet solitude, we can find ourselves and meaning. This series of photographs depicts eerily quiet spaces devoid of life, with the natural world just beyond reach. The slightly unsettling, somewhat conceptual environments Enzo creates here reflect his sense of searching for place and meaning in this new world. He/we are neither a natural part of it, nor able to escape it. How do we resolve our new world? Perhaps we are sentenced to wander forever, in silence and solitude, until we find a way to live in this cold, industrial “factory”.

In conclusion, the work of certain poets informs the visual poetry of Enzo’s work. Poets such as Pablo Neruda, Giuseppe Ungaretti, and Alda Merini, and here Pier Paolo Pasolini.

As Crispino shares, “Today, our looks are on those fields now covered with cement and thought goes to remind a poem by the Italian poet Pier Paolo Pasolini.”

“The Popular Song” by Pier Paolo Pasolini

Ah, we who live in one
Generation every generation
Lived here, in these lands now
Humiliated, we have no idea
True of those who are involved in history
Only for oral, magic experience;
And lives pure, not beyond memory
Of the generation in which presence
Of life is his peremptory life.
And if we turn to that past
Which is our privilege, other river people
Of people here singing: recovered
It is our motto since the Christian
Origin, but remains behind, motionless,
That song. It repeats the same.
In the evenings no more torches but globes
Of light, and the periphery does not seem to
Other, not the other young guys …


Gina Costa

Gina Costa is a photographer, museum professional, independent curator and scholar. As a photographer, she explores multiple formats and processes including film, digital, medium format, polaroid, and mobile.

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