The Consulate of Italy in Detroit in partnership with Ohio University
is pleased to announce the photographic exhibition
“AMERICHE: STORIE DI EMIGRATI FRIULANI NEGLI STATI UNITI ”
An exhibition of photographs by Francesco Nonino
Photographer Francesco Nonino’s contemporary portraits feature individuals who migrated to the United States from the Pordenone province in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in northeastern Italy.
The exhibition comprises juxtaposed photographs of the immigrants’ faces and their hands, many of them accompanied by quotations and personal anecdotes gathered from interviews. Nonino’s paired images convey the struggles and achievements of Friulani immigrants, who built new lives through a combination of hard physical work and love, commitment, and intelligence.
The project has been developed by the Archivio Multimediale della Memoria dell’Emigrazione Regionale (AMMER) of the region Friuli-Venezia Giulia.The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog published by the Center for Research and Archiviation of Photography (CRAF)
APRIL 6 – 25 , 2010
Ohio University Alden Library
OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday 15, 3:00-5:00pm
Ohio University Library
30 Park Place
Athens, OH 45701-2978
For information, please contact:
Serena Scaiola, Hon. Vice Consul of Italy
Tel: (216) 861.1585 firstname.lastname@example.org
“AMERICHE: STORIE DI EMIGRATI FRIULANI NEGLI STATI UNITI ”
Migrant lives: Stories of Emigrants in America in the Photographic Account by Francesco Nonino.
The photographic work “Americhe” by Francesco Nonino takes its place within the wider project of the valorization of the memory of the emigration from the Friuli Venezia Giulia by the Multimedial Archive Memoirs of Regional Emigration. There, besides, the oral testimony and historical documentation, the images that come from private archives are conserved. With the words and the photographs the emigrants construct their own life stories, recapitulating the fundamental stages. Within this enterprise an analysis process apace that, moving away from the quantitative, which concentrates on the entity of migratory flux, dwells instead upon the subjectivity of people rich in experience and on their own accounts. Among the cases being studied he chose that of the Friulian emigrants in the United States, in particular those who came from the mountains of Pordenone, chiefly from the town of Frisanco. After an in-depth study of the historical photographic material, undertaken in the context of an itinerant photographic exhibit, this research was completed by Francesco Nonino with the instruments of contemporary photography, by going to meet some of the people that have collaborated with the AMMER project.
Nonino carried out his work in 2008 in the suburbs of Philadelphia and New York. In these two metropolitan areas there has historically bee a strong Friulian presence. In the city of Pennsylvania the first generations were predominantly employed in the construction sector. They came from Poffabro as well, an outlying hamlet of Frisanco. Ever since 1890, when summoned by the ‘pioneer’ Massimiliano Roman, hundreds of fellow townspeople had come to Chestnut Hills, where they settled and where many of their descendants still live today. The mosaicists and terrace workers who came from the mountain zone of Pordenone had been present in New York ever since the Eighties of the nineteenth century, but it was in the twentieth century that the Friulians came to be concentrated in such numbers in Manhattan, in the houses and in the boarding houses run by them in a zone that went “from 29th to 35th street, near Third Avenue”. Now the community has been dispersed in the sprawling metropolis, but the oldest people can still remember the epic deeds of the construction of the great buildings that saw the Friulian builders in the front line.
Francesco Nonino’s work places him in area of photographic research that has chosen as its subject of inquiry the community of Italians who have by now been integrated abroad or the particular ties existing between the place one comes from and one’s destination. The work of Paola Agosti may be mentioned in particular, who took an interest in the Piedmontese communities in Argentina. That of Maria Zorzon, of distant Friulian origin though born and raised in Argentina, who moved about on both sides of the Ocean to conduct “a personal quest for identity” and a photographic journey that concerned the zones of Cormons, in the province of Gorizia, and the colony of Reconquista, in the province of Santa Fe and the towns of Cordenons, situated near Pordenone and of Avellaneda near Buenos Aires. Finally, that of Marina Cavazza who, fifty years after the tragedy of Marcinelle, went in search of the memory of the victims among their families that had remained in Belgium or returned to Italy. Nonino himself, ten years ago, had begun a research project on the Friulians in New York and had concentrated above all on the family context and on the objects of sentimental value conserved in the homes of the immigrants.
In this new work Francesco Nonino takes the theme up again and modifies it. In his photographs we now find few objects and always tied to the thread of a photographic account that unfolds in a form that is very intimate and close to the people encountered, interposed with quotations drawn from interviews with the protagonists. In this way a space is found for the orality which, in the rapid extracts chosen by the photographer as an accompaniment to the powerful photographic instrument, synthetically restores to us the sense of the lives that flow through the pages of the catalogue. Nonino isn’t afraid of the redundancy of the written word, nor is he worried about losing the artistic prerogatives of the photographer and, as had already been authoritatively done, in diverse form, by Wolker Evans and Paul Strand, constructs a book exploring a narrative dimension entirely new for him, photographer of clouds, as well as the author of a virtual herbarium realized without the camera, but with an ordinary scanner.
Nonino meets the Friulians in the United States of America, he wins their trust and accompanies them in the gestures of their everyday lives to then, with great skills and sensitivity, manage to bring to light, by cleaning off the layer of snow of Kracauerian memory, their story. With Nonino’s portraits one departs from the instantaneousness and, following a memorable and refined line of reasoning of the writer Leonardo Sciascia, one travels from the physical to the metaphysical and “one realizes a believability that doesn’t pose or dismiss the problem of physical resemblance and yet restores the sense of that life, of that story, of that work fully, in ‘entelechy’ ”. Nonino chooses dimly lit domestic surroundings and, trusting that in the portrait they will be concentrated “condensing in a meta-historical form, the maximum quantity of objects and historically relevant signs relative to the subject” , restricts the shots to the faces of the Friulian emigrants, limiting himself to complete the analysis with the vision from close up of their clasped hands. The result of this photographic account, seemingly simple and spare, is, instead, of great efficacy and, thanks to a strong charge of empathy, sums up well the lives of the people encountered. Paraphrasing Cesare Zavattini who introduced the aforementioned photographs of Strand associated with the “confidences” of the people of Luzzara, in conclusion one would wish to write that it would be nice to “interrogate at least a thousand, make a fine big book giving a page” to each Friulian in America.
Emigration from Friuli Venezia Giulia to United States
“The majority are terrazzo and mosaic workers, then come the builders and labourers; in third place the factory workers and miners, and finally furnace workers and peasants”. These are the words used, in 1931, by a priest from Friuli, don Luigi Ridolfi, to describe the presence of the Friulians in the United States.
By that time, terrazzo workers from Friuli had reached every corner of the country, many of them starting their own businesses and realized prestigious works in important public places or in the most renowned private houses. Italian emigration towards the United States already had a fifty year history. In the last twenty years of the 19th century and in the first fifteen of the 20th century, millions of Italians flowed into the new continent, mostly coming from the southern regions, and registered upon arrival as peons or laborers, employed in the most physical and underpaid jobs and subject to social prejudice. Only a minority, less than 20%, were qualified artisans, and among them mosaic and terrazzo workers from Friuli were well known and appreciated, sought after and well paid due to their highly specialized skills. Between the 19th and the 20th centuries, mosaic and terrazzo workers, stone-cutters, stone masons and miners left the mountains and foothills of Friuli, especially western Friuli, and headed for the United States, spreading all over the country and giving birth to a type of emigration that was no longer seasonal, but long term. In 1888 they founded the oldest Italian workers’ union in New York, the Mosaic and Terrazzo Workers. This tradition didn’t cease even at the outbreak of the First World War, but it grew stronger and stronger with time. “Born in Sequals, trained in Spilimbergo, we work around the world”, these are the words Orio Vergani wrote in the Corriere della Sera on 10th June 1930 in an article on mosaicists from Sequals. “It’s a strange thing, in such small villages, to hear people speak of faraway cities with such ease”. Overseas, don Ridolfi, describing the community of Friulians in New York in the same period, echoed: “There is no doubt that the Friulians alone form one great village, like Gemona and Maniago”.