Urban Reports: chronicling the territory - ISPLORA

Urban Reports: chronicling the territory


The international collective of photographers-architects documents and narrates the contemporary landscape of inland areas

Urban Reports is an international collective of photographers that narrate the landscape and architecture by means of photo-reportage at an urban and territorial scale. The group, formed by photographers-architects, proposes to use photography as a tool to investigate and explore contemporary landscapes.

Their work documents interior areas, places of latent conflict such as border territories, the edges of urban space or on the contrary the intrusions of infrastructures into rural spaces and more in general into the landscape. Reports which aim at describing places in an apparently objective way, chronicling the European landscape in an almost journalistic way, from Italy to Spain to the Netherlands. When observing the shots by the Urban Reports collective, one’s mind goes back to 40 years ago, to the great documentary work carried out by the DATAR (Délégation interministérielle à l'aménagement du territoire et à l'attractivité régionale) Mission photographique. A mission created by the French government which involved 12 European photographers, including Robert Doisneau, Gabriele Basilico and Alain Ceccaroli, in the “representation of the French landscape in the ‘80s” from 1983 to 1989.

Documenting, representing and narrating, as in the case of Urban Reports, through a photographic laboratory on the daily landscape that involves different disciplines: architecture, geography, sociology and urbanism. A new approach, also due to the background of its founders, all architects-photographers, which often does not disdain the light poetry typical of Luigi Ghirri’s shots and his photographic lesson on the Italian landscape.

A narration which emerges with strength in one of the collective’s latest works, the one for “Arcipelago Italia”, the Italian Pavilion at the last Venice Biennale, curated by Cucinella. A journey in stages, through frames of Italy’s inland areas and the urban regeneration projects, from the Alps down along the Apennine mountains to the islands.

A research project, an additional interpretative stratum when compared to the architecture projects offered by the Italian Pavilion, the contextualization of interventions and photography to narrate the territories where these actions take place.

Interview with Urban Reports: how the collective was born and which projects are in the works

Isplora’s editorial staff had the opportunity to meet the founders of Urban Reports, Davide Curatola Soprana, Alessandro Guida, Isabella Sassi Farìas and Viviana Rubbo, and have a chat with them.

How was the Urban Reports collective born? What are its goals and working method?

Our collective was born from the desire to document contemporary landscapes, suggesting photography as a critical tool to investigate and explore its dynamics of transformation. Some of the topics at the center of our research are: land consumption, the acceleration of urbanization phenomena, the desertification of rural areas, the extensive post-industrial territories which must be rethought and returned to the territory, the challenges of great urban areas and metropolitan peripheries. We are all architects by training, each of us with our own wealth of experience and personal projects on the urban and territorial dimension, which has allowed us to gather around the common goal of narrating these phenomena by means of photography. Our working method is defined on a case-by-case basis with our partners, but is always based on a preliminary discovery of the places accompanied by experts and local players which can help us “look while listening” to thus acquire elements that are useful in understanding the context.

Do you want to tell us about your latest project, “The Other Italy”, recently published by Johan and Levi? Are there other “chronicles” in the works?  

“The Other Italy”, published by Johan and Levi, was the result of Mario Cucinella’s project for the Italian Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale and was created with the contribution of the General Direction Contemporary Art and Architecture and Urban Peripheries of MiBACT (Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities). It was a photography campaign which over 7 months allowed us to investigate 5 “inland” areas, with the help of a multidisciplinary group: the Casentino forests, Camerino and the area of the crater, Gibellina and the Valley of Belice, Ottana in Barbagia and the Valley of Basento in Basilicata. A journey during which we looked for a balance between the collective method of exploration, the authorship of the photographers and listening to the people met along the way, to suggest a new narration of the places chosen by the curator. What emerges is an archaic, raw and essential landscape, as far from tourist routes as it is close to a primitive dimension. The volume includes an introduction by architect Mario Cucinella and texts by writer and essayist Marco Belpoliti.

After this wonderful experience, we are still exploring the inland areas of our country and the changes underwent by large urban and metropolitan areas with working methods of different nature: workshops and photography campaigns. We cannot say too much for now, but in 2019 we will once again be traveling around Italy!

More information on our photographic project for Arcipelago Italia: http://www.urbanreports.org/arcipelagoitalia/

Book presentation available at: www.urbanreports.org/altra-italia-book/

What does today’s Italian landscape tell us? How can photography help us to describe it and narrate it? 

Pausing to observe and document contemporary landscapes means narrating man’s presence in the environment, the stratification of the marks left in a place. It means focusing on the consequences of previous choices and reflecting on the dynamics of the present. Now more than ever, we think it is urgent to promote a dialog on the changes underwent by the landscape, on the effects of the absence of an urban and territorial agenda (in Italy as in many European countries) capable of communicating in a multidisciplinary and choral way with civil society, the players involved and territorial institutions. The great value of a photography campaign is the plurality of visions, built collectively to elaborate a diagnosis, observe at the right distance and meditate on which actions to take for the territory.

Photography, as a way to connect with the context, can thus give a cultural contribution, become critical eye, awareness and knowledge of space, capable of encouraging reflection on the aspects of the identity of places and the possible scenarios of their transformation. On the one hand, an approach which opens to new perspectives and new possibilities for analysis: on the other hand a powerful communication tool, capable of nurturing a new imagination of places, stimulating dialog with a variety of players and stakeholders, such as the professionals who work with the territory, but also a much wider audience.


Cover Photo: Viaduct along the road from Mamoiada to Nuoro. Section on Barbagia - by Alessandro Guida / Urban Reports, from the photography campaign for Arcipelago Italia (2018)


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