Fiuggi Landscape, Ciociaria copyright 2010 Douglas Stockdale
This is the background story of how my project Ciociaria came about, which is part random circumstances and part recognizing an opportunity. First and foremost, I like to work on conceptual projects, to have an idea that provides the context and structure of the photographs that I am making. Now I may not always realize a project in the making, that might come as a later realization, what I have termed listening to your muse.
Why do I think in terms of a photo project? I find that a project creates a unifying focus, requires commitment and discipline and helps me manage my time. For me, a project creates an overarching cohesiveness to a body of work that helps with the subsequent development of a book or an exhibition. It also allows me to articulate a conceptual idea and be able communicate this to others. As a part of my project process, I then define my mission (e.g. artistic statement), what my goals are (e.g. a published book) and my objectives.
In the case, my day job was bringing me frequently to this region in Italy, specifically working at a site in Ferentino, Italy, located off the A1, about an hour south of Roma (Rome) almost mid-way between Roma and Napoli (Naples). Initially I had a driver and I was staying near Rome in Fumincino, so mostly observing for the first couple of months. Then as the frequency of my Ferentino work was increasing, it was time to rent a car and find a local hotel, which turned out to be in Fiuggi Terme, about a half hour from Ferentino up in the foothills. And as the short winter days extended into the longer days of Spring, I had more time to explore.
Last July I was reviewing Andrew Phelps book, Not Niigata, which struck a resonant cord in me. I had felt really disoriented while I was in China, more in line with Phelps project, but now I realized that I did not really know the culture and this region of Italy either, I was still a stranger in a strange land. But yet, there was some familiarity that I felt with this part of Italy that seemed just beyond my grasp. Hmmm, something was coming together for me, but I still could not put my finger on it. Okay, maybe not the quickest guy in the bunch, as my brain required a little pounding, or perhaps the muse was still whispering a little too softly?
In August, I finally had found something that conceptually tied this project together for me, a term I was hearing about how the people of this region described themselves, that they were the Ciociaria. A quick wiki check on the Ciociaria provided the “glue” for the project, that the Ciociaria were without a defined territory and without a defined history. The vagueness of space and history (memory) provided a sense of freedom for me and released me to be able to define my own story of what Ciociaria might mean. Now I had what I felt was a contextual thread to continue observing and photographing. What looked odd and what looked familiar, to paraphase Amy Stein, to explore the complex and often ambigious relationships between the individuals and their envioronment.
So when my day assignement required spending a weekend in Italy, rather than driving up to Roma or down to Napoli, I just made a short drive to another local city within the general area called Ciociaria and then walked, observed and photographed. Nice.
Best regards, Douglas