Almost Bari, by Mara Dani

Take a guide book and this is how it will be spoken of Bari: both economic and cultural place, this university town has a long history and a charming old historical center. Take the time to discover the front door of Puglia, to walk its streets especially at the hour of the passeggiata. For me, I have mainly heard of Bari as a gateway for North African immigrants, more known during riots in 2011. It tells how much the connotation took precedence over the denotation.


Mara Dani lives in Bari where she teaches English. She has also developed in recent years an interest in photography which she used to realize a systematic and methodical exploration of the city of Bari. To complete the connotation, the idea of Italian photography convenes instantly two famous names : Gabriele Basilico, undisputed master of architectural photography and Michelangelo Antonioni, undisputed master of boring peri-urban desolate environments. These two influences are found in the work of Mara Dani : a highly architected approach of the urban structure, alternating pictures, shot from above showing the typology of urban form with views from ground level that takes us erratically to one neighborhood to another.

With this work, Mara urges us to follow her and to get lost with her in the empty streets. Spaces are designed for cars and atmospheres are far from those of downtown (which I do not know), far from the hubbub and the linguistic frenzy that inhabits the films of Italian neorealist cinema. We are in contemporary Italy, which, like every big city has been urbanized frantically in the second half of the twentieth century. This city is a port city with a high density of population, and Bari is like all our western cities, including this seen before building or piece of wall. Only vegetation, or an earthenware retail attests that we are in the South… and then, suddenly, the turning of a page, a photo of the Istituto per le case popolari… this building finally reassures us, it corresponds to our preconceived image of Italy.

Throughout these pages, Mara Dani talks about contemporary issues such as urban landscapes, post industrial forsaken territories, resilience, conurbation, urban transportation … It is both the backstage of the city, and the everyday banality of a city life, all these locations made of spaces we cross every day without noticing, sometimes without even looking up. They evolve back and forward without anyone noticing. We well remember that here, in another time, there was a field, but don’t know since when the latter disappeared. The city is built like a gigantic palimpsest, each layer superimposed on the previous one, while erasing details. Our memory is diluted and only a few old postcards attest about our grandparents’ stories.

Mara’s look on her city remains always endearing, it takes us away from the waves of tourists who have invaded the historical city center. No selfies in these sets, there remains only the authenticity of a growing population to house at all costs. The beautiful title, itself, confirms this statement with both the accuracy and the vagueness of ambiguity : almost Bari.

Hardcover book, 16 x 21,5 cm, 92 pages, 77 black and white photos, foreword by Gian Luigi Sylos Labini and Alessandro Cirillo. 300 copies signed and numbered.

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And by the way, talking about contemporanean landscapes and Antonioni, you should also consider the beautiful Ravenna by Gerry Johansson. Ravenna was the location of the film « The red desert ».


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