Vincenzo Pagliuca, author of Napoli Nord • Case Rom, tells us the story behind four of his favourite images from the project.
This picture was very important for the entire development of the project. I took it during one of my first visits at the camps. I was not familiar with the place yet. It was getting dark and I was on my way out. I passed in front of the house and I tried to take a picture from the outside. She saw me doing this and invited me in. I was astonished by how the interior looked, a sort of container set up with the few things she owned. The white curtain gave the room the appearance of a theatre stage. I think I only took one picture and left.
Back at home I became convinced that it would be the right direction to follow, using the interior of the houses, so rich in visual information, as a stage to portray my subjects. I wanted to show the close relationship between the living environment and the inner world of the people.
The girl’s name is Shakira, I met her at the carnival parade of Scampia and she became my first guide in the camp. She belongs to one of the few Muslim families there. Although she was born in Naples and was regularly attending school in Italy, she did not have Italian citizenship. Her parents arrived in Italy during the Balkan wars in the 90s. They were originally from Skopje in Macedonia.
In Italy it is estimated that there exist int he region of 15,000 stateless children like her. Most of them have a very high risk of being discriminated and they have limited access to healthcare, social assistance and higher education.
At the time when I took this picture Daniela was 26 and was expecting her second child. She lived with her parents-in-law in a very modest shack right in the middle of the settlement. I’ve never met her husband. Like many other women in the camp she was married early and was somehow trapped there. She was entirely responsible for the household, raising children and serving her parents-in-law.
With my pictures I wanted to draw attention to the condition of women like her, forced by a patriarchal tradition to bend to their family and communities’ rules and interests. For them the camp has become a place of segregation with no way out.
In his “Poetics of Space” Gaston Bachelard affirms “we can’t write the history of the human being unconscious without writing a history of the house”. That’s how a small house immersed in the darkness, in its extreme condition of poverty and isolation, can reveal an ancestral sense of refuge and protection. It becomes an archetypal image of intimacy and it invites us to reflect on the symbolic meaning of the house for human beings. These reflections around the theme of dwelling are currently very dear to me.