When these photographs were taken, the idea that a stranger could see them was completely unacceptable. These are photographs that we would never see unless we had a strong personal relationship with the photographer or the subjects, and only then, at their home, could we see them hanging on the wall or while leafing through a photo album.

Portable Slide Viewer (circa 1970)

It has become clear that the Internet and social media have changed our relationship with photography. Nowadays, we take photographs knowing and even hoping that people with whom we have no personal connection will see, like, comment on and share them. Today we can curate exactly how we want our lives to appear to others. We take ten photos and share one, the one that looks perfect, discarding all the others.

By today’s standards, these are not perfect photographs. Today, some of these images would undoubtedly be part of the batch of discarded photographs. On the other hand, these are honest and genuine photographs. They are a true and accurate representation of a particular moment in the lives of these individuals.

It is precisely because of this naturalness that, once we face the photographs of these people outside the private and domestic context for which they were originally conceived, the temptation to tell their stories and understand what the images show us and which we know nothing about is inevitable. Why do we have this need to reconstruct the stories of these strangers?

Photo Album, 82 photographs 4’x6′ (June-July 1964)

If we look closely, today we photograph the same things we did in the past (birthdays, trips, celebrations, parties, etc.). The significant difference is that now, because of smartphones, we take pictures at a never-ending, never-seen pace. And if, with digital cameras, the average quality of our photography has improved, we now take so many photographs that the content of each one looks less significant than ever. By losing the tangible connection with the physical medium of photography, we also start to lose the tangible connection with our past and with our lives.

Photographs document our collective history as human beings. We can somehow relate to many of these photographs. We can take care of them, adopt them, give them a new meaning and enjoy them. These images are the evidence that there are no minor or insignificant moments and that our photographs are not only ours. They will be used to tell a story that is bigger than us. A story about who we are.

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