Imaging Failure

Imaging Failure

The Abandoned Lives of the Italian South

by Steven Seidenberg

Edited by Carolyn L. White

Published by: Contrasto

160 Pages, 9.50 x 11.00 in, Color photographs throughout

  • Hardcover
  • 9788869658129
  • Published: January 2021


An extraordinary historical and anthropological study through striking and fascinating photographs.

During the reconstruction of its economy following World War II, Italy implemented a program of land reform, the Riforma Fondiaria (1950 – 1972), which had profound effects across Italy, most of all in the south. Half a century later, what became a spectacular disaster for the people and a bonanza for the state has left its physical evidence scattered across the countryside. In 2017, Steven Seidenberg and Carolyn White began an interdisciplinary project to document the contemporary remains of the Riforma.

Seidenberg’s richly detailed photographs capture houses, outbuildings, and interiors in a hauntingly beautiful manner, drawing attention to the lives that were disrupted by the reform. As Seidenberg turns his lens toward this rural landscape, he captures the tensions between the permanent and the temporary, between occupied and abandoned, and where the edge of tolerability exists—places where people migrated seeking a better life, only to be forced to move again. Essays by anthropologists, curators, critics, poets, and architects contextualize the photographs in a broader context. The images in Imaging Failure are specific to southern Italy, but their themes of displacement and rural disenfranchisement have global relevance.