Three-dimensional family albums, homes that harbor stories and secrets: paintings hanging on walls, photographs, objects on bedside tables, books tucked away inside library nooks. Objects resonating with one other, reflecting desires and aspirations, memories and affections, revealing the personalities of home-dwellers, often more than an expression or a look on a face.
As a photographer Lorenzo Castore always manages to capture people’s soul. With Ultimo Domicilio he seems to want to pass on the other side of the looking glass, seeking for souls elsewhere, while saving the houses he’s loved, spent time in, and obstinately searched for, from being consigned to oblivion.
This book stands out for its linear, almost documentary-like narrative style, challenging any possibility for digression. The profound contrasts, absolute black shades, and blinding lights of Castore’s previous works now make space for a different kind of mood. Here, the colors of memory are enhanced by Eugenia Lecca’s magical watercolor intervention. There is a search for the appropriate light, suitable to every location, aligned with the dominant atmosphere of each house.
Thanks to the way in which Castore deals with the question of memory and transmission, there is a permanent contamination between narration and self-narration. Reality is filtered by an emotional gaze that rests upon each place. Castore loves the stories of people, has an innate intuition for them, and knows how to reach out to the most surprising destinies. Now he has found a bond also with people’s places––places he has learned to tune into thanks to his perception of their genius loci.
These homes are boîtes à musique, music boxes emitting familiar sounds. Castore’s images reveal the vibrations, at times even the silences of every house: the muffled sounds of a family apartment absorbing footsteps and rustles, the deep echoes of the ancient palazzo in Finale Ligure, the creaking stairway of Casarola, the hissing radiators and blaring sirens of Brooklyn.
From kitchens to living rooms, everyday precious objects bear the signs of those who have used them – from battered pots to pristine porcelain sets, books with creased pages and old armchairs with tired upholstery. Every object has its own story, but won’t have the power to generate nostalgia and memories to the eyes of strangers. Time inexorably renews faces. Landscapes become populated by different people, familiar geometries shift, and in the course of the years, the faces of beloved family members become anonymous like those of train passengers. What once belonged to them becomes hermetic like a sealed off suitcase. Whoever leaves or takes over an empty house, brings along with their keys, the daily objects of a lifetime. A trip has come to an end and others will begin. Suitcases are packed and unpacked elsewhere.
With a dialectic continuum between a narrative and documentary-style approach, Ultimo Domicilio reminds me of Fabrizia Ramondino’s work Althénopis, a book that oscillates between novel and autobiography and tells the stories of homes and seas–– childhood homes, homes that were rocked by earthquakes, familiar seas she has loved and feared.
In both books the individual stories of migrations, wars, and exiles are also part of a historical discourse and allow, one close-up at a time, to speak about an already ancient world.
Viewers will penetrate Ultimo Domicilio as if they following Castore on intimate visits to the homes of friends and acquaintances, entering extraordinary dwellings. The one of an Italian poet, a French painter, an American director. Homes on the cusp of centuries–– from the Unification of Italy to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, from a bourgeois family, frozen in time, to a wave of ruptures and peregrinations. Homes belonging to the Resistance movement, homes of political and poetic exile. But also the home of Castore’s grandmother in Florence–– a true family symbol destined to disappear, a safe place where we can peak from a backstage area at the appearing and disappearing figure of the artist’s enigmatic and emblematic father. And again, Castore’s first young adult home in Krakow, a small museum of objects and visual fetishes.
The book can be read as a map where a sequence of more or less concealed clues, draws out the profiles of invisible protagonists. Their imaginary presence is stronger than their absence from the pictures.
By portraying these houses, Castore also portrays their inhabitants, but what ultimately seems to emerge from the lacework, is a self-portrait of the author himself in search for his identity, past and future. Through a kind of photosynthesis process, the numerous symbols and emotional references, literary and artistic ones, seem to represent a definitive family portrait, the ultimate home of choice.
Castore’s almost Proustian petite recherche, is articulated in seven chapters, one for each home. Seven, like the mysteries, like the heavens, and ancient seas. Protected by this magic number, we venture in search of the perfect balance, of paradise lost, the archetype of the ideal home: a place where poetry hovers over everything, where we can put together the pieces of a puzzle, unpack a suitcase and order a collection of muses, heroes, and protective deities.