33 © Francesco Fantini
“They were of England, but not English. They were London. Which is very different. London is multi-tongued urgent. Cruel. London is everywhere, wide open: exploited and exploiting”— Ian Sinclair, The last London, 2017
33 is a photographic journey to discover, observe and understand the 32 + 1 boroughs of Greater London. Thirty-two boroughs with the addition of the autonomous City: thirty-three distinct areas but with almost imperceptible borders, except for the writings on door-to- door bins. An overflowing labyrinth of 1572 km2. Nine million inhabitants who every day try to make room for themselves by gently elbowing one another. A structure officially born in 1965, the result of studies that began in 1943 by Sir P. Abercrombie to rebuild a capital devastated by the bombings of the Second World War.
Like Saturn, Greater London is adorned with a ring, the M25, which wraps around it and unofficially defines its boundaries with its asphalt. A galaxy in perpetual expansion, a multitude of solar systems that rotate in synchrony, in a motion of magnetic attraction and repulsion, linked by a reciprocal force of gravity. To orient myself and understand what surrounds me, I move like an explorer within this system of forces. Using photography as a compass needle, I follow the coordinates of a changing territory, sometimes no longer on a human scale, a mass that seems to lose its relationship with history day by day and change into a new creature.
These "explorations" arise from an almost physiological need to understand and discover, within the limits of human possibilities, the city in which I have chosen to live. Feeling less foreign in a foreign land, through a process of "familiarization". The obsessive search for familiarity comes from the reality in which I grew up, a small village where every wall, street corner or sidewalk represent a reassuring certainty. Mine is a search for integration that passes through the discovery and understanding of the territory. In these long walks, I devour the map, I move alone on the Solitaire board trying to capture details and contrasts, with the desire to give shape to a broader vision of Londoners and of the city itself. The 33 Boroughs, like the individual vertebrae of the spine, act as a bone base that supports the entire body of the city. Images that add up as in the quasi-magical square of Subirachs where, through a closed rigid construction, the sum of the figures of the various boxes always leads to a single result: 33.
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