the parishes of Viale Gramsci told in the photos of Marcello Coslovi

A project born from an urgency, from the need to study a situation, a reality in Modena linked to the reputation of violence and prostitution. A floating, isolated, stigmatized place. A place they would call in the United States The wrong side of the tracks, literally “the wrong side of the railroad” to refer to the impoverished neighborhood of a town often inhabited by “the invisibles”, members of communities of mostly foreign origin. In 2020 Marcello Coslowi – a young photographer from Modena – decided to cross the railway and climb over this invisible wall that surrounds Viale Gramsci and separates its inhabitants from the rest of the city. A neighborhood comparable to an eternal waiting room from which he wanted to learn the stories, geographies and daily lives of its residents. Through his photographs – taken and edited in collaboration with local residents – Marcello draws our attention to a neglected reality in Modena with the aim of provoking thought and raising questions.

That is “The Wrong Side of the Tracks”a project in development conceived by Marcello Coslovi during his studies at Studio Labò, winner in the category “Best portfolio absolutely“at the Fotografia Europea 2021, finalist of several international awards and currently exhibited for the Fotografia Europea 2022 at the Monastery of San Domenico in Reggio Emilia.

“I started from this expression “the wrong side of the tracks” to create a reflection on my city of Modena, where the railway marks the two districts as a kind of border. Then I focused on Viale Gramsci, where many people live. From a conceptual point of view, I approached the municipality to give a speech on social justice; as a lawyer I’ve always been interested in subjects of this nature, I’ve traveled extensively, even to the south of the US to retrace the key steps in the life of Martin Luther King, while from a photographic point of view my main reference is Imperial Courts by Dana Lixenberg , a Dutch photographer who worked for 20 years in an African American neighborhood in the United States, in empathy with the community to understand how they feel about them and to do work that is the result of collaboration and intimacy is”

Thanks to the fortunate encounter with a local resident, a lawyer by profession and well integrated into the Ghanaian community, Marcello enters a neighborhood that he will discover to be governed by precise and impenetrable geographies. He meets boys, men and women living in the area and collides with the experiences and feelings they share with him, the difficulties, stereotypes, the struggle to get out of a constant state of uneasiness and social isolation. Visit the African market, one of the neighborhood churches, the basketball court, and a small apartment that hosts a much higher number of tenants than it should. It is there every day, sometimes in the morning, afternoon or evening. For two years he builds and strengthens friendships: sometimes he goes with the intention of taking photos, listening to the boys’ ideas and suggestions themselves, while others just go to chat and be together.

He doesn’t want to document the life of these young people, of the community. Through his photographs, Marcello wants to convey certain images, evoke metaphors to represent the condition of these people, a condition that emanates from a specific community but transcends any limit as it is universal.

“This is a non-canon portrait. The intent is to create a different imagery on the subject, and this requires a greater effort on the part of the viewer: he doesn’t have to debate who the person is, how he is dressed, etc., but draw attention to the symbolic behind it: on this one For example, in the photo one can sense the tension of the boy trying to remove his fogged up glasses, there is an urge to overcome a difficult condition, the impossibility of foreseeing anything and further on a metaphorical level, seeing a future. Yet there is an attempt on his part to overcome this condition “


“Also in this photo there is the idea of ​​someone trying to get out of a state represented by a clothesline trying to open. He is in a very uncomfortable position, there is tension and trying to get out to get out of the state he’s found in”


“This is an external detail that creates context. Shown in the photo it would be a boulder in a puddle in the Park XXII Aprile. Metaphorically, it represents the island where these communities are separated.”

Isolation, precariousness and suspension. These are the words that result from a reflection of the Modenese photographer gained in two years of sharing, friendship and comparison with some residents of Viale Gramsci.

“Precariousness because you get the impression that they live in constant and daily precariousness, always waiting to get the documents. And in this waiting they are exposed, they have no leeway to do anything in Modena, to integrate. Isolation due to the impermeability between the groups living in the neighborhood. Many of them find it difficult to simply exchange ideas with locals. The African is often viewed as a stereotype and this increases the distance between these people and others. The simple fact of being on Viale Gramsci and being black – a boy from the neighborhood told me – is immediately associated with a drug dealer. You don’t see people, you don’t see how they are. There is this invisible wall that separates the different communities. Suspension, Finally, because it’s an area just steps away from the train station, it resembles a waiting room, as if these guys were waiting to embark on a new journey to the England they dreamed of. Modena as if passing through, for a time that may turn out to be very long, waiting for a chance”.


“This photo shows a toy knife and metaphorically means they want to fight but their means are not suitable. There is also a discourse associated with the drug dealer and violence … which is feigned violence.”

Marcello, what is the purpose of your photography?

“According to James Baldwin, the artist cannot take anything for granted, he must get to the bottom of the answers in order to explain the questions behind those answers. I agree, I’ll investigate something that isn’t so obvious.” examine to raise questions. Comparing myself to others, but also to myself as we all grew up with certain prejudices. It’s an important question. For reference, I’m also inspired by Yasujiro Ozu, a 20’s Japanese director I whisper rather than shout, prefer the implicit to the explicit. My photographs do not pretend to describe but to remember, to allude to something that touches you gently and not to scream things. Think. For me, photography is a bridge to be part of or to connect with groups or communities that I don’t belong to, a medium to cross the invisible wall that separates us”.


(In the photo Marcello Coslovi, photographer from Modena)

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