Street Stories from Padua and New York
Photographer Francesca Magnani’s street diptychs build a photographic bridge across the two cities she calls home
This series spans the course of 20 years, during which I have walked and portrayed the streets of New York, yet always a part of me still is in my hometown of Padua in Italy. I have called my project Duplicittà (duplicity.) I‘ve had Padua in the back of my mind when I was in New York, and vice-versa, as if one could change a rearview mirror and set it to the other place.
I’ve always lived alone, so I was the only “witness” of myself here or there, and I wanted to express that. As an Italian woman, moving to New York educates you to get used to a new beauty. For a street photographer, the street is already a form of stage, but I also look at real performances — dancers, acrobats, and the religious devotees of Saint Anthony of Padua, who walk through the village each year on June 13th.
In a few pairings, you see Piazza della Frutta with Union Square — the only New York location that, with its Upstate Farmer’s Market, and as a gathering place of many friends, has always reminded me of an Italian piazza. Padua and New York become a polarity of two physical places, but also two states of mind, and two moods.
This way of pairing has no strict rule, but pairs are dictated by the emotion that sparkles when two contexts are put side by side — because of a color, or because of the subject matter, other times it’s just an unmistakeable feeling — and which introduces the pleasure of a deeper form of knowledge, that immediately overwhelms the clarity and the nature of a single shot. The pictures communicate with each other, and there is the mind/eye conversation within the viewer. Each image is a complete story, but also a seed for a new story, a double sided one.
Since I moved to New York in 1997, I tell with words and images what moves me and what makes me move. With this way of seeing and photographing, and because I‘ve been teaching Italian in New York for years, while also writing for Italian magazines, I’ve always kept an ideal bridge of thoughts and feelings with Italy. Probably I miss everything about my country, from food to relationships with people, from book covers to hearing my language on the street. But whatever I might internally miss, I express it and keep it alive in my images. No matter where I am, my way of seeing allows me to find similarities and developing affinities for other things that I have at hand where I happen to be.
This way, the click of the camera works as a constant reminder of mindfulness — “Wherever you go, there you are.”