On the Waterfront


Van Alen Traveling Fellowship Contact Sheets – 2003

Savona Italy

These images and text were created as part of my University of Pennsylvania Van Alen Traveling Fellowship in 2003.  Fourteen of these images were exhibited in Meyerson Hall’s Dean’s Alley,  November 18th-19th, 2003.
[click on the images to enlarge them]

Exhibit Introduction:

The rise and fall of the European colonial empires were linked to the advent of their maritime trade. The seas and oceans were the super-highways of the day. Situated on coastal and riverfront sites, docks and shipyards were often built on underutilized wetlands- once the industrialization process started, new cities grew up around these sources of the wealth and trade. Venice is a renaissance example of a maritime culture expanding into a mercantile empire and prosperous city; its docks channeled the flow of goods from Asia and the Orient into the rest of Europe; the lagoon was a prime anchorage. The Pool of London became so overcrowded that successive new facilities were constructed downstream, each larger then the previous.

The introduction of containerized cargo hastened the decline from the intensive manual labor of old port facilities to the modern mechanized ports of today. The shift from the central city location of the historical ports, shipyards and warehouse facilities, to the large uninterrupted acreage with highway and rail access on the fringes of the urbanization, left a void in many cities that are being redeveloped and redefined. Bilbao, Spain is a case study for the reinvention of a shipbuilding city into a cultural center. Europe has reemerged as the center of shipbuilding (France, Denmark and Italy) have developed the traditional craft into a competitive, high technology leader in the construction of freighters, mega-yachts and tankers.

France, Italy had colonial ambitions that grew around historic harbors; today the active ports, ferry terminals and shipyards to be explored, documented, mapped and interpreted while contrasting the modern sites with the historic.

The Mediterranean was one of the earliest centers of world culture and trade. Documenting these historical ports and the modern facilities in there proximity should provide a rich study of the development of the materialistic societies that while similar, have different recent histories and modern economic success.

Journal excerpt:

WEDNESDAY- Savona, Italy
… twisting roads, diving into tunnels that then open below medieval towers high above the sea with terrace hills cascading down to the beach. the fortifications evoke the violent past when the only refuge was behind tall walls. the modern greenhouses provide a different defense and focus the light on the thriving flowers.

With exceptions of the harbor in Nice, Toulon and Marseille, the Cote d’Azur is dominated by pleasure marinas crowded by the affluent and tourists. The transition at the Italian boarder into a working landscape and sea is a dramatic illustration of political and cultural force- the boats got smaller and fishing vessels soon outnumbered pleasure craft. the community emerges around the harbor and fish markets. Suddenly a shipyard looms above the town of finale Ligure; houses and buildings crowd around the tall walls and a public beach is just beyond…

Long stretches of waterfront and beach are barricaded by a crumbling railroad viaduct. It’s liberating to squeeze through a narrow tunnel and climb up the hills for a sweeping panorama of shimmering water in the hot sun. Upon a barren headland out of nowhere, a new concrete marina is under construction; the new harbor is already full of boats, but were do the people live? Agriculture gradiates from dominating the landscape, to subsisting in patches that occasionally overtake the town- vegetable gardens overgrow abandoned buildings and foundations in the center of the village, yet the hill side above is uncultivated.

Original prints of these photographs are available for purchase. I have a limited number of 11×14  and 16 x20 prints, but will also make new custom prints as requested. The film stock used is 35mm scala B&W slides, and the prints are from 4×5 inter-negatives. Prices start at $200 with discounts possible if you request multiple prints.

1 thought on “On the Waterfront

  1. Pingback: blog wunderlust : 18th July 2011 « Modern Building « Architectural Design Concept

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