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The story of culture (also of production) told through postcards

Research by two geographers tells of the changing perception of the natural and industrial landscape

Understanding the perception of the environment and development, sociality and production also through visual storytelling, i.e. the kind that uses images. Even those of yesteryear – postcards and ‘homemade’ films – which were in common use until a few years ago and now appear to have almost disappeared. Yet, it is also through postcards and family films that the culture of social living, production, development and sharing can pass. It is around these ideas that Pietro Agnoletto and Lorenzo Bagnoli worked in their research ‘Ambiente e percezione sociale. Cartoline e filmati di famiglia nell’Italia industriale’ recently published by the magazine of the Association of Italian Geographers (AGEI).

Agnoletto and Bagnoli start by considering a fact before all attentive observers of social reality: that which, in postmodern Italian society, is considered an environmental conflict, in the industrial Italy of the 1960s and 1970s could instead be considered acceptable and be represented without offending the common aesthetic sense. In other words, things that were so fascinating a few decades ago that they were admired, remembered and visited, may today have been relegated to elements of environmental and social damage. Tourism and the travel memories it produces – explain the two authors – testify to this process. Not the memories that originate from discerning travellers, but those that come from ordinary people, from families on holiday, from those that may appear to lack focus, yet are able to capture particular features of the landscape. Postcards and family films, therefore, as tools capable of bearing witness to a different perception of the landscape and human artefacts, communal life, production, factories. A culture – also of production and enterprise – that appears to be markedly different from that of today, but which has been part of the common feeling of Italian society for many decades.

Thus, Agnoletto and Bagnoli point out, a visual analysis of these types of documents shows how often car parks, arterial roads, means of transport, industrial plants or apartment blocks – all carefully avoided in today’s tourist representations – were not then perceived as objects that disfigured the landscape even during a holiday period, but elements that testified to the progress and development of a tourist resort. In other words, as the research explains, the tourism context of the second half of the 20th century bears witness to Italy’s economic boom, is an integral part of it and manages to pass on information that would otherwise have been lost.

Agnoletto and Bagnoli’s work is an example of how economic and social research can be done by putting the numbers aside for a moment and looking closely at people’s everyday lives. A must-read for sure.

Ambiente e percezione sociale. Cartoline e filmati di famiglia nell’Italia industriale

Pietro Agnoletto, Lorenzo Bagnoli

AGEI, Geotema, 72

Research by two geographers tells of the changing perception of the natural and industrial landscape

Understanding the perception of the environment and development, sociality and production also through visual storytelling, i.e. the kind that uses images. Even those of yesteryear – postcards and ‘homemade’ films – which were in common use until a few years ago and now appear to have almost disappeared. Yet, it is also through postcards and family films that the culture of social living, production, development and sharing can pass. It is around these ideas that Pietro Agnoletto and Lorenzo Bagnoli worked in their research ‘Ambiente e percezione sociale. Cartoline e filmati di famiglia nell’Italia industriale’ recently published by the magazine of the Association of Italian Geographers (AGEI).

Agnoletto and Bagnoli start by considering a fact before all attentive observers of social reality: that which, in postmodern Italian society, is considered an environmental conflict, in the industrial Italy of the 1960s and 1970s could instead be considered acceptable and be represented without offending the common aesthetic sense. In other words, things that were so fascinating a few decades ago that they were admired, remembered and visited, may today have been relegated to elements of environmental and social damage. Tourism and the travel memories it produces – explain the two authors – testify to this process. Not the memories that originate from discerning travellers, but those that come from ordinary people, from families on holiday, from those that may appear to lack focus, yet are able to capture particular features of the landscape. Postcards and family films, therefore, as tools capable of bearing witness to a different perception of the landscape and human artefacts, communal life, production, factories. A culture – also of production and enterprise – that appears to be markedly different from that of today, but which has been part of the common feeling of Italian society for many decades.

Thus, Agnoletto and Bagnoli point out, a visual analysis of these types of documents shows how often car parks, arterial roads, means of transport, industrial plants or apartment blocks – all carefully avoided in today’s tourist representations – were not then perceived as objects that disfigured the landscape even during a holiday period, but elements that testified to the progress and development of a tourist resort. In other words, as the research explains, the tourism context of the second half of the 20th century bears witness to Italy’s economic boom, is an integral part of it and manages to pass on information that would otherwise have been lost.

Agnoletto and Bagnoli’s work is an example of how economic and social research can be done by putting the numbers aside for a moment and looking closely at people’s everyday lives. A must-read for sure.

Ambiente e percezione sociale. Cartoline e filmati di famiglia nell’Italia industriale

Pietro Agnoletto, Lorenzo Bagnoli

AGEI, Geotema, 72