In 2000 I began a social documentary photographic project on my family village of Garaguso, in Basilicata, Italy.

How did this come about? Where did my search for visual understanding begin?

I grew up in an immigrant community of Southern Italians in North Philadelphia, (USA) that came from Campagna, Basilicata and Calabria.

Within the walls of this community we lived in Italy. We spoke our respective dialects and Italian. My family was not interested, nor were the other Southern Italian immigrants in becoming “Americans” or being “Americanized”.

As a child my world was completely visual, there were no books, magazines or newspapers to read (at home). Leisure time did not exist among working class Southern Italian immigrants during the 1950’s and 1960’s in America. They were not educated intellectuals. Thus, I picked up a camera at age ten and used my lens to communicate what I was experiencing.

My family maintained all connections to Italy. Therefore, Garaguso is a place that I have known and loved all of my life.

The artistry in photographing Garaguso lays in documenting, the people, and the landscape without disrupting the ebb and flow of life. I do not make posed portraits, I discover what I see, and I allow it to unfold.

The simple things of life in Garaguso fascinate me. Each year when I return I bring a set of photographs that I had made the year before and give one to each person that I photographed.

There is uniqueness in the act of looking at their reflections. It is a pureness that doesn’t exist in the academic world of photography. I never hear them say “is it a digital photograph or did you make it in film? Their responses to the photographs are always about looking! I often hear, “this is me, this is what I look like”?

In Garaguso, a camera functions as a tool for making documentations of birth, death, weddings and anniversaries. Outside of that, I am the only person that you will see wondering around the village with a camera exploring the ancient and modern living side by side in harmony.

This project is on going; I still have many things to photograph. It is a process in which I explore my life and relationship to the land and its people. They live by the cycles of the season, depending on the elements of wind, sun and rain, knowing when to sow seeds, and harvest their crops. Globalization doesn’t factor into their lives because it is a self – sustaining community that has survived for over 800 years without the support of an outside infrastructure. Little goes to waste and nothing is imported.

The most mundane and imperfect photograph is valuable because it is about looking, investigating, documenting and communicating the issues of cultural vitality and identity, which, I see as the core of the human condition.