The story of those who inhabit the Sassi, a district in the Italian city of Matera, is one of resilience. The warren of stone dwellings dates from prehistoric times but in the early 20th century its inhabitants – mostly peasants and refugees – were living in extreme poverty. It became a national disgrace, and in the 1950s, thousands of residents were forcibly relocated; settlements were bricked up and the district was left to decay. The turnaround began in the 1990s, when the Sassi became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Now tourism has injected new life into the area and the community has reformed.
In 2019, French-Thai documentary photographer Aline Deschamps was one of many photographers invited to Matera for a three-month artistic residency, sponsored by Canon. The opportunity to document the region's transformation resulted in her creating Fiore di resilencia, a double exposure project that combines urban scenes of faded structures and plants clinging to life in what looks to be an utterly inhospitable environment with soulful portraits of the area's inhabitants.
In one sense, Aline's layered photographic approach is a visual representation of the district's complex history. The project blends several photographic genres into one: portraiture, urban landscape and street photography. But for Aline, it all comes under a single umbrella. "In the end, I'm only doing one genre, which is documentary," she says. "Whether it's by posing someone, or capturing life on the street, I'm just telling the stories of these people."
Here, she shares five lessons she learned from using double exposures to document life in the Sassi.