The Photographer Documenting Italy’s Obsession with Statues

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Photography by Stefan Giftthaler

Stefan Giftthaler undertook an extensive roadtrip around Italy’s coasts this summer, and he couldn’t fail to notice its ubiquitous plaster casts in the process

There is little that creates a cohesive sense of a place better than taking to its roads – so photographer Stefan Giftthaler discovered when he took an extensive roadtrip around Italy this summer. “We went first along the eastern coast to Calabria, the southernmost region of Italy before Sicily, then back north along the western coast,” he explains. The food, weather and fine sunsoaked coasts all struck him, he says, but he was most enchanted by the abundance of mass-produced statues – in private gardens, outside supermarket carparks or adorning buildings. And so naturally he took to photographing them. “You can find copies of classical masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s David, or ancient Greek statues, but you can also find religious figures such as Jesus Christ, and I always loved this contrast between popular, everyday culture and higher examples of art or spirituality.” At a first glance these statues could be considered cheap, and they are, in a way, but they also represent the relationship between the imaginary world and the unknown.

So are they kitsch outside ornaments, or a tribute to Italy’s ancient heritage? Perhaps it’s both, he suggests: “Maybe, using these symbols, people are subconsciously trying to bring back the signs once used in the relationship with the world of the unknown and unconscious.These objects represent a common symbolic heritage, a connection to our inner world which runs parallel to the everyday life.” They also make for uplifting Monday morning reading material. Enjoy.