Linda Brownlee’s project I Zii started as a chat with her Irish Sicilian friend, Aisling Farinella. “She was passionately talking about the Italian side of her family and the gorgeous but very remote mountain village they lived in,” explains Linda. “The village is called Gangi and Aisling spoke romantically about their strong family values and their quiet but chaotic lives. I was sucked in by her tales and a couple of months later we were en route in a white cinquecento with cameras in tow.”
That was in 2013 and Linda spent the next year shooting the Sicilian village. It wasn’t until the end of 2014 that she started working on the book edit and last month it was published by London-based Eightyone Books, accompanied with text from Asling about family life.
In the book Linda explores the “intimacy and connections between family and place” and she was interested in the “unique dynamics, the strong Sicilian values and the dysfunction and the harmony”. The result is a deeply personal depiction of family life and the environment they co-exist in, where rolling landscapes, stone buildings and sprawling trees frame Linda’s candid portraits.
When shooting, the photographer purposely didn’t set herself constraints. “Time feels like it moves very slowly in Gangi and I wanted to capture that pace,” says Linda. “I found myself intrigued by the interiors, the changing tastes from one generation to another, the textures, what was cherished and what was not.”
Colour plays a distinct part in Linda’s book with a soft muted palette in the first half of the series, which transitions into more vibrant colours in the second half. “It follows the natural flow of the seasons, in which I shot the series moving from early spring to late summer,” explains Linda.
This shift in colours adds to the narrative presented in the book. “The start of the series is slow and quiet, with the subdued colours introducing the older generation,” the photographer says. There’s a spot of colour where the energy rises and the family celebrate Zio Salvatore’s 80th birthday. The colours gradually saunters into a warmer place as we head down the coast and the countryside where we meet more of the younger generation.”
For Linda seeing her photographs collated together into a book is a “distinctly more sensual experience”. She explains: “The paper choice, the printing, the design and materials all add a very particular character to the series. Physically moving through the pages and then back and forth, it slows me down. For me it’s a more mellow experiences and the series somehow feels more permanent in print, more complete.”
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