We are in Milan, in Corso Sempione 33. In 1953 the architect Piero Bottoni designed the INA Palace, which is much more than a simple building, it’s a proposal for a new way of living the city life, where the private space is combined with the public space: the terrace, the commercial ground floor, shops, offices, a communal garden… A very innovative project at that time, with two different facades, a rationalist and an expressionist one. Here on the ground floor Stefano Branca di Romanico opened Galera San Soda, and after the first exhibition by Goswin Schwendinger, he’s now presenting Louis De Belle’s first exhibition titled “Contemporary Elderly”. A project about the third age’s aesthetics.
Contemporary Elderly is a series of colorized photographs of older people shot in the streets of Milano. An insight into the status of senior citizens in modern times, through close-up crops on postures, clothing details and specific gestures, emphasized by the selective process of colorization – a method of manually adding color to a black-and-white photograph.
We asked Louis De Belle some questions about his work.
What is the colorization technique?
The photos are taken in black and white, then digitally colored. It’s a technique from the past that we decided to re-use in a contemporary way. The result are 14 images, in which the spot colors merge with the image, keeping shadows and light.
Where did you take it?
I tried to go to the places most frequented by this generation: markets, bars like La Coloniale or Marchesi where they meet to drink a “bianchino” or a coffee. We are in normal contexts, the intention was to portray people of this age because they often seem to have appeared in our daily life, but here they are the protagonists.
How did you approach them? How did you photograph them?
Walking down the street in Milan in the summertime, trying to find them in a natural way: the people are never posing, it’s street photography, which nevertheless rises to another level due to colorization. In each image, there are never more than three colors.
“Contemporary Elderly” is an exclusive project for Galera San Soda?
Yes, Stefano and I share a curiosity for the third age. The work is a celebration of our friendship but it’s also linked to the city of Milan and to this rationalist building…to the innovative life proposed by Piero Bottoni.
…And the blue carpet?
The carpet in the collective imagination is an old element, the idea was to use a material that led back to the cliché of an elder’s apartment. We have chosen a blue that changes the space but remains detached: it’s a calm and safe color, which allows images to float in a monochromatic space.
How did you print the photos?
They are UV prints on plexiglass. It’s a perfect support to the colorization, with plexiglass there’s no glass and so there’s no reflection, it’s plastic, a pop material. The polished aluminum frames bind to the interior layout starting from the INA building fixtures up to the gallery furnishings.
Steno, how did the idea of the third age come out?
It was 10 years ago, our relationship was about music and then we went further. At 21 we liked to emulate the elderly, followed routines, Gilbert & George were our points of reference. When I returned to Milan after London I opened the gallery and wanted to do an exhibition with Louis to close the circle and return to our common passion. The selection process was complicated because many photos did not do justice to the final series, we want to praise and not do something tragicomic, we wanted to evoke an apparatus of sensations linking them to the gesture of the body.
Text by Bianca Felicori