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March 9, 2012

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Capturing the artifacts of rural life

FOR two years Italian photographer Daniele Dainelli traveled around rural China, going beneath the surface and capturing daily life through the simple interiors that contrast so starkly with the flashy exteriors of modern China.

His solo exhibition "Domestic Archeology" features 13 photos, only of interiors and devoid of inhabitants whose presence, however, can be felt. The pictures are very intimate and some are like still lives. The exhibition is underway through March 22 at OFOTO Gallery on Moganshan Road.

"I wanted to catch the simplicity of life and the relationship with ordinary objects," Dainelli told Shanghai Daily. Exploring poverty was not his objective.

China's countryside is in a state of upheaval as millions of farmers have left the land and moved to rapidly expanding cities for a better livelihood. The gap between cities and rural areas, rich and poor, is widening.

Many villages have a desolate feeling, since most working men and many women have departed, leaving children with elderly relatives.

"I caught a moment of suspension, the historical time of the abandonment of the countryside," he said.

Dainelli visited 13 provinces in two years and tried to photograph the little things of ordinary life, the archeological artifacts. While scenery seen through a window or door is awesome and expansive, the private world is narrow and poor. The photos capture a modern poverty contaminated by traces of consumer products. Entire families can be reconstructed from the pictures of empty, cracked and stained walls, in photos of clothing, furniture, a bed, bottles of soap, shampoo and toothpaste on a shelf and dirt-smeared glasses and cups. "I really put myself in this photos, I put in my experience of staying in those silent places and seeing those things," Dainelli said. There are no people because it is the environment itself that communicates.

Born in Italy, living in Japan and working in China, Dainelli is now back in Japan where he lives with his Japanese wife.

He was born in Livorno, a little town in the center of Italy, and he started as a fashion and commercial photographer, particularly for lifestyle magazines. For 10 years this was his life.

"But there is a turning point in life for those who do this as a profession," Dainelli said. Suddenly China burst into his life. He first visited China in 2008 when, along with other Italian photographers, he went to Beijing to cover the Summer Olympic Games and to report on the country hosting arguably the world's most spectacular Olympics.

He calls China "like the United States at the beginning of the 1990s," saying it's very "readable" from a photographic point of view.

So he decided to work on his own particular China project that he calls "a long personal journey."

"Doing this job is not easy, you need time, and you need to answer to your own needs," said Dainelli, who is very authentic, natural and candid.

"I did not have my best chance in China and I had great difficulties, mostly from an economic aspect. But my job is made of passion and I decided to invest in what I feel about this country."

And "Domestic Archeology" is the result. Originally, the exhibition was to have two major themes, the relationship between the photographer and the landscape and the domestic archeology. But the first part was not yet mature, he said, so he went with "Domestic Archeology."


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