/18 Family

Petra Stavast


Just like a mystery that slowly unfolds to eventually reveal the truth of the matter, Petra Stavast’s project intertwines the reader in a collection of images to reconstruct an absorbing story about Italy, migration and family.

The village of Sant’Andrea Apostolo Dello Ionio is a small village in Calabria, at the Ionian See in the total South. In 2003 photographer Petra Stavast made her first visit there, after which she returned ten times in the next seven years. In the project Libero, she reconstructs the life of Libero (1965) and Valeria (1967) Greco, children of an Italian man who, shortly after the Second World War as a young man looking for a job, immigrated to the USA. He found a job, married an American woman and together they had two children. From 1966 to 1988 he sent letters and photographs of his two children growing up to his sister Delia, who was still living in Sant’ Andrea Apostolo Dello Ionio. In 1989, both the father and his sister Delia passed away, by which Libero and Valeria were cut off with their connections to Italy.

In 2007 Stavast finds – by coincidence – an abandoned house with open doors. While entering the house, she came across with many family photographs, letters, furniture, and clothing on the floor. The house turned out to be the house of Delia. Stavast collected the photographs and the letters and tried to capture the feeling of silence and past memories through pictures of the rooms. With the found documents, Stavast started to investigate what happened to the family and if there were any inheritors of the property alive. Through internet she locates Libero, who lives in Pennsauken, New Jersey, USA. She personally returns him the found photographs and letters she found in the house of his aunt in Italy.

Through the story of one family, this project shows the results of depopulation while focusing on social structures and the gap between remembrance and reality. Her photographs show the transitory of life and the inability to preserve our past in the present.