The project

A photographic exhibition, a book collecting its journey of images, a documentary film, screening evenings, meetings, workshops. But above all, a story to be told, the one that Lou Dematteis, a well-known and appreciated U.S. photojournalist of Italian origin, has built up through four trips to Italy, from 1972 to 1980, "return trips," as he himself called them, in search of his roots.

A Journey Back/Un viaggio di ritorno (fotografie in Italia 1972-1980) is the visual diary of that experience, born from the desire of a young Italian-American of progressive ideas and in conflict with the choices of his own country, grappling with the Vietnam War, to discover the country of his ancestors, and to confront a reality hitherto only imagined, through the stories heard in his family throughout his childhood. Beginning in 1972, and then in 1977, 1979 and 1980, Dematteis traversed the length and breadth of the Peninsula, touching on Milan, Venice, Bologna, the coasts of Romagna, Florence and Tuscany, Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Lucania and Calabria, pushing as far as Sicily.

A cross-section of almost ten years of our society in which we find the most authentic essence of Italy at that time, the one that filled the non-aligned press with itself, and the more subdued one of life in the streets, the daily life of ordinary people, social rituals, the factory and the school, “moonlight” labor and the hard work of the peasants, in a carousel of faces and places that solicit memory and collective imagination.

But A Journey Back/Un viaggio di ritorno is also the story of a vocation that becomes a lifelong profession. It is precisely through that experience that Lou Dematteis is able to verify the effectiveness of photography as a form of communication and political action, to finally adopt it as a professional choice in the years immediately following, when he will become a photojournalist for the Reuters New Pictures agency and will be the creator of large-scale projects in Central America, Vietnam, and the Ecuadorian Amazon, always motivated by a rigorous ethic and an awareness of the fundamental role that photography can play in the defense of rights and social justice.

The photographic exhibition

The first stage is the photographic exhibition, set up from December 6, 2023 to March 24, 2024 at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere. Curated by Claudio Domini and Paolo Pisanelli, in close collaboration with Lou Dematteis himself, it includes an itinerary that unfolds through more than 100 photographs-proposed in a way that restores both chronologically and geographically, to also highlight the process of rapid transformation of Italian society in those years-for the most part absolutely unpublished, selected from the thousands taken by Dematteis during that experience and reproduced for the most part in silver gelatine prints. An itinerary that will be punctuated and embellished by the words of the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021), in short excerpts from his verses and diaries, who like Lou Dematteis, of whom he was a good friend, often reflected on the relationship with his own Italian roots.

The book

The book A Journey Back/Un viaggio di ritorno, is designed to return the path of the photographic exhibition, expanding it into 120 images and accompanying it with framing texts. With a development of 200 pages, texts in Italian and English by Claudio Domini, Lou Dematteis, an interview with the author himself edited by Paolo Pisanelli, as well as excerpts from the lyrics and prose of beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, for the first time translated into Italian, the volume will be self-published in print runs available to be reserved also in a personalized version signed by the author, by those who wish to support the project.

The documentary film

Included in the exhibition itinerary, a short documentary film made for the circumstance by Paolo Pisanelli and Matteo Gherardini will tell through the author's words his professional and human story, and his "journeys back" to his second homeland. The film will be uploaded to the Vimeo platform and shared with supporters of the project.

The project is conceived and produced by the cultural association Errata Corrige, with Big Sur, Associazione culturale Officina Visioni, Cinema del Reale, and the contribution of Fondazione Home Movies - Archivio Nazionale del Film di Famiglia, Archivio Audiovisivo del Movimento Operaio e Democratico, Archivio Franco Pinna, City Lights - San Francisco