Photographing the Migrant Street Vendors of Italy

Alvaro Deprit’s Fiesta is a poignant wandering through an urban area in central Italy where commercial centres and junkyards alternate; non-locations that mark the end of a journey for migrants across the world reaching the European Union.

© Alvaro Deprit, from the series Fiesta

In his series Fiesta, Alvaro Deprit takes us to a transitional place - “non-locations, spaces of iron, of motors, of immigrants who find themselves selling trinkets in the car parks of Italian shopping centres, outside supermarkets, just standing overwhelmed by socio-economic flows”, he writes. Photo after photo, a motley crowd of young men and metal chunks materialise, haloed in a blinding light. “Immobile people, at the end of a journey, in a horizontal space as hard, cold and sun-drenched as the cars’ metal that fills it up, on the one hand; on the other, mechanical objects, engines as a transitional stage of a process.”

And if Fiesta refers to a car type, one can’t help but think about the joyful connotations of the world in Spanish. And this is part of Deprit’s process: to use ambiguity to create a non-linear narrative. “What better way to try to show the inextricable complexity of reality?”, he asks. “I started working from something very tangible and present in my everyday reality. I usually work this way. Rather than analysing the trend of such complex phenomena as immigration, I prefer to share aspects of reality which stand out and come to light.”

© Alvaro Deprit, from the series Fiesta

The men portrayed in Deprit’s photographs pose in the middle of a parking lot, both free and out of place – just like a pigeon, small in the middle of the painted asphalt that appears in one photo. “Perhaps what matters is to maintain the tension between fiction and reality, trying to walk tiptoe through the “butterfly” zone of reality”, he comments. The car pieces themselves take on a double meaning - they incarnate our ever-changing era, driven with the compression of time and space. And immigration can be seen that way – as a transformation process.

“These elements made me reflect on the idea of identity. I found traces of the men’s journey, of their lives elsewhere and traces of the new places as if the world, the language and, thus, the narration had assembled the pieces of these strange hybrid identities”, Deprit explains.

© Alvaro Deprit, from the series Fiesta

These men, quietly standing by the side of cars, give the impression that they are about to embark on a drive. And metaphorically that’s what they are doing in this new country – they undertake another kind of journey – just like Deprit himself when he moved to Italy 15 years ago. “Instead of focusing on their past stories, I reflected on their presence here, their individuality, the idea that they have undertaken new shapes with a non-stop interaction with the external world”, Deprit concludes.

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Alvaro Deprit was born in Madrid and has been living in Italy since 2004. He is interested in long-term projects that explore critical elements of modernity such as immigration and cultural fragmentation, with a particular focus on the traces and symptoms left by these trends. Follow him on PHmuseum and Instagram.

Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Brooklyn focusing on cultural and environmental issues.

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This article is part of our feature series, Photo Kernel, which aims to give space to the best contemporary practitioners in our community. The word Kernel means the core, centre, or essence of an object, but it also refers to image processing.

See more about Deprit's series here

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