2017 - 2020
Los Angeles, California, United States
"Sunshine Noir summarizes and integrates the numerous antipodes which constitute the physical and emotional topography of Los Angeles, California. A city of angels, LA is at once a diabolical lair, its ultramarine sky and unabating sunshine blighted by the congestive traffic, the glamour of its mansions overshadowed by the gloom of homelessness and the spindliness of its palm-trees vying with the sweep of the beaches and the desert floor.
In more than one hundred photographs Riccardo Banfi highlights these unrelenting contrasts, making for a chequered narrative about a city of surface, of lonesome smiles and boundless freeways, of urban spread and personal constringency. His photographic essay is both a mosaic of fragments and a hymn to diversity and individual initiative, telling us that the single, common denominator of this fabulous city lies in its very disparateness and in the endlessness of its supermarkets, parking-lots and suburban housing sprawling relentlessly across mountain and valley, coast and plain.
At first glance Riccardo seems to be perceiving LA as a city of fragments. However, unlike Reyner Banham who published his celebrated Architecture of Four Ecologies almost half a century ago, Riccardo also finds a homogeneity and sameness in contemporary LA which overrides the myth of difference. He also finds a city without people, wherein mannequins, prosthetics and automobiles have replaced the human condition, substituting energy and trajectory with the static eye of the camera as if the city were a set of gelled poses, frozen like the Disney Snow Queen, at once beguiling and beguiled.
A city of shifting sands and mercurial waters, LA lies on an inconstant base of shopping malls and motorways, challenging the Biblical parable about the “foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (Matthew 7: 24, 27). But, if the constant victim of mudslides, drought, earthquakes and floods, LA, as Riccardo implies, rides out the storm each time, brazen and resilient as its movie stars, billboards and billowing ocean.
Angels bring everlasting light and, indeed, as Sunshine Noir reveals, LA occupies an eerie realm of light, natural and artificial. By day the city bathes in prismatic sunlight, reflected in the windows of skyscrapers and the sheen of the Pacific, whilst at night, the city turns into a kaleidoscope of streetlamps, headlights and neon signs, promising faith and fortune. In his refractive montage of sunshine and noir Riccardo captures this luminous duplicity, at once so radiant and yet so sombre".
Nicoletta Misler & John Bowlt, Shifting Sands, in Sunshine Noir, self-published, 2020