contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the Month / January 2024

Stazione di Trieste Centrale
(Trieste Central Station)
Anna Di Prospero

Digital photography, inkjet print fine art
100 cm x 67 cm
Courtesy of Archivio Luce Cinecittà

The photography by Anna di Prospero shows a woman in a red dress, running towards a building. As the title suggests, it is the central station of Trieste, Italy. The sky is blue with some white clouds on the right side. Although it is not a bright blue like it would be expected in an Italian port city. At the same time, the seagull in the sky refers to the proximity of the seaside.

Since Trieste was the most important trading harbour of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it is not surprising that the prosperous town was connected to capital Vienna by the Austrian railway company (k.k. Südliche Staatsbahn). After the demolition of preceding buildings, the current building could be inaugurated in 1878. It was designed by the German-Austrian architect Wilhelm von Flattich, who was also responsible for Vienna’s South Station. Therefore, the Neo-Renaissance style of the facade is not surprisingly. Between two rectangular Avant-corps, the two-storey main building is spanned. Five arcades establish the entrance on the ground floor, which in the photo lies mostly in the shadow, because of a canopy. On the second floor, double arched windows with balustrades are superposed to the arcades. Above the cornice, there is a continuous balustrade with a clock in its centre. The clock marks the building as public. The yellowish façade is accentuated by balustrades, pilasters and window edgings in stone.

Due to the shadows in the entrance area, the station doesn’t look so welcoming as it should be for travellers. The doors are practically invisible. However, this creates a contrast to the red dress of the woman in the front of the building. Since she is not positioned in the very centre of the image, she breaks up the strictly geometric façade. This is underlined by the roundish shape of her flowing gown. Besides the two sidewards streetlamps and the pilasters the façade has a rather horizontal orientation, accentuated by the balustrades. Whereas the axis of the woman is vertical. Her pinned up dark hair almost merges with the dimmed entry area. The form of her hair and even more the shape of her round bun are reflected in the circular lamps, the ring-shaped reliefs under the cornice and finally the clock on the top. Additionally, the seagull and the clouds in the upper right image corner, create a counterbalance to the left drifting essential character from the central vertical axis. This, the form repetitions and the upright positioning between the streetlamps, ensure that the woman is perfectly anchored in the picture, without being rigid. Still, her appearance is prominent, because of her vibrant red clothing, which distinguishes her from the background in rather muted colours.

Even though the background is relatively static, the onlooker could perceive a movement of the woman in red. She has turned her back to us, her arms are angled to her front and her gown is flowing. This gives the impression as if she is running in direction of the doorway, while her legs are not visible and her hairstyle is perfect. Moreover, the coiffure and the colour of her light summer dress evoke a certain elegance. This contrasts with her movement. Is she late? Late to catch her train? Late to welcome someone arriving? Late for a rendezvous?

“Trieste Central Station” is part of Anna’s series “La Memoria delle Stazioni” (The memory of the railway stations) commissioned by the Archivio Luce Cinecittà. The cycle was presented in an exhibition curated by Chiara Sbarigia at the Auditorium Parco della Musica di Roma in 2022. Besides Anna’s photographs there were historical images of eight Italian railway stations and stories by well-known writers about the places on view. There were the main stations of Venice, Trieste, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples and Messina. Within the displayed eight structures, the presented “Trieste Central Station” has some special aspects. Above all, it is the unique picture that gives a certain impression of the whole front of the building. Only the photo of the station Santa Lucia in Venice depicts almost the entire façade, but the image is taken from the other side of the canal and in its foreground are the pillars of the church of San Simeon Piccolo. All other photographs are showing smaller parts of the edifices, but they have the same protagonist in common: the women in red dress.

Moreover, the station of Trieste is the second eldest of the depicted stations in the exhibition. Already inaugurated in 1876, also the building of Bologna by Gaetano Ratti is in Neo-Renaissance style. But it experienced several modifications like the destroyed clock tower and the reconstructed left wing after the terrorist bombing the 2nd of August 1980. Perhaps it is therefore that Anna didn’t chose this main façade as motive. All other edifices are constructed in the 20th century, even though, the original structures were older. Additionally, the central station of Trieste has the particularity that it was originally built and operated by the Austrian railway company since the city entered only in 1918 the united Italy. Only then the central station of Trieste and its connecting tracks became part of the Italian Railways of the State JSC as the others had done earlier.


Anna di Prospero

Born in 1987 in Rome, Italy, Anna di Prospero studied photography at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome and at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Already at the age of 15 years, she undertook first steps as photographer. At her school, she won the first price of a competition in the category “Home, Encounters and Journey”. However, at first, she was more interested in painting. This might be the reason that her photos often have painterly qualities.

When she moved with her family to Sermoneta, she photographed her new environment to discover it and regularly posted the pictures on Flickr (2007-2009). With her self-portraits at home and later in Latina, Anna attracted attention from a larger public. Noteworthy is the fact that even though self-portraits, the images show the artist, but her face remains always invisible. This was important for her, because she wanted to depict an anonymous woman, which could be any woman of the world. At the same time, this photographic research was also a self-discovery of the young creative. Regarding her artistic conception, she was impressed by stage photography, seen in an exhibition by Gregory Crewdson in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome.

During her studies in Rome, Anna received a scholarship for New York. After her return to Italy in 2011, she opened a new dimension in her work with “Self-portrait with my family (PART I)”, including other people. As part of this series “Self-portrait with my mother” was extraordinary successful, so that it is still today one of her identifying features. This photo is our Artwork of the Month / June 2020.

Subsequently, the artist extended the group of co-portrayed with friends and finally with strangers. Hence, the result is the long-term project “With you”. The latest series from 2019 and still ongoing is called “Self-portrait with my family (PART II)”. Here she returns after eight years to her relatives, but now Anna depicts her husband and her son. Also her early series of self-portraits in surroundings found successions. During several journeys, she anchored herself in temporary houses (2010-2013), in urban spaces (2010-2015) and in the other Space (2013-2018). These works are summarised under the title “I am here”. Further projects are focussing on architecture like “Palazzo Ducale Mantova” (2018) and “Istituto Italiano di Cultura Madrid” (2018). Additionally, the artist created the series “Divine”, which is inspired by the Italian French painter Giovanni Boldini. It depicts herself in romantic landscapes. In 2019, these photos were exposed at the MBL Gallery in Ferrara, the hometown of the painter. During the pandemic, Anna reflected with “The quarantine days” on the lockdown due to the Covid-19-crisis. Here she returns – evidently forced by the circumstances – to the homely environment. However, this series refers to the beginnings with “Self-portrait at home” from 2007-2009 and give these images a new currency.

Anna’s various series where she portrayed herself in a red dress in different environments, found her latest expression in “La Memoria delle Stazioni” (The Memory of the Stations) from 2022. Comissioned by the Archivio Luce Cinecittà, she took photos from eight Italian stations, always with herself, but without showing her face. After the exhibition with the same name, the images entered the archive and thereby the first time, that a female artist is represented there. The picture of “Trieste Central Station” is our Artwork of the Month / January 2024.

Under the title “Beyond the visible” Anna grouped until now, four series, which feature feelings and personal experiences. In the photos, the artist is visually less present than in the above mentioned. They are about inner worlds and want to enter into a dialogue with the spectator. The last chapter is “Astray” from 2023. Here the initial point are moments of change and transformation.

Since 2008, Anna had several solo exhibitions in Italy and France and participated in many group shows, also in the United States, England and Belgium. Her works are regularly presented at international art fairs. She was honoured with numerous prizes, inter alia the Sony World Photography Award (2014, rank 2nd in the category portrait), the People Photographer of the Year by the International Photography Awards (2011) and the Discovery of the Year by the Lucie Awards (2011). In the last years, she won several prices at the Art Verona and the MIA Photo Fair. For her work, the artist undertook many voyages in various European countries and the United States. Moreover, she made residencies in Madrid and Marseille.

Anna lives in Latina and works mostly in Sermoneta.