Elisabetta de Robertis and Olga Diasparro are two Bari-based photographers who are taking urban degeneration into their own hands… or lenses. Inspired by the international ‘Ballerina Project,’ their actions highlight non-areas of the southern Italian port city of Bari, in Puglia.

Point shoes and cracked pavements. Tutus and holes in walls. Graceful poses and graffiti. The abandoned buildings of Area Giardino – an ex tobacco manufacturer, an ex-cinema and other historic structures – become a backdrop for the animation of the ballerini of the Accademia dello spettacolo UniKa (www.unikadanzamusicateatro.com) and the Compagnia Altradanza (www.altradanza.com).

In an earlier stage of the project, about a year ago, the photographers concentrated on another area of Bari, Rossani, site of a large and abandoned military building. The Caserma Rossani is the site of a heated debate at the moment: the very centrally located space, near the train station, has been considered for a requalification project for some time, but administration has to decide between accepting private financing, and thus perhaps private use of the building, or finding public funds in order to create a 100% public space here. The first proposal would open up tourism and central living by offering a shopping mall and condos.

Both series of photographs are of incredible beauty. They are perfectly lit – you can tell that the photographers studied each location carefully throughout the day and picked the right light in which to get their shots. The colours are contrasty and poppy without being overdone. Compositions highlight both buildings and dancers in the contrasting juxtaposition that tells the story they wish to tell. Interestingly, they make little use of details, with the exception of this detail of point shoes on cracked pavement that particularly struck me.

Here’s hoping that Elisabetta and Olga, pictured below, reach their goal through this project: bringing awareness to local administration and to the general public, through blogs like this one and through social media (see their albums on the Bari Urban Action facebook page). Perhaps ten years from now, Area Giardino and Caserma Rossani will be safe and clean, and we’ll be adding them to our list of must-see places in Puglia.

PS – I recently visited Puglia but skipped Bari. Purchase my one-week Puglia itinerary on unanchor or on Amazon Kindle.

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