we meet in an italian restaurant on upper street, not because we’re all italians, just because it seems to be the only place open late enough to accommodate for the late arrival of alex and valentina, the couple behind “fallen empire” – each coming from a different part of london.
earlier that day, alex has witnessed a militar-esque parade of religious people in support of the olympics; valentina instead tells stories of the magnitude of daily turnover of the store (or is it just a floor?) of a famous chain where she works, which leaves us in shock and reminds us that london is a place of such extremes and such weirdness as we have never encountered…
fallen empire have “day jobs” to pay the bills, but they are artists, photographers, writers, aspiring psychogeographers, italian expats, emigrants, immigrants, and they have just published their first book. a collection of photographs to recap their story in london so far, the dreams, the clash with the harsh reality, the choice to use a media considered at least anachronistic, film, paper, to perform all steps, photographing, developing, printing, exhibiting, writing, publishing, distributing.
italy is (or perhaps, more precisely, was) a country of “artisans”, or better “craftsmen” (sounds more anglo-germanic). there is/was a pride in the manual ability, often accompanied by the use of a traditional tools, to achieve a result of great quality and value. in an era of digital photography, alex and valentina have chosen to swim against the tide using traditional methods which remind me of that italian tradition of craftsmanship.
as alex arrives, we’ve just finished our dinner and he goes straight for an “amaro”, the closing of italian meals, followed by a beer – an almost lethal combination, until finally valentina arrives and imposes on him half of a pizza.
while they drink and eat after a long hard day at work, we flip the pages back and forth, my wife focusses on the images and asks questions about them while I, OCD driven, have to read the notes of Chapter Two for each photograph, and by jumping back and forth eventually I lose myself and realise that I have been reading the wrong notes, which upsets my OCD. finally I decide to wave OCD for once and just focus on the beautiful images.
despite we’ve lived 7 years in london, this book is for us a trip in unchartered territory, and the experience reminds me of reading Lights out for the territory before moving to London, while living in Germany, and having to imagine all the places described by Iain Sinclair in the book: watching these photograph is a trip in a world that although photographed out there in this metropolis, is an imaginary world, because we are looking at it through alex+valentina’s eyes.
there is so much to discover about each photograph, that we can just scratch the surface, it’s soon time to go, even this italian restaurant must eventually close on this Saturday night and Valentina must go to work at 10am next day.
we take our copies of the book to bring to Italy and Germany as an exotic prey from a safari in this metropolis whose lights burn at night like a vast bonfire.
The book Fallen Empire can be ordered directly from Alex and Valentina at http://fallenempire.co.uk/shop-2
Fallen empire prints can also be ordered, contact them
Fallen empire is also a photography studio: http://fallenempire.co.uk/studio