Ashby and the Abruzzo

In April 2009 L'Aquila, capital of the central Italian Abruzzo region, was struck by an earthquake which claimed more than 300 lives and destroyed much of this stunning city and nearby towns.

The BSR holds a unique photographic record of this area taken in early 20th century by our third director, Thomas Ashby

Since the earthquake this has become a critically important historical resource for this once thriving medieval region. Ashby had a sharp sense of transience of history, and made it his life's work to capture and document his present before it became the past. He spent nearly twenty years painstakingly photographing the Abruzzo - his collection depicts a world of markets and farming, local custom and religious observances. "Thomas Ashby is our memory" so said Franco La Cecia (acclaimed italian anthropologist) noting that often faces are looking directly at Ashby - the observer being observer - an intriguing insight into the nature of the anthropological process itself. In 2011 a selection from the BSR Ashby collection was remastered and toured the Abruzzo. Undertaken in collaboration with Ad.Venture srl and entirely funded by Italian institutions and companies this is a striking example of the collaboration between the BSR and the Italian community. The tour included Sulmona, Pescara, L’Aquila, Teramo and Chieti and drew more than 40,000 visitors. This remarkable project vividly and poignantly demonstrates the importance of viewing the contemporary through the lens of history.

In September 2012 the exhibition was permanently given to the city of L’Aquila.

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