From 2000 to 2007, Jay Wolke photographed the south of Italy to capture the complexity of a region that is colloquially known as Il mezzogiorno. What he found in this historic and often troubled landscape was an elaborate set of physical, social, and political forces manifested in an extraordinary tapestry of visual information. Both referential and suggestive, Wolke's pictures reveal the marks of a long line of invaders, conquerors, and occupiers from the Greeks to the Spanish to the Camorra. Architectural and structural adaptations and "resignations" are evident in every scene and serve as the photographer's focus. Although the landscape is marred by layers of dysfunction and greed, we can't help but view it through the lens of the timeless belief in the bel paese - the beautiful country. "Far from his home in Chicago, Jay Wolke has found profoundly fascinating documentary material in the collisions of old and new, natural and man-made, restored and ruined in the south of Italy.
In a quiet but direct way his pictures open up a vista of contemporary life that is as redolent and cautionary for those of us living in the United States as it may be revelatory for the denizens of the places he depicts. This is first-rate work from a photographer of immense talent." (Andy Grundberg, chair of photography at the Corcoran College of Art and Design).
Jay Wolke is professor in and chair of the Department of Art and Design at Columbia College Chicago, and the author of Along the Divide: Photographs of the Dan Ryan Expressway and All Around the House: Photographs of American-Jewish Communal Life, the former also published by the Center for American Places.