Heritage Through a Lens

Written by Isla Herring for Special Project: Experiential Learning in Journalism

Written by Isla Herring for Special Project: Experiential Learning in Journalism

Each semester, the American University of Florence offers a variety of free learning experiences for long-term degree students. Let’s delve deeper into one of them! Accompanied by their academic advisor, Sofia Galli, students visited Rifugio Digitale, which is a photography exhibit that was created by Archea Associati, a design studio here in Italy.

On display was a digital exhibit, titled Homecoming, by Kalpesh Lathigra, which expressed various perspectives of India through different channels of positivity and negativity. Lathigra is a non-resident Indian that was born and raised in England. He began to explore his journey in a backwards manner and travelled to India to gain more cultural knowledge of his own heritage, as well as his parents’. As he encountered various aspects of the country, he captured each distinct area through the lens of his camera.

This visit to Rifugio Digitale was designed for the students at AUF, who study abroad for their full undergraduate degree program. AUF values these participants and holds events and experiences that students can attend to bond with their peers.

Walking through the deep blue tiled tunnel of the exhibit, the light from the end illuminated the exhibits on display. There were breathtaking images, mixed in with an array of moving pictures and videos that filled the walls. The depictions of India on the walls evoked a multitude of emotions within me as I grasped the journey the artist portrayed.

In these photos, there was beauty shown in elegant images of the clothing worn in these differing cultures along with representations of ruins and devastation. One student expressed, “I did not expect to see both videos and pictures. The different mediums allowed me to see the authenticity of multiculturalism through the clothing and tragedy.”

The exhibition allowed the viewers to visualize the attraction of the country and gain an appreciation for its culture, while also showing the harsh reality of its issues. India is currently struggling with pollution, yet the artist was able to find beauty in non-traditionally appealing situations.

This exhibition has unique characteristics to its location and structure. It was previously abandoned until Archea Associati saw its potential and converted it into what it is today. The tunnel originally was used for transporting people to the gardens above it. It was then closed off and used as a bomb shelter during war times in Florence.

Apart from the exhibit’s distinctive rounded shape, the pieces of content within it have their own special qualities. It is uncommon to find contemporary art in Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, and most of the nation because of its rich art history. This exhibition gives power to a non-Florentine artist, one of Indian heritage, and allows him to introduce a new perspective to the city. Adding a location inclusive of foreign photography expands the taste and appreciation of art for Florentines.

This outstanding photography tunnel is run by a team of people who share the passion and appreciation of imagery. Every two to three weeks, the studio chooses a new artist to highlight their work in this freshly opened location. This presentation was available for viewing until the 21st of April, before it was rearranged for the next display. In 2024, the general theme of the exhibition is Homecoming and the various artists that will be unveiled, all contribute to the concept through their individual work. Those interested in modern photography must see this spectacular location and the adapting art that it possesses.

It is important that the students at the American University of Florence are provided opportunities to network and build relationships with others in their program. It can be challenging to adjust to four years of studying abroad if there are no chances to branch out and appreciate all that Florence has to offer. AUF has a goal to ensure its students take advantage of organized events, such as this exhibition, so they can experience non-canonical spaces and foster social ties with their peers. 

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