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Frieze Frame and Frieze Frame II, Textures and Colors of Italy

Reviewed by Frank Casella

I’ve always wanted to visit Italy to see where my Father was born. Fortunately there are photography books, like Frieze Frame and Frieze Frame II, by Lucia Mauro. These books bring one into the cultures and history of Italy where you can feel the atmosphere of this region, beyond what you may find on the busy street or the main parts of the villages. These views mostly of the architecture elements are a work of Art themselves. So it is only fitting that I review this from the perspective of a photographer.

Both books are very similar, with the main difference being that Frieze Frame II is a bit more artsy in her approach and content of the subject matter. For this review I intentionally did not look the author up on the internet or peek to see what others say about her work or these books. I like the size of the books; they both have the right number of curated photographs. This not only makes a wonderful small type of coffee table book for conversation sake, but each photograph can easily be made into room decor on its own.

The first thing I noticed about the photographs is the strong composition: Many views use the structures in them to frame the subject matter, they are art photos of the art in architecture, most are in daylight, light and shadow play, and hints of humanity such as bikes and open windows without people. These images also remind me of a cross between Edward Steichen and Andy Warhol, in how they work in explaining man to man, but also explore the relationship between a span and variety of structural elements -- in a snapshot method that creates great artistic photography.

These serve as documentary photographs and more like traditional street photography where very few have people in them. Between shapes and textures, light and colors, your eyes are forced to flow back and forth and then back onto the subject of the imagery with a play of positive tension to draw the viewer in. Simple moments that tell stories and hold up without the text provided, though the descriptions often share an interesting perspective of the artist vision.

The one simply brilliant photograph that keeps entering my mind, of flowers through a fence, is from Pompeii in 2005, the description eloquently reads "A dead arboreal town crier beckons toward a field of imprisoned poppies." I like the power of the color red has in this photograph. Though having said this, more simple words in the descriptions could have been used, just like her photographs, to better communicate to the masses and not get in the way of the enjoyment of these books.

One thing about the whole body of work that cannot go without mention: Spirituality. Ms. Mauro’s photographs have several religious subjects placed in the architecture as a sign of faith (to the viewer) -- and by the many hands who made them. So too this collection of photographs is about (how she sees) God in the world.

Both Frieze Frame and Frieze Frame II will take you on a tour of Italy that you may never see, even if you live there. A viewpoint, seen but never noticed, unless maybe you are still and quiet.

In closing, here are a few photographs from the book.


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