A series of large-format photographs that explore the nuances of modern church architecture.

Documentary photographer Ettore Moni travels through Italy and Europe to capture natural and urban landscapes, modern church architecture, monuments, and local communities using a large-format camera. Throughout his work, he explores complex concepts beneath the aesthetic value of artistic compositions. For example, the Cemeteries series takes a look at human nature and mortality through funerary architecture. In these photographs, imposing mausoleums signify the need to assert a superior economic and social status, even beyond death. By contrast, Funeral Monument shows humble tombstones that honor the sacrifices of the Italian Resistance during WWII. Placed alongside countryside roads in Parma, these simple but powerful stones pay homage to the courage and valor of countless of resistance fighters.

Santo Volto, Arcidiocesi di Torino – Torino (TO) – Arch. Mario Botta, 2006. © Ettore Moni

In natural landscapes, Ettore Moni presents a different side of humanity. An Empty Valley takes the viewer on a journey through an abandoned marble mine and the former miners who still live there. Alps presents the effects of the tourism boom on the majestic beauty of the mountains with striking images. After Earthquake provides a glimpse at human resilience: metal scaffolding surrounds sections of partly destroyed buildings and houses. Suburbia takes a look at the urban architecture of Genoa and Bilbao, with questions raised about freedom in crowded cities and the way sprawling communities develop in metropolitan areas.

Santa Maria delle Grazie – Conegliano Veneto (TR) – Arch. Nerino Meneghello, 1971. © Ettore Moni

For his latest series, the photographer follows the same thoughtful approach to documentary photography. Some Modern Catholic Churches in North Italy may seem to only chronicle various examples of modern church architecture, but the spectacular images have multiple layers of nuances and references embedded in their details.

Ettore Moni started out the project from a personal need to discover the modern church architecture of the postconciliar era following the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965. Marking a new chapter in the Roman Catholic church, the council brought significant changes aimed to reinvent the church for a more secular age. While his photographs capture some buildings designed right before the council, the concept of the series remains clear. Here, the viewer discovers another side of Italian religious architecture, far removed from the well-known silhouettes of medieval, Gothic, and Romanesque structures embedded throughout the predominantly Roman Catholic country. Strikingly modern, these churches represent a new age.

Chiesa della Trasfigurazione-Loc Musotto, Alba (CN) – Arch. Ugo e Paolo Dellapiana. © Ettore Moni

With his large-format camera, Ettore Moni specifically searched for the most clear examples of modern church architecture. Bold and imposing as well as sculptural, these buildings contrast tradition and certainly don’t resemble old places of worship. However, the photographer pointedly moves away from the prejudices of conservative church-goers who often find these new buildings starkly contemporary. Instead, he aims to provide a tool for subjective cognitive understanding with the aim to arrive at a personal interpretation still built on the familiar foundations of prayer.

Papa Giovanni XVIII – Seriate (BG) – Arch. Mario Botta, 2004. © Ettore Moni

Some examples of modern church architecture challenge doctrines, classic aesthetics, and even the salvific message – a representation of a tendency to make one’s mark or to stand out from the crowd. The series also explores the contradictions between the idea of spirituality and the magnificence of religious buildings. Ultimately, the series finds a simple conclusion. Old or new, places of worship symbolize the need to translate faith and what goes beyond human understanding into something tangible and durable.

Beata M.V del Rosario – Loc. Tornova, Chioggia (RO). © Ettore Moni

“It doesn’t matter where you pray but the intention with which you do it,” says Ettore Moni. His goal? To encourage viewers to look at modern church architecture with a fresh perspective, disconnected from one’s religious beliefs or preconceptions. To see something else in the buildings’ grandeur. Taken with a large-format camera, Some Modern Catholic Churches in North Italy captures architectural details in all their glory. And with them, the traditional act of prayer in a contemporary context.

The series will be exhibited between April 3-July 31, 2020 at Blank in Parma, Italy.

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