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Harlan Hambright

Roma 1971,
La Gente Di Roma

Anyway, we were obligated to do a project while there. These usually take the form of academic research in architectural history or urban planning–the influences of the Roman Empire on 15th century outhouses and such as that. Well, I was but 20 years old, had no understanding of undertakings of that ilk, and was damned if I was going to spend my first three months out of the country cooped up in a classroom environment. As I fashioned myself a young Henri Cartier Bresson or a Robert Frank (both of whose work I studied and admire, along with many other photographers), I decided to do my project on “the people of Rome” and spent nearly three months simply walking around the city with wide-eyed curiosity, 2 Nikon F bodies, 20mm and 105mm lenses and unlimited bulk-rolled Tri-X film (developed in Agfa Rodinol 1:100 with 100 grams of sodium sulfite added per liter, 72° F. for 15 minutes).

I was taken by the vibrancy of street life in Rome. Streets, sidewalks and piazzas served as the city’s living room, dining room, playground, markets, meeting halls, bathrooms occasionally, and trysting places. I was also impressed with everyone’s reaction to a long-haired American kid blatently sticking a camera in their face and cooperating. In many of these images the subject is looking right into the camera and not yelling at me! (One fellow does not seem pleased.)

For the past 50 years, whenever I have exhibited photographs from this collection (there are 114 rolls of film), I have limited the selections to the 10 or 20 “hero” images that I managed to capture. The couple on the motorcycle for example which, I am proud to report, was included in the book, The Family of

Woman, a sequel to The Family of Man. In preparation for another project I’m

undertaking this fall in Italy, I thought it may be interesting to Italians to see these

now historic images. This is the first time I’ve ever gone through these images

looking more closely for more subtle, evocative stories. The goal became not

finding “great photographs,” but finding images that tell the simple story of what

random people were doing in Rome in the summer of 1971 as observed by a

naive hillbilly from East Tennessee.

                                                                                  Harlan Hambright

                                                                                 St. Simons Island, Georgia

young Harlan Hambright

In the summer of 1971, 50 years ago exactly as I type this (July, 2021), a twenty-year-old punk from suburban Knoxville, Tennessee, pictured here (left), embarked on an eye-opening experience in the form of an over-seas study program as part of the University of Tennessee’s School of Architecture. This was between the 2nd and 3rd year of the five-year Bachelor of Architecture program (which lasted seven).

We studied with Astra Zarina, a renowned architecture professor from the University of Washington. As I was already semi-established as a photographer (I had funded my first two years of tuition shooting for the UT Daily Beacon at $2.00 per published image, and the theatre department), she engaged me to photograph her wedding to the American architect, Tony Heywood who, for reasons I still do not understand, was known to my grandmother in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Harlan 2021

Roma 1971,
La Gente Di Roma

Harlan Hambright book .png
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