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In another image shown here six ancient columns and a partial architrave are embedded in a wall of faded pink stucco and brick. The surrounding structure, of a more recent vintage, serves to fortify and dramatize the earlier edifice by ensconcing each column in its own niche, effectively highlighting their singular historical value.

This wall is part of the Basilica of San Nicola in Carcere, which was built into the remains of three Roman Temples from the Republican era that once existed side by side. The columns here are from the Temple of Janus, the Roman god of gates and doors; the other Temples were devoted to Spes, the goddess of hope, and to Juno Sospita, the goddess Juno in her role as protector and savior. By means of perceptive cropping, Gowing fills his format with this compelling architectural assemblage, creating an image of pictorial strength appropriate to his history-laden subject.

Gowing’s images often document the collision of the ancient and the modern.

He sets an excavation of decapitated columns against a parking lot, shows orphaned fragments of walls and statuary invaded by electrical wires, and presents a centuries-old sarcophagus center stage, while in the background a man talks on a cell phone. In an almost comical note, a photograph of a sprawling ruined edifice reveals a bright yellow golf cart poking out from between two cypress trees. Professor Gowing’s astute eye consistently captures a certain wistfulness in the eroded splendor of The Eternal City. Citing the historian Livy, Gowing says in the book’s afterward, “…what is today ‘Rome’ will one day become part of its ruins, the stuff around which a new Rome will rise, as it has done for many centuries.”

In the confluence of history and memory lies a story. It may be personal or political; it may be subject to manipulation, coolly factual or highly emotional. Personal stories are infinitely varied in tone and temper. These artists have been inspired by their own histories and memories to artistically preserve their stories in moving and eloquent ways.








Roman Fragments
Alain Gowing

Travel photography today may be as easy as taking out a smart phone and snapping a picture of your companions with the Pantheon as a backdrop. The earliest travel photographers needed an assistant, or at least a wheelbarrow, to transport their equipment from one ancient ruin to another. In between these two extremes is a kind of contemporary photography that works to aesthetically portray the ephemeral material traces of the past and imbue them with cultural relevance and significance for the present.

Professor Gowing’s interest in how the Romans preserved history and memory in their architecture is on handsome display in these pages. His photographs document the way that the vast landscape of Roman ruins represents the

historic and mythic past and the way that the Romans of today preserve – or don’t preserve – those relics and live imperturbably among them.

In one artfully uninflected black and white image, a crumbling but still intact edifice stands behind four sentinel trees, a subtle play of light enhancing the well-composed scene. The frontal plane displays the remnants of a stone wall set against the trees and, in the upper right, a blurred suggestion of leaves, uniting the themes of nature and architecture. The depiction of an ancient structure joined to (or possibly, versus) untended nature is interrupted only by the intervention of the modern-day, ubiquitous security fence.

Roman Fragments
Alain Gowing

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