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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI and RIC professors win Lange-Taylor prize
Writer and photographer to document struggle
of new immigrants to Italy

URI and RIC faculty members Mary Cappello (l) and Paola Ferrario. Photo by Paola Ferrario.
KINGSTON, R.I. – August 1, 2001 – Mary Cappello of Providence, a writer and English professor at the University of Rhode Island and Paola Ferrario of Warwick, a faculty member of photography at Rhode Island College will combine their talents of word and image to document the lives of new immigrants to Italy.

The 2001 Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Documentary Prize, given by The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, is funding their work. Only one $10,000 prize is awarded each year.

Cappello and Ferrario met through Cappello’s Italian teacher at Rhode Island College, who introduced her to other intellectuals and artists working in fields relative to Italian studies.

Ferrario is from Milan who left Italy to pursue life and work as a photographer in the U.S. Her "Inheritance: The Elder Relative Series" documents the sentimental debris left by relatives as an attempt to prolong an existence that is now gone. Cappello’s memoir Night Bloom: An Italian/American Life is a complex look at three generations of immigrant voices.

The Cappello/Ferrario project is called: "Pane Amaro/Bitter Bread: The Struggle of New Immigrants to Italy." During the past decade, there has been a huge increase in immigration to Italy from Eastern Europe, India, Africa and China.

Unlike other European countries, such as England, France and Germany, which have become melting pots, Italy has remained ethnically undiluted. The immigration phenomenon of the past 10 years has forced this nation to confront the boundaries of its own identity.

The artists say that Italy is not exceptional in its receipt of immigrants: reactions range from hatred and fear to curiosity and acceptance, rarely excitement. Media depictions of these new communities rarely help overcome pervasive discrimination but instead indulge, as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, the notion that co-habitation is impossible.

Both curious and sensitive about the metamorphosis of their country of cultural origin as a point of destination rather than departure, Ferrario and Cappello plan to travel into rural areas of Italy where immigrant lives often go undocumented, where immigrants are making lives, cohabiting with Italians, and communicating bi-culturally.

The pair will document the lives of immigrants in Veneto, Emiglia Romagna, and Chieti Abruzzi, places of national pride, famous for their cheese and cured meat, the production of which is now strongly dependent on immigrant labor.

While immigrant experience is defined by loss, the artists plan to go beyond the initial response to examine the rituals involved in the processes of surviving loss. The artists hope to stall the need for sound-bytes and easy resolution.

The Lange-Taylor prize was created to encourage collaboration between documentary writers and photographers in the tradition of the acclaimed photographer Dorothea Lange and writer and social scientist Paul Taylor. In 1941 Lange and Taylor published American Exodus, a book that renders human experience eloquently in text and images and remains a seminal work in documentary studies.

This is the second year in a row that a Rhode Island resident has won this prestigious national prize. Last year, C.D. Wright, state poet laureate and Brown University faculty member won the prize with Deborah Luster.

For Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116

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