within the sassi...

More or less a record image of the rooftops in the area around our lodgings in Matera.

The scene is in the early pre-dawn light of the first morning after our arrival. At the time I was still trying to come to terms with the amazing imagery of the place, trying to get a handle on the overwhelming visual possibilities, so unfamiliar to anything ever encountered in my previous experience.

We are about a quarter of the way down the ravine here, smack in the middle of all the sassi caves of the settlement. This area is currently experiencing something of a renaissance of tourism and development. New building merges with the old on all sides, above and below, and all the structures seen here contain at least some internal portion that is well and truly cave.

Our own room, for example. The only flat surfaces in the entire structure were the front wall and part of one side. The rest of the room, roof and floor was all rounded and irregular, the contours following the hollows of the original and ancient cave.

Somehow the designers of the hotel managed to make the room feel fairly comfortable. They installed an elevated and translucent flooring, revealing the true cave floor below. The bathroom and appliances were all modern, hip and trendy, and discreet track lighting was installed in the small hollows here and there, giving the room a soft and glowy illumination.

But it still was a cave after all, a bit dank and drippy. The whitewash of the walls flaked off at the merest touch, before our very eyes turning faintly green and then blackening with aggressive mildew. A dehumidifier ran full-time wringing buckets of water from the cave-heavy atmosphere, drip drip drip drip drip.

Matera, Italy, November 2011.

Rolleiflex 2.8A, 80mm f/2.8 Opton Tessar, Ilford HP5.