A beautiful Asian singer wrapped by the red light of a nightclub in Florence, a group of young Chinese serving watermelon outside a catholic church, and a 20 year old Italian politician of Chinese origin wearing an Italian tricolor sash to celebrate a wedding, are some of the images of Made in Italy, a project through which the Italian photographer Agnese Morganti (@aggiemorganti)explores the intersection between Italian and Chinese culture.
Agnese Morganti, who was born in 1985, grew up in Prato, a town 19 km from Florence, where the second biggest Italian “Chinatown” is located. Chinese migrants found favorable conditions to establish themselves in Prato, especially since the ‘90s thanks to the availability of productive spaces left free by artisans following the crisis in the Italian textile industry. In 2018 the Chinese citizens living in the municipality of Prato reached 21,000. The Chinese population is constantly growing and almost 70% are of working age.
It was a natural circumstance for me to work in the community. My family had a business right in the area of the Prato "Chinatown”. I have seen the community grow around me since the 1990s. And starting to photograph that 'little China' in a context familiar to me was an automatic process for me since I had not chosen photography as a career yet. Through study and a greater awareness of the photographic medium, I slowly realized that I wanted to document this reality in a more accurate way. It was a very organic process that also resulted from work that I also focused on myself. For this reason, this story, is the one I consider the most autobiographical in all my work.
In 2010, at the end of her studies, Agnese became the photographer of It's China, a bilingual Italian- Chinese newspaper distributed throughout Italy. This experience helped her to gain access into the community, even though there are still circumstances where she is not allowed to photograph, and is sometimes even stopped, surpisingly, by Italians.
In this story, access and limit are fundamental issues and almost become narrative elements in themselves.
Her images are poetic and lively, the new generation of Chinese citizens is represented in moments of sociality – rock concerts, nightlife, love and friendship. Some images retain an aura of mystery, they talk about something known and enigmatic at the same time, as they take place in new spaces that come from the meeting of two cultures.
“The stories I document in my images happen in a shared physical and cultural space, which is neither entirely Italian nor entirely Chinese. I would like to be able to tell this very subtle cultural nuance, which often generates clashes, but which is also a great force for renewal”, Agnese explains.
“You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed. People may not notice at the time, but that doesn’t matter. The world has been changed nonetheless.” These words of Julian Barnes adapt well to the new multi-layered reality, in a process of continuous transformation that Agnese Morganti reveals through Made in Italy.