Faces from the paper mills


An exhibition narrated the identity of the Fabriano area (Ancona, Italy) through the memories of the papermakers and paper mills: a collective tale in images through the stories and faces of those who have always lived it.

Last November, the Fondazione Fedrigoni Fabriano in collaboration with Fabriano inaugurated in the renovated premises of the Supermarket of the Cartiere Miliani paper mills, Simone Bramante’s exhibition «Fabriano, Paper Mill Portraits», a tale through images of the faces, gestures and memories of papermakers and paper mills, the ancient places of paper, which return in the stories of parents and grandparents.

Twelve stories told through the photographic shots of Simone Bramante, alias Brahmino, a well-known Italian creative director and photographer. A project born from an open call to the citizens of Fabriano entitled «Raccontami una storia» (Tell me a story), to collect and safeguard the testimonies linked to the work of the Fabriano Paper Mill. Starting from the inhabitants’ response, Bramante identified twelve stories, iconographic narratives that under the care of Umberto Giovannini and Beatrice Levorato unravelled into one big tale, linking the different stories to that of the city itself, with the historical presence of the paper mill.

Telling the identity of a territory – through the stories of parents or grandparents, the ancient places of paper – is at the heart of an artistic project that aims on the one hand to collect and safeguard the precious testimonies of the Fabriano community, and on the other hand to project creativity into the future and give a new interpretation to disused spaces.  Fabriano therefore thought of as a double meaning of city and above all of paper mill: a magical place with that characteristic smell «that permeated the nostrils every time you entered the departments».


The call to action

For a whole month, in fact, from mid-April to mid-May 2022, all the people of Fabriano were able to take part in a sort of competition that asked them to relate a testimony, an anecdote, even a family anecdote, an emotion linked to the local paper mills. Among these narrators, twelve were chosen to give life – with their stories, their faces and their voices – to as many interviews and photographic series realised by Brahmino inside some premises that are normally not accessible and reopened only for this occasion, such as the packaging and dough departments. The same spaces were then the subject of the research work of architect Giuseppe Ricupero, who after the days spent in the Residenza imagined a contemporary and shared use of the spaces, reinterpreting them with the freedom of an artistic project.

Bramante’s photographs lit up the halls of the Supermercato delle Cartiere, the new space that the Fedrigoni Fabriano Foundation is adding to the Fabriano Paper Pavilion, created in 2019 for the XIII Creative Cities UNESCO Meeting. Two exhibition areas coexisting on the edge of the Cartiere Miliani industrial archaeology complex.

 The ancient place for a new point of view

«Residenza d’Artista» is a project designed to host, in the areas where the centuries-old papermaking tradition originated, creatives and artists who use, interpret and experiment all kinds of paper every day, as an immersive and inspiring experience for their works. Fabriano has thus welcomed an important team of talents over the years: from David Gentleman in 2018 to Umberto Giovannini, Maria Pina and Gianna Bentivegna, Anusc Castiglioni, Massimo Zanelli and Nick Morley in 2019, up to Alberto Madrigal, star of the 2021 edition. «Opening the doors of our spaces to welcome artists and creative people from all over the world,» says Chiara Medioli Fedrigoni, president of the Fedrigoni Fabriano Foundation, «is an important opportunity for us to offer a unique experience in the original places of the papermaking tradition.

Paper is in fact the fruit of the union of many artisan skills, apparently distant from each other, which have made the Fabriano method crucial in the history of printing and writing.

In order to continue to nourish this diversity – and this richness – the various artists are offered the opportunity to stay for a while and breathe in the air of centuries of history, so that their skills – and their unique gaze – can provide a new perspective on paper.

 The artists

Simone Bramante, also known as «Brahmino», an Italian creative director and photographer whose work focuses on capturing emotion, style and colour through his stories, developing personal and commercial projects centred on a dreamlike narrative style. He was a finalist in the Sony World Photographty Awards 2020 with Textured Recipes. His works have been shown in exhibitions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, Minsk, Milan and he is currently exhibiting in Bergamo with the group show «100 Photographers for Bergamo» and at the Wunderkammer GAM in Turin to contribute to the extraordinary Covid-19 Fund of UGI Onlus.

Giuseppe Ricupero, born in Syracuse in 1990, is an architect and PhD student at the Iuav University of Venice in the research group «International Architecture Villard d’Honnecourt». He graduated in 2019 examining the contemporary role of monumentality in Italy. In recent years he has undertaken collaborations with various artists and public and private contemporary art institutions such as the Radicepura Landscape Foundation (Catania), Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Turin), La Biennale di Venezia, Museo di Villa Croci (Genoa), MAXXI (Rome).