Carla Cerati

OSPEDALE PSICHIATRICO PROVINCIALE DI PARMA, 1968

This photograph is taken from the celebrated book ‘Morire di classe (Social class-related dying). The Asylum Condition Photographed by Carla Cerati and Gianni Berengo Gardin’, a revolutionary publishing project edited by Franco and Franca Basaglia and published by Einaudi in 1969. The two photographers, at the invitation of Dr. Basaglia (a radical psychiatrist and mental health reformer) were among the first photographers to have access inside Italian psychiatric institutions in Gorizia, Parma, Ferrara and Florence. The image shows a personal life drama on the eve of a momentous reform, the ‘Basaglia Law’, which led to the closing down of all psychiatric hospitals and their replacement with community-based services. Carla Cerati and Berengo Gardin found situations of loneliness, coercion and denial of dignity almost everywhere, with the only exception of the Gorizia hospital that was run by the Basaglias under the banner of greater freedom. Cerati’s gaze investigates with respect and involvement the private planets of the inmates showing their obsessive gestures, pain and disorientation with acute sensitivity. The book Morire di Classe gave them a voice, and the public could now see the tragedy of asylums.

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