BOOK OF THE MONTH (1): Sherlock Holmes with a camera in Calabria

Petra Stavast 'Libero'

Don’t worry, your beloved Utopia Parkway isn’t suffering from some sort of delusion of grandeur and turning into Oprah Winfrey, all of a sudden. But there’s just too many great art books coming out and going unnoticed. From now on, I’ll be picking one favorite amidst all those new releases, every month. I’ll try and steer clear of the obvious and the exhibition catalogues. I’m happy to be getting some expert advice too: the good folks from the wonderful Bozar Shop in Brussels have agreed to help me by staying on the lookout for the really interesting new releases. My pick for November is Libero, an intriguing book by Dutch photographer Petra Stavast about a derelict house in a small Italian village. 

Petra Stavast 'Libero'For days, she was looking at that small Italian village in Calabria, not knowing what to do with it. Until, one day, Petra Stavast walked into a small, delapidated house in Sant’Andrea Apostolo della Ionio. A terrible mess: trash, clothes, pictures. At first she felt like a burglar, but then Stavast got intrigued and wanted to know more about that house, and Delia, the lady who used to live there. It led her to America and to Delia’s brother Libero, who had left for America, and his children, Libero and Valeria.

Petra Stavast 'Libero'In a way, Libero, Stavast’s book, is a very simple one. You’ll see the pictures she took of that village, the photographs she found in the house, and the pictures she took from Libero Jr. and his sister Valeria in America (Pennsauken, New Jersey). As an appendix, there are a couple of texts, such as a letter from Libero Sr., a conversation between Libero Jr., Valeria and their mother, about the pictures. But put together, all of this makes you think; about roots, migration, the traces people leave behind, family and fleetingness. Yes, it’s Libero’s story, but at the same time, it’s many people’s story.

Petra Stavast ‘Libero’ (Roma Publication). You’ll find it at Bozar Shop (Rue Ravensteinstraat 15, 1000 Brussels), € 29, 70 (, or you can order it from the publisher ( You’ll find more of the Libero-pictures on Stavast’s website. Click here.


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