Portals of Puglia
Some people are fascinated by clouds. They photograph them endlessly, post them on their social media channel of choice and delight in their endless variations. You could substitute clouds for just about any other subject, but the results of the same: a subconscious attraction to a specific visual subject that permeates one’s personal photo albums.
After fruits and vegetables in markets, I am drawn to doors and gates. Not just any doors and gates, though. They must be old, preferably disused, with knobs and latches that are hopelessly rusted. The best ones have a timeworn patina, with fading paint and splinters. Sometimes the finials are missing; often the doors are listing on their hinges. I can’t help but wonder what’s behind them. And what happened to the people who put them in place so long ago?
Puglia’s villages and rural countryside are treasure troves of the doors and gates that inspire me. Their colors reflect the palette of this part of southern Italy: the cobalt blue of the summer sky, the deep rust of sunbaked earth and the flinty gray-green of olive leaves shimmering in the breeze. Some of the gates mirror Martina Franca’s love of baroque and rococo in the twists and curls of their ornamentation. Others manifest the sober practicality of rural contadini.
The hand-forged door hinges and latch hardware aren’t used much anymore, but they’re strong and stalwart, still resisting intruders and vagabonds the way they’ve done for centuries. Wooden doors made from oaks felled on this land on abandoned stone houses are still stout, harder than metal after hundreds of years of oxidation. These utilitarian portals are proud, yet unassuming, not unlike the people who made them to last.
So I photograph doors and gates like these, stopping abruptly on my bike or when walking through town. They’re all different; all equally compelling. I can’t resist them because they are as much a part of the pull of Puglia as its more celebrated charms—a link to the past here as indelible as the natural environment. May they always remain quietly in place, guarding their secrets for the next generation.