A leading international figure of urban landscape and architectural photography, with a career that spans over thirty years, Gabriele Basilico laid his eyes on territories that have become something other; questioning the urban space, scrutinising places that have been modified and disfigured by the aftermaths of the urban civilisation.
His work analyses a variety of issues: the alteration of the landscape, the disorientation of man and the meaning of art in an era of hectic technological development. The cities, from their outer reaches to their inner core, represent the ideal scenario for his analysis. Basilico’s photographs of city landscapes are solemn, sophisticatedly devoid of any form of judgement and yet always rich in intrigue. His visual surveys on urban culture denote a cold, clinical approach in line with the most traditional architectural photography, a slow method applied to some of the most rapidly changing cities and sites. In contrast with his diligent, immutable style, his preferred subject matter is the architecture representative of the scars, mutations and mutilations of a place, and his photographs are never celebrative of a certain era. Basilico’s view goes beyond the visible — the architecture — and sneaks into the genius loci of the built space itself. If his images could be translated into queries, these would be: what happened here, here where something else used to be?
His images explore the relation between human-altered space and social dynamics, focusing the attention on places often representative of societies poised between their past and their future, places where these tensions left scars; Basilico observes them as “[…] a doctor would observe a patient who has survived a terminal sickness. He takes care of the damages while celebrating the incredible possibilities and perspectives that any kind of survival can produce.”.
During his career Basilico often compared the city with a living organism, arguing that some buildings unveil an anthropomorphic form. This and the above mentioned elements when seen in conjunction with each other, confer a social significance to Basilico’s work, and show an attention to the human condition that is characteristic of documentary photography. Through the architecture of the modern metropolis or through the man-altered landscape, he analyses society and its signs; the chaos of the city fades away, leaving a silence that makes analysis possible. The presence of the inhabitants is left out of the frame, in favour of an architecture perceived as a sanctuary.

The aim of this text is to question the absence of people in Basilico’s photographs, to find the traces of the human figure, in the attempt to demonstrate that within his work, this absence becomes the greatest indication of presence; his architectural photography is not interested in the aestheticisation of the individual buildings or in the visual indulgence of isolated edifices, but instead, it investigates the urban space to disclose the topography of its social structure.

Below, a selection of pages from The poetics of emptiness: finding people and society in Gabriele Basilico’s work: