The Broken Fountain

The Broken Fountain

The Broken Fountain

The Broken Fountain

Synopsis

Belmonte describes Fontana del Re, an impoverished Neapolitan neighborhood, documenting the struggles of Neapolitans surrounded by crumbling buildings and economic insecurity. Resisting standard depictions of the social and moral lives of the poor, Belmonte presents nuanced portraits of his subjects. He was also one of the first anthropologists to reflect on his own reactions and emotions. He describes the traumatic experience of living alone in a strange urban environment and his social interactions with the residents of Fontana del Re.

Excerpt

Everyone has perhaps seen those examples of anamorphic art, which engage the viewer with a seemingly inexplicable optical mystery. As a child, I recall being intrigued by an inexpensive print that hung in the hallway of my parent's home -- a drawing of a young woman seated in front of a mirror. When regarded from another angle, this innocent portrait transformed itself into the chilling figure of a human skull. Contemplating it, I would blink my eyes repeatedly so as to summon forth the contrasting images in rapid alternation. But sometimes one of the images would remain stubbornly in place and no amount of blinking would bring the other into view. Then I would turn away, troubled and confused, not certain whether I or the print was to blame.

I think that some levels of social reality present similar dilemmas of perception and confidence to anthropological fieldworkers in foreign lands. I confess that I was baffled by the Neapolitans among whom I lived. No sooner would I discern a pattern in the chaos of shapes confronting me, than the design would rearrange itself into what looked like something else. in those rarer intervals when the line did not waver, I would scrutinize and mistrust it and wonder what was wrong.

The fieldworker lives among individuals, surrounded by the profusion of their idiosyncracies, and yet from his . . .

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