Part II of Nicolee Drake’s (@cucinadigitale) City Perspectives series on Rome features images from her collection, Out to Dry.
Nicolee has been drawn to photographing laundry on outdoor clotheslines as it offers a rare glimpse into people’s lives. She often compares what she finds on the streets of Rome to that in other cities in an attempt to understand how individuals and families differ.
If you missed Part I of this series, check it out here.
Many of the scenes you photograph are of people’s laundry on outdoor clotheslines. How did that become a “theme” of yours?
At first I found the laundry scenes comical – where I come from in the United States, we don’t air our laundry in public. Then I learned that there’s a lot more to it; there are lots of stories embedded and implied in these scenes. (And, as it turns out, I have to hang my own laundry out to dry, too).
What have the laundry scenes taught you about local’s lives or experiences?
You can tell a lot about people from their laundry: you can tell if they’re single or married, or if there are multiple generations living in the same household. You can get a sense of their personal style. You can also find out whether or not they understand how to separate their laundry!
What’s the strangest piece of laundry you’ve seen hanging outdoors?
Usually the strangest laundry isn’t the object itself but how it’s displayed. Often the most interesting piece is a lone pair of underwear or girdle, or a mop neatly arranged at the very center of the clothesline. Incidentally, my neighbor hangs her hair out to dry every morning before hanging out her tea towels.
You seem to have an eye for color and finding laundry that either compliment or clashes. Is this an aspect you consciously search for or a subconscious aesthetic?
Sometimes people’s laundry matches the exterior of their homes, other times it’s a complete clash. It just sort of happens that way. There are actually a few addresses where I can count on one or the other.
Has this photographic theme permeated other travel experiences of yours? Do you find yourself looking for similar scenes in other cities?
Yes, it’s usually one of the first things I notice when traveling to other cities. I would love to see Out To Dry become a global series of sorts, comparing and contrasting how people display their laundry in different places. Many of the similarities or differences that I have observed relate to location and demographics. In Italy, for example, the cost of electricity is very high and so it simply makes more sense to hang laundry outdoors (a dryer would probably trip the breakers. I can’t even use my oven and the iron at the same time!). But – you won’t find laundry in the city center, you have to travel to residential neighborhoods to see that. In other cities or countries, that’s not the case. How and where and when people hang their laundry tells so much about them and their circumstances. It’s a fun, creative way to engage with culture.
Do you have any upcoming projects planned?
Words and photos by Nicolee Drake.