Walter Monticelli

The Forgotten Crafts

This is part of an ongoing project I have had the pleasure to work on. In 2019, I went back to my hometown in Italy with the idea to explore jobs that are almost forgotten and that new generations are not taking on anymore. This might be because automation is making the job redundant or simply the younger generation is not interested in pursuing a career in said job.

The concept behind this project was to focus on how a specific job has changed throughout the ages and how it might be able to survive in a world that is constantly changing whilst not paying attention to what it leaves behind. Traditions are getting lost every day and with them we lose a sense of who we are and where we come from. I have explored this topic by inviting people from different careers who have been doing the job for decades and they have “passed it on” to their sons/daughters and grandsons/granddaughters. The premise was simple. I started shooting whilst we talked about what they are particularly proud about, how did it all start and finally their fears for the future in terms of how the job will evolve or if it will last at all.

shoemaker shoe repairing tools on bench
In the first leg of the project I had the great pleasure of meeting grandad Francesco, father Vito and another Francesco (the youngest in the family). In 1955 grandad Francesco set up a small shop of 2m square in which he started repairing and making shoes. He went on talking about his business with a great sense of pride and took a path down memory lane to explain how ‘back in the days’ it was difficult to make a living out of his job. Grandad Francesco also seemed to have a reservation when talking about how his job will evolve in the future. He is scared that everything will get lost in time.
shoemaker hammering on a shoe mould to form shape with tool and bench

Grandad Francesco’s son (Vito) then came to work in the family business in 1977 at 12 years-old when he started helping his dad with a business which now required an extra employee. Vito has a different understanding about his business. Whilst he shares the same pride and passion of his dad for his job, he also has his own reservation which have more to do with the fact that to survive in the business of shoe-making one has to go against big corporations which produce a shoe in a fraction of the time. Hence, a person in an artisanal job like his, has scarce opportunities to survive whilst the world is invaded by a more materialistic and fast-fashion society which does not want to wait for a better quality product.

shoemaker using candle to stretch leather of shoe
shoemaker buffing shoe with light above him
shoemaker fitting shape of shoe on mould to take shape
shoemaker buffing shoe with light above it

Then there is Francesco, Vito’s son. At 23 years-old, Francesco is the element of hope in all this. At 12 years-old he also joined Grandad Francesco and Father Vito in what now was a business which had a strong reputation in town. Although the business is going well Francesco tells me that he had to reinvent himself in order to keep up with the current fashion. He tells me that the future of their job will move from something more traditional, like ‘word of mouth’ to the big presence of social media. He talks about ‘branding’ and expansion of a business which now has to be moved online. Francesco is the only member of the family who has actually studied in the fashion industry as both his father and grandfather couldn’t afford it at the time. He has a bigger picture of how the business could transform in order to keep up with a world in constant change and evolvement. More importantly he has the passion and talent for it.

shoemaker cutting sole of shoe with tools on a desk
shoemaker posing sitting with sowing machine and pictures on wall
shoemaker posing sitting with sowing machine and pictures on wall
shoemaker posing sitting with sowing machine and pictures on wall
shoemaker tools hanging from wall with calendar
I truly enjoyed working with this family as they have a deep sense of interconnectedness between them. It is a relationship that goes beyond the common family one. They all have a humble vision, a vision to keep their dream alive not matter what sort of challenges they may face in the future. On this matter Vito ends with one sentence “I’m sure that whatever might happen in life we will still be here making people happy and seeing through every difficulty”.
shoemakers sitting for a photo smiling in front of bench and suitcase
show moulds with good luck message written on one of them
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