Photography and text: Steven Nestor
Monte Cassino: Con Amore is an exploration by Steven Nestor of the destruction of a small Italian town Monte Cassino and its monastery in the Second World War. Surviving copies of The Illustrated London News from 1944 lead Nestor on a journey to discover and record the last remaining traces of the devastation of the town and the Benedictine monastery built on the site of the original Abbey chosen and founded by St Benedict in the 6th century. Blending original material from his research archive alongside his own images, Nestor encourages the viewer to cross into an elusive but violent past. The photographic windows throughout this book look out onto a buried past that continues to inform and shape our present through the fragments that have survived destruction, the passage of time and a human quest to overcome disaster. This is a journey across unremarkable contemporary places and into their dark history: forlorn graffiti semaphores in a space once littered with casualties of battle, a collapsed street sign lies unnoticed on the edge of town and autumn’s mulch burns on the road that snakes its way up to the summit of worship and war.
Nestor’s use of a high-grain photographic film and an old Vrede Box camera transports the viewer back in time to the Italian town of Monte Cassino, the site of a significant and costly WWII battle and the legacy of that conflict. Fragments of images from original copies of The Illustrated London News along with sourced prints and negatives from the war and post-war periods are incorporated into this tapestry of destruction and loss. Together they reimpose and recharge often obscured photographic views from the time of the bombardment of Monte Cassino. Nestor’s work re-connects us with those faint traces of the past still present – just before we forget – as they are condemned to obscurity. His work is an affirmation of the power of photography to connect us with the past, not only of Monte Cassino, but with many sites of conflict throughout the world which are fast fading from living memory.