The Perpetual Past is the first book published by Ernesto Bazan. It came out in 1983. It’s a very rare book (over thirty-years-old), very few copies remain. While still studying photography at the School of Visual Arts (1979-1982) the young Bazan started exploring the Italian-American community in NYC and surrounding areas in an effort to understand his own recent past. He wanted to fathom how much of the original Italian culture, language, and traditions were still part of the Italian Americans daily life. Bazan spent 4 years probing this subject. It was published when he was only twenty-three-year-old. Signed by the photographer. Mint condition.
I arrived to New York in January of 1979. Besides my luggage stuffed with clothes and things, I had carried with me the imaginary immigrant’s suitcase full of memories, odors, and flavors from my native island. I was aware that I was following the same path that many fellow Sicilians had taken up before me. Instead of having taken the boat to reach “L’Ammerica”, I was stepping down from an airplane into this land full of opportunities. Yet, many similarities between my journey and theirs remained. It became obvious that the next natural step to take was to photograph the Italian American communities. It was, at the same time, a way to remain connected to my roots and to find out for myself what I shared and didn’t with them. My photographs intended to be a composite of different lifestyles. Public and semipublic events such as dinner dances, weddings, religious and social feasts were key rituals which characterized the Italian American scene and fascinated me the most as a photographer.
From the introduction to The Perpetual Past by Jerry Mangione
“In a massive Italian exodus which began more than a century ago, some five million immigrants (the great majority from southern Italy), began pouring into the United States, and forming “Little Italys” to be among their own kind in their effort to ease the pain of having transplanted themselves on foreign soil. Other immigrant groups arriving during the same era from eastern and southern Europe were similarly motivated in establishing their own tight little island; but none have survived as strongly and vividly as the Little Italys, which to this day continue to thrive in a number of cities across the nation. At long last, these Italian American enclaves have come under the scrutiny of a photographer with the sensibility of an artist and an intimate awareness of their south Italian past. A Sicilian by birth and a frequenter of Little Italys by obsession, Ernesto Bazan has produced an album of photographic gems which, in their cumulative effect, amount to a kind of mini “commedia umana”, one that evokes a unique civilization which, with or without the stimulation of tourist curiosity, apparently refuses to die.”