Dutch artist Erik Kessels tells the visual story of an Italian couple, Carlo and Luciana, in his new book, In Almost Every Picture #17.

Every year on their holiday, the couple from Vignola in Modena, Italy, photographed each other in the same location. At the start of their marriage, the photographs are in black and white before the couple take almost a 40 year break from holidaying to concentrate on their working life. Once retired, the images begin again in colour as the couple resumed their travels around the world.

The book reflects this long gap with blank pages in the middle of their story. ‘When people look at this book, it’s almost like a pause,’ says Kessels. ‘We live in a time where we see more images before lunch than someone in the 18th century saw in their whole lifetime, so it is nice to see this compressed history of all the images two people ever made on their travels in this way.’

A black and white photo of a man and a woman posing separately on a bench
A man and a woman pictured separately in front of a plinth with a horse statue on in a book by Erik Kessels

The images were developed by Sergio Smerieri, a studio owner and friend of the couple. After Luciania’s death and before his own, Carlo assisted him in providing missing photographs and negatives. All 36 images from each roll of film were included in their albums, making a small but comprehensive collection.

‘I find it a bit tragic, but it’s also special,’ says Kessels. ‘It’s fascinating that in a time where we now make a photographic record of ourselves, it becomes bizarre to see only five or six family albums containing all their life in pictures. Nowadays it’s totally different – but in the end those family albums are still surviving, while we lose a lot of our digital images. It will be funny to see what will remain from this period of time in the future.’

Although we never see the couple together, we see glimpses of who they were and how they felt about each other – Carlo adopts various poses, always looking away from the camera, while Luciana looks straight down the lens with a smile reserved only for her husband the photographer.

The book is the latest in the In Almost Every Picture series, which tell the stories of amateur photographers through images taken over the years. ‘Sometimes they don’t even know themselves what kind of fantastic record of images they have made over the years,’ adds Kessels. ‘In this book the special thing is they have skipped so many years. Pandemic aside, it would never have occurred to us to wait until we had stopped working before we could travel again.’ §

A man and woman pictured separately eating a plate of food in a book by Erik Kessels
A black and white photo of a man and a woman posing separately on a wall in a book by Erik Kessels