When I finalized my plans with the American Institute for Roman Culture (AIRC) to participate in an archaeological dig in Rome, I had no idea what to expect. I had never been to Italy and knew almost nothing about archaeology. The dig was situated at Ostia Antica, ancient Rome's harbor city, where students would commute from Rome to meet at 8 AM and spend the day digging three trenches in hopes of finding artifacts and structures that would contribute to an understanding of this particular site's past and its general function within the ancient city. My role was to partake in pure documentation of the dig; photographing the trenches and artifacts for the archaeologists so they would have a visual record of their progress and acquired knowledge.
My involvement lasted for the month of July 2010 and was divided into three projects. When a trench reached a new layer or found anything interesting, I would work with the Italian field director to determine the best vantage point and photograph exactly what they wanted to be included. I would spend my days going back and forth between the trenches and the artifacts station. Working with the artifacts allowed me to become familiar with the finds due to the required procedure, which consisted of washing the artifacts, enabling the various pieces to dry in the sun, determining their classification and possible purpose, and later photographing them in the studio alongside their context, number, and measuring instruments. Impressive pieces of marble, different types and remnants of pottery, and coins were discovered. I shot everything digitally, except for my own work, in order for the photographs to be downloaded instantly and filed accordingly; I would switch between my own Canon Rebel XTi and a Lumix camera that was used on-site.
Since the dig worked between Tuesday and Friday, on Mondays I would work with Darius Arya, an archaeologist and the AIRC’s Executive Director, and take photographs for his own project on conservation within ancient Rome. Together we would visit important historical monuments and sites to document specific problems within the system of preserving the city's great treasures. Our main interests were in the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Ostia Antica. The fundamental complications of Rome's conservation include issues of plant erosion, in which continued growth of vegetation works against efforts of restoration and preservation, and various difficulties or certain techniques that archaeologists use in attempts to sustain Rome's historical culture.
My internship enabled me not only to learn an incredible amount about archaeology and the strategies that go along with it, but also to use my photography skills in a new way. My input, through the photographs that I took, attributed to a greater purpose; I was shooting for a cause and a particular objective. I enjoyed having the ability to work with the other students participating in the dig while also having my own motive for being there that was different from everyone else's. The AIRC facilitated an experience for me which has proven to be extremely beneficial, opening my eyes to a side of photography I had never explored before and empowering me to absorb a new subject and culture in the remarkable setting of Rome.