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Missing persons: the photography of Luca Zanier

The space that started it all, Communist Party HQ in Paris.

It took just one look at the impressive interior of the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Communist Party headquarters for the so-called idea bulb to flash on in photographer Luca Zanier. Zanier, who just happened to be in Paris, decided to take a look inside the stunning building while it was empty. That’s when “the idea started. Immediately.” Spaces like the Communist Party HQ are imbued with meaning because of the building’s purpose, the people who’ve spoken in its halls and the important decisions made there. But what happens when the conference is over, the people go home and a once vibrant room is left empty?

Over the past several years Zanier has dedicated himself to documenting the aura of empty rooms, taking photographs of historical buildings that are matched in significance only by their design. After all, Zanier points out, “you can be the best photographer but if you have bad architecture, you don’t make a good picture.”

Still a work in process, the project has taken Zanier all over the world, to France, Switzerland and the US. In his images he’s able to capture that quiet anticipation of a room in the moments before it fills with people. Still objects wait to be touched and used: a pitcher of water beside a glass, two pencils resting on a blank notepad, a poised microphone, a wooden gavel at the ready. “When there are people in them, we think about these people,” Zanier says. “They are important because they can make these decisions. But I think this is a really powerful way to show these places. Because people die, but the places are still the same.”

Interview excerpts from Lens, the wonderful photography blog at NYTimes.com