Lost in my birthplace, lost on the beach

This is Emily and Davide’s couple session. I went back to my hometown for Christmas, and I found a wonderful warm weather, my loved family, and some friends that are always there for me, even if we meet once a year. I was so grateful, and I always am.

These two beautiful guys here, are an amazing couple, and I tried my best to give them the pictures they deserve ;)

You can see the whole story – and a short video I made, with pictures and a GREAT soundtrack – on my wedding page. Enjoy!

Street Art In Athens

This project has been published in the Internazionale webpage on 23th January 2015. It’s my first project, the one I worked on after the master in Reportage in Rome.

During this 20 days-trip, I had the opportunity to meet so many different people, and to really live the soul of this wonderful country. I a grateful, for all that it gave me.

Migrations

I lived in Rome, and I was penniless, that moment. I heard there was an Eritrean refugee camp, close to my neighborhood. So I went there, every day, for a month, and spent all my days with these strong, brave people. After that I followed them during a very long trip till the northern border.

I wanted to show their courage, their dignity, their way of smiling and face the misery of leaving their country and loosing everything, their hope. My work was rejected by many magazines, because I didn’t show enough pain and this kind of pictures don’t SELL, that’s what I’ve been said. I was disgusted.

For much time, I felt guilty to follow these people, hoping to SELL the pictures I took them. I was poor, and I needed to eat and pay my rent, but I promised myself that I will never exploit people’s suffering or pain, to earn money, again.

After this project, I discovered wedding photography, and realized it was the thing I wanted to do. But as soon as I’ll be able to, I want to start a new project, and to go on showing these people’s strength, without the need to sell anything.

A long way to go. In Rome, only a break.

Arguing, polemics, complaints. And yet, hundreds of Eritrean migrants arrive at Baobab center, in Cupa street, Rome. They get a shelter, food and clothes, offered by neighborhood citizens. Volunteers work hard to offer acceptable conditions for people who don’t remember what acceptable conditions are. This people is running away from violence and hunger. And unfortunately, in Italy, many don’t know that they aren’t here to stop, they don’t want to settle here, aware that the situation in our country is not so good at the moment. Many don’t know or pretend not to know, pouring out their rage against their arrivals and against who’s helping them.

The real issue is that there is no demonstration, barricade or border closure working. Nor sea or desert. These people decided to leave, to abandon their home, to dismember their families, to go on living – living, not existing in inhuman conditions.

I’ve spent much time at Baobab center. Hundreds of stories and faces, many of them so young. The mildness and dignity of this people is disarming, while they try to tell their stories, if they mutter some English. They need to rest, to smile, to restore a tired and torn body. After travelling for months and risking their lives more than once, they have exhaustion, smile and gratitude. They have the hope to find a simple life, to fulfill a dream, wherever, no matter where.

One Saturday night I caught an Intercity train from Roma-Termini to Bolzano, with two young men and a 8 months pregnant woman, who has been captured and segregated in Libya for three months and was able to escape in the end. Her gaze claims silent respect.

Not even difficulties like this can stop them, even if many of them can’t escape dangers during their trip. Some boys have been texting me, updating me on their moves. Daniel, 21 years old, called from France. And he was laughing, joyfully.

Kidnappings, shipwrecks , C.I.E. (Identification and Expulsion Centers), barricades, insults, demonstrations, hatred and racism, borders closure, indifference and inability to manage the situation. But hope and will for a better life can’t be stopped by anything. Whether we accept it or not, migrants will keep on moving and try to reach better places to live in. Wasting energies against moving life is worthless. Once I’ve been told that Italians must help them because Italy, as a former colonizing country, caused a lot of troubles in Eritrea. But, no. We don’t have to help them to compensate guilt that probably don’t belong to us. It’s not about politics. It’s just because they are human beings. and, just like all human beings, they will keep on trying to find a better life, they will keep on moving.

Hydra, my first Greek island

 CLICK HERE TO READ THE ITALIAN VERSION ⸎

“You can’t come to Greece without seeing at least one island!”
How do you blame her? Celeste arrived in Agios Dimitrios three days after me. But she had already prepared every detail, so that her mother, grandmother, aunt and cousin would host me properly. And “proper” hospitality, in Greece, is just amazing. Breakfast ready on the table in the morning as soon as I wake up, bed made, lunch and dinner (and, oh my God, what lunches and dinners!) served, against all my attempts to help, to thank, to make myself useful. No way, in Greece the guest is a pasha, it works like that, because there will be other ways, other times and other trips to give back all this.

Agios Dimitrios is a small country village, a few kilometers from Livadeia, in central Greece. Just before arriving there, there is a tree in the middle of the road: it grew up there and the two lanes run along the sides. All around, like a valley, even if it is a plain, mountain ranges. In less than an hour, by car you can even reach the sea, and in an hour and a half you can reach Delphi, the infinite magic Delphi, the navel of the world, the Centre. Although not usual as a “tourist” destination – in fact, that’s exactly what I love – the holiday here is wonderful, the colors of light, landscapes, the friendly ways of the people, good energy and serenity.

But you can’t come to Greece without seeing at least one island! Mother advises us Hydra. To me, only its name is enough to convince me, even if it seems to be an expensive and very “touristy” place.

Agios Dimitrios – Athens – Piraeus – Hydra, train and ferry.
Piraeus is terrible. You can’t breathe, it’s a concrete casting on the sea. As soon as we arrive, we have to walk half an hour to find a bar. Shops of junk, hardware, low quality clothing, closed shops, sprinkled shops, decadence, dilapidation. Piraeus is a place of passage, the port of Athens. A chaotic and noisy comings and goings of travelers of all kinds pours into the streets, waiting for ferries, looking for ticket offices, and escaping the huge amount of beggars. The gypsies and homeless are no longer in the center of Athens, the Golden Dawn must have hunted them down, and so, on the sidewalks of the suburbs, including Piraeus, the rows of begging cans, makeshift mattresses, dirty rags and supplicating glances stretch out. We set off on the quay to avoid being swallowed up by the concrete and to look at the sea, even if it is more than an hour before the departure of our fast ferry. It will pass in a flash, as will the two hours of travel, drinking beer, eating chips and looking at the blue line of the horizon.

The fast ferry is a delight, a slow and relaxing cradle, even if outside the sea hurtles. The children sitting in front of us speak Greek and Spanish, and we study each other, attracted by the new languages.

I am curious to see this island where there are no motor vehicles, curious to see the sea of the Greek islands, curious and amazed by Greece and its continuous kidnapping me.

As soon as we dock we realize that we have made an unforgivable mistake: it is the end of July, in full season, the port is crowded and we have not booked any room to sleep. For a moment, total panic. We don’t even have sleeping bags, we wanted to travel lightly. But since I got here I’ve learned a beautiful expression – which, thinking about it, perhaps exists in all languages, something like hakuna matata in Swahili, I don’t give a fuck in English, ‘sti cazzi in Roman: the variesai. In short, WHATEVER, we’ll find a solution, the only free room in Hydra will fall from the sky, the universe will help us.

He who seeks, finds. Let’s enjoy a moment the view of this pearl on the sea, white perched houses, pebbles, narrow and intricate alleys. Let’s ask the first office. Nothing. They recommend a room rental nearby. Nothing, all full. A “taxi driver” of donkeys tells us to go up that road, to turn right, then left, then to go up that small ramp … the suitcases, although light, begin to weigh, it is an absurd heat and the climbs do not help. I leave Celeste sitting on a step with the suitcase and go up in random exploration, I’m away for at least half an hour, losing myself on purpose and finding myself again, because the atmosphere is magical and white and silent and I enjoy the walk. But nothing. There is no cot, the people I ask begin to send me back to structures that we have already seen without success. It must have been two hours now, searching in vain.

“Let’s go back to the port, maybe we missed something.” But we are quite resigned, and in the spirit of the variesai we sit at a tavern with a beautiful Alpha 66 ml, laughing at how unprovided we were and how much fun if uncomfortable will be looking for a sheltered corner and sleep on the beach.

Our host hears us and probably understands that he can’t leave two young tourists without a roof at all. Gionis arrives walking slowly and sits at the table with us. He is about sixty, has white hair and an apartment that has just been freed. He gives it up for two nights and for a little money. We rejoice. The universe takes care of us, just ask! We are exhausted by the search and drunk for the second round of beer. We laugh and release, while Gionis tells us about his family, the museum where he works, he says we can go and see him there whenever we want. The last effort and we arrive in a WOW apartment, all made of stone, with an inner courtyard and a staircase that goes up to a terrace from where you can see the port. Paradise.
We place our things, swimsuit on, and go!

We find a place that goes down to the sea, with a small space to lie down, music a bit too “in” for us, travelers on the road. And this will be our beach for the whole weekend, apart from a small exploration and a boat trip around the island. Here everything is “touristy”, the luxurious restaurants, the terraces of the restaurants all busy, the very expensive souvenir shops, the huge yachts with the sliding doors and the tables set in silver and crystal on board.
But the sea is blue and fills my eyes, the pita gyros is the best I have ever tasted and for two days we turn off our brains and the only thing that remains is contemplation, of the sunset, swimming until we can’t feel our arms, of the boats docked in line, in front of an abundant breakfast, of the steep alleys, of the night, from the terrace, listening to suggestive songs from our mobile phone and watching the port that lights up.

Yes, I couldn’t come to Greece without seeing at least one island.

An umbrella in a cave

 CLICK HERE TO READ THE ITALIAN VERSION ⸎

“I thought about it for days and days, to find a way. The tube of the pen was not good, the shape was not good and the stones did not come as I wanted. Then, one day, I turned around and saw this broken umbrella, and the idea came to me like a flash in the head!”

The sun beats, the heatwave of eleven o’clock in the morning does not forgive, and the light dazzles overbearingly with white slamming on the stones of Matera. In the middle of the sidewalk there’s a small pedestal with a strange sculpture, its silhouette almost blinds in contrast with the narrow and dark entrance of the cave. It is the sculpture, despite the darkness, that seems to push you into it.

Vincenzo stands there at the back of the room, giving his back to the visitors, bending over his dusty work table. As soon as the eyes get used to the drastic change in light, white prevails in his workshop as well: in addition to the immaculate shirt, the tuff sculptures, which is actually calcarenite “but we call it that way because it is simpler”, fill each wall, placed on shelves and shelves, hung, leaning against each other, all on display. Ashtrays, vases, heart-shaped pendants, animals, frames. And cribs. Vincenzo gets whole blocks of tuff and sculpts them in the smallest details until they become glimpses of Matera, of its oldest and most enchanted part, and stages the nativity, populating it with tiny clay statuettes that bakes in an oven and paints by hand with tempera colors. “The comet star is very important, it must never be missing”, he underlines.

It’s fun for a world, Vincenzo, to make those who enter guess which are the tools he uses to sculpt this or that particular. Because no one guesses. He created the “chianche”, the slabs that pave the streets and neighborhoods of Matera’s stones, breaking the handle of an umbrella bag, using the two tubes obtained as a stamp on the stone. “And the window? You can open it, you see?”. A hidden switch, and all the cribs light up. In the cave, a miniature viewpoint of Matera’s stones landscape in the evening. He also makes the cribs inside the bread, or with papier-mâché. In his blue eyes, a leap of satisfaction, the joy to show his creations, like a child who has just finished his most beautiful drawing. His strong hands gesticulate, indicate, rub into a cloud of white powder left by the limestone. On display on a notice board, the photos of all the actors, directors, journalists and celebrities who have passed through Matera and honored him with a visit.

He remembers when he lived in one of those caves when he was a child: the chicken coop was under his bed and the donkey was part of his family; the last of four brothers used the worn-out clothes of the elders; the witch was carrying a toy gun that the next day disappeared mysteriously to reappear the following year, passed off as a new gift. “We didn’t even have money for soap,” he says. He began working as a coach builder at the age of 9 for 300 lire a month, then around Italy, blacksmith, carpenter, upholsterer, policeman, then official of the prefecture for 30 years. “I couldn’t stand still in the same place, after a while I always got tired! He met his wife in Rome and took her with him to Matera; now, at 61 and with grey hair, he has two daughters and four grandchildren of whom he is proud. He has always cultivated a passion for sculpture: since he was 11, he spent his free time working with white rock, the passion that after years has closed the circle and brought him back home, in the rocks of the underground city, where he continues to sculpt and create, “WITH HEART AND LOVE”, he wants to tell it, because that’s what counts.

Vincenzo gave me a heart as a present. A white heart from Matera ♡

Romics Cosplay

Cosplay at International Comics Festival Romics, in Rome.

Pictures published at LaRepubblica.it

©Elena Mantovan

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Cyclique, Collectif Coin

Ieri sera alle 10, a Tor Sapienza non c’era praticamente nessuno.. però c’erano dei palloncini magici.

Grazie al Collectif Coin e a Urban-Maps!

©Elena Mantovan