Attesa

I’ve been quiet about what I’ve been working on this year, but with less than a month left until the end of my time at SACI, I think can finally start sharing. My thesis project has been underway for about five months; I started talking to the organization I’ve been working with in September and shooting since October. There's so much to say about this experience, but I can summarize it like this: it’s been both the most difficult and the most rewarding project I’ve ever undertaken.

Every Wednesday morning, I take the 9:40 train 40 minutes out of the city of Florence to a sleepy borgo. From there, after driving 10 minutes more into the hills, away from town, I reach a little old house. This place is called centro d’accoglienza straordinaria, or center for temporary assistance.

There are 144 houses like this in Tuscany and more than 3,000 in Italy as of 2014. Generally they are old bed and breakfasts or agriturismi or even unused vacation homes assigned by the Italian government, and their purpose is to accommodate migrants who are going through the process to remain in Italy legally. After months or years, many of these applications submitted are eventually denied (about 50-70% from this demographic) Until then, residents go to school, look for work, and wait.

This centro in particular is home for around 20 young men from central Africa, bringing with them many different cultures, backgrounds, languages, and stories. I take photographs, sometimes use my photos in Italian lessons, and use my own imperfect grasp of the language to stumble through conversations about what it means to make a life here.

From the very beginning, this was conceived as a book combining photos, interviews, and stories. This book is called Attesa, and you will be able to read said book very soon! However, until then, here is a little preview of life in a centro d’accoglienza here in Italy.

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Scusa, non parlo napolitano

Here are some quick observations after a night in Naples.

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  • For years people have been telling me “see Naples and die!” This expression has two meanings . According to the first, you can see Naples and die because you’ve seen enough splendor and beauty for a lifetime. The second definition, however, is a little simpler: you’ll die because you’ll most likely get murdered. I should note that I did, in fact, make it out of Naples alive.
     
  • The Neopolitan dialect is honestly another language and sadly I can't understand a word of it.
     
  • There are tons of advertisements to buy a tesi di laurea (graduate thesis), original or used. As I’m entering my last two months of grad school and doubting my own thesis, this could be an option. What could go wrong? Romeo and Jacopo would never notice, I’m sure.
     
  • Of course I have to mention the food. Surprisingly, I have discovered a deep love for friarelli (a type of bitter green common in the south of Italy). Less surprisingly, I also love pizza (this is not new information).
     
  • Graffiti here is like reading a conversation between fascists and antifascists with some declarations of love thrown in the mix (not unusual for Italy, but most of everything is graffitied here). Add that in the mix with the funeral announcements and statues of the Madonna on every corner and you end up with a rather, ummm, unique atmosphere.
     
  • I accidentally wandered into the filming of a Conan O’Brien special and ended up having to explain to a group of curious Italians who on earth he is. Keep your eyes out for the Conan Without Borders, in which you may or may not spot a very confused American photographer in the background.
     
  • Yes, this city is much grittier than the rest of Italy; in fact, it feels like a different country. I wouldn’t choose to live here, but I want to go back and explore it for more than just a day.
     
  • Also to be noted, this little jaunt was my last-ever field trip with SACI. From here on out I have to complete my thesis, finish my final project, and figure out what on earth I’m doing next… I’d rather go and hide in Naples for an extended period of time and eat taralli, but I’m pretty sure that’s not an option.
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Carnevale 2018- Viareggio

This past Sunday, I made the train ride from Florence Viareggio for Carnevale and all I can say is that this city takes its party seriously. If you’re not familiar with Italian Carnevale, especially as it’s celebrated here, I strongly advise you to watch a few videos of the floats online because they’re unbelievably well done (this one may have been my favorite this year!). That being said, I ended up photographing more spectators than floats. Here’s what it feels like to be in the crowd on a February Sunday in Viareggio…

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