The first image of this powerful landscape series was selected as a Single Image winner in the Documentary Category of the Magnum Photography Awards 2016. Discover more inspiring work from all 44 of the winners, finalists, jurors’ picks and student spotlights.
I live in Sicily, San Teodoro specifically. It is a small village in the province of Messina, located in the heart of the Nebrodi Regional Park—1,150 meters above sea level.
My love and admiration for Mount Etna—a volcano which we Sicilians consider our “mother”—started as a child. Often, as a boy, I would climb to the highest part of my village to sit and admire the majestic figure, smoking and muttering. I was so fascinated by the stories that were told to me: myths and legends telling of giants and gods’ forges, of caves where Cyclops were believed to live.
Over the years, my love has grown and it often led me to take pictures at different times: not only of the peak itself, which might be the most spectacular, but also from various angles and during different climatic conditions.
For example, getting up early in the morning has its undeniable advantages: looking at the mountain at 5:30 AM often leads to eye-catching atmospheres of mist, fog or snow. Sometimes, in the morning, when sky above Etna is filled with clouds and the sun is rising, the air becomes so saturated with wonderful colors that even a Photoshop expert couldn’t believe they were possible.
But generally, I like to photograph Etna at dawn, when the sun is rising, or at dusk, when the sun’s rays are the most brilliant.
The shots that I present here are the result of dozens of hikes, many of which ended up with nothing to show (though they did keep me in shape!).
As I discovered, Etna is not programmable: it might decide, all of a sudden, to offer an exciting show which begins and climaxes in the span of 15 minutes (as happened with majestic eruption portrayed in the first image of the series). But after such an eruption—with smoke columns and incandescent lapilli—you might waste the next five days waiting for nothing.
The scenarios offered by the volcano are extremely various, from white snow to black lava passing through a thousand blooms and from lava rivers to ash columns. One thing is certain: Etna’s beauty is guaranteed all year round.