On the west coast of Spain, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, is a peninsula called Cape Finisterre. Its name is derived from the latin finis terrae, meaning “end of the earth.” In ancient times, Finisterre was believed to be the end of the world—even today, pilgrims still journey to the site and burn their clothes to mark the end of their pilgrimage.
Called “Lusitania” by the Romans (most of Portugal and part of modern Spain comprised this ancient Iberian Roman province), this region has a long history. And yet, the people who inhabit this area today live in conflict with its glorious past—occupying the outskirts of the European Union, they are forgotten by many of their compatriots. Editor Erik Vroons writes, “The centralization of economic power and wealth sustained by EU governments has resulted in poverty and abandonment of areas that were already disadvantaged—a process that has completely destroyed the social and economic structures of the rural communities in this region.”
Seeking to capture the aura of this place while recognizing the challenges of contemporary life in the area, Michele Palazzi created a series—”Finisterrae”—that walks the thin line between documentary and imagination. Speaking about the format of the series, Palazzi notes that the photographs are not meant “to inform the viewer about the subject on a rational level.” Rather, they hint at a specific mood one feels as they travel the region, a feeling that vacillates between awe at the region’s “mystical” atmosphere and the pall that hangs over an area where its inhabitants have to struggle, in a very real way, to make ends meet.
When he began working on the series, Palazzi moved to the region in order to fully absorb the situation and accurately compose a photographic translation of Finisterre’s atmosphere. Looking for inspiration, he came across a story in the Book of Daniel—one that would become the guiding force behind this work. In the Bible, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream where Lusitania is called “the last kingdom of God.”
Fragments of this omen run deep beneath Palazzi’s images: as viewers, we feel that we have stepped into an unfamiliar, celestial realm, and yet the photographs—closed eyes, closed doors—suggest a finite (and imminent) end. Is the European Union’s current crisis one that will spell its demise? Even if Europe remains together, what will happen to Finisterre as a consequence? Palazzi provides no easy answers (since no one knows the answers for sure, anyways) but creates a fertile space in which to wander and consider our future.