Fragile and Indestructible
On how a Time of Distance turned into a Time of Closeness.
"I suddenly spent much more time with him, Martino - my 6-years-old son -, than I would normally have... It was important time. I felt I needed to try in every possible way to prevent that his natural confidence in life would break...The immensity of the task became apparent when I felt that my own confidence in life was starting to crack.''
I have been a news cameraman for over 20 years. All this time, I have travelled across all continents, except Oceania, covering conflict, war, earthquakes, disasters, upheavals. Events changing the lives of humans. But when history came to me - like to most of us - a twist of fate kept me away from the front-lines of this terrible, momentous event: the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in February, while filming on the Alps, I broke my right knee. On the day the lockdown started in Rome, in early March, I had surgery. For the following 30 days - while hell was breaking loose all around me - I did not see anything. I had seen the Taliban fighters who lost Kabul to the Northern Alliance in a prison cell. I had seen people rebuilding villages like ants in Indonesia after the Tsunami. I had seen six men carrying the body of a pope across a square packed of paralyzed pilgrims. But I did not see my people fighting against this virus in the hospital wards. I did not take any of the pictures that will tell this story to future generations. While my leg was healing, my world was limited to my flat, to about 200 square meters of streets, and to the roof above the 7th floor of my building. Like so many, I was locked down. Sensing the moment, unable to look outwards -as I had done all my life - I was confronted with another front-line. Also challenging. And, in some ways, scary. The inner front-line. Limping, I set to myself to shot a picture every day. And I did. I called the collection of them: One day at the time, which also summarized my strategy of survival. ''Fragile and Indestructible'' is born from this. This is why I left the original notes of each day next to the pictures included in the submission. Never, I think, something so uncommon - being confined in one's own house - was shared by so many humans at the same time. Unable to fight fear with action, I was left to watch the humans I love the most - my wife and my son - go through this storm. Day by day. The first picture of these series refers to the last noteworthy story I filmed before the lockdown started and the last one refers to the first one I filmed when I went back to work. They are both strangely symbolic and pertinent. All the ones in between, all taken with a phone (all I had with me), are the pictures from inside the watershed. They were the real surprise for me. The tale of an intimate microcosm, where I could feel the whole world breathing in this suspended time. It surprises me that such a limited space, a space I had not chosen to shot in, offered these pictures to me, every day. Each of them brings me deeper towards my inner front, in a different way. And each of them came unexpected. This doesn't say much about their quality, which I cannot judge. But it tells me a lot about photography. It tells me that the world - no matter what happens - is still such an incredibly beautiful place to photograph. And this must mean something.
At a deeper level, however, these photographs tell a tale of the challenges of fatherhood. As the pandemic stroke, I suddenly spent much more time with my 6-years-old son than I would have. In fact, he is the protagonist of most of the project's photographs. It was important time. I felt I needed to try in every possible way to prevent that his natural confidence in life would break. I had seen it happen, in my journeys. I had seen it in war but, more, I had seen it in the eyes of humans who had lived through natural disasters. I had seen it in Indonesia, after the 2004 Tsunami. And after many earthquakes, in Italy. In a child, I felt, that confidence in life is like a little, fundamental flame that must be protected at all costs. As I felt my own confidence cracking I could sense the immensity of the task. But like with many immense challenges, the way forward had to be simple and physical. Be together, here and now. A storm mode: shifting all energy and attention on the solutions rather than on the problems. Will it work? I don't know. I think it will, it has to. But, in truth, I don't know. Anyway, I could feel our hearts at it, together, every day. Fragile, indestructible. And this is no small thing.