Hard Seas (draft)
Project info

"Back to the sea, its immense roar spoke of a force far beyond human strength. But not beyond human skill and human courage."

"Hard Seas" was born out of a biographical coincidence. Out of an accident of life.

In the summer of 2017 I did two stints, as a Reuters cameraman, on board NGO ships rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean. It was very powerful. I saw a glimpse of the colossal Odyssey of our times, where hundreds of thousands of people - men, women and children - face the dangerous sea crossing between Africa and Europe in search of a possible life.

In between the two stints at sea I spent some time in the Sicilian port city of Catania, where I was born and which I left when I was fifteen. For very different reasons, this was also powerful. By the volcanic shores where I grew up and that shaped my heart, watching the kids of today, I was thrown back to the kid I once was at that incredible, unrepeatable time when childhood ends and one's dangerous journey into life begins.

After the summer, when I set out to edit my work, I found myself with these totally unrelated set of pictures and, against reason, I was unable to separate them. This resistance proved more stubborn than I thought and eventually, despite initial attempts to clear my personal pictures from the project, I left all of them in. "Hard Seas" is the result.

Two different worlds - the historical, tragic, brave Odyssey of so many and the reflections of one, privileged, middle-aged man on his coming of age by the sea - coexist in it and my hope is that, even if there is no obvious connection between them, they can shed some light on one another.

All the pictures in this project where shot digitally. The pictures at sea are frames from the footage I filmed during my assignments. The pictures in Sicily are shot with a mobile phone.

But to me "Hard Seas" is like a roll of film, shot in a now distant photographic era. Analogue, not digital. Like analogue films - where frames that have been shot cannot be deleted - it bears witness to a sequence of events as they were lived through. As they happened.

It is a story crafted by life rather than by thesis, by destiny rather than by ideas. A biographical coincidence, in fact.

It was a lucky roll of film, those which - well charged - had 37 frames instead of 36.

Going through it, it tells me a tale of departures - the unavoidable loss, the impossibility to turn back, the heart-ripping pain. But also a tale about the herculean effort to live - which always seems to demand the living to move forward.

But there is something else that unites all the frames: the sea. Except for an important picture set in air, on a plane, when I shot all the others I could feel - very close - the vast breathing of the sea. The indifferent witness.

All stories of humans at sea are very special for me. I think it is because we are aerobic creatures and the sea is alien to us. There is a deliberate element when humans take to sea. Yes. I think this is why. While all human stories are significant the stories of humans at sea are moving for me.