TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY Michela Frontino
How and why you started thinking and working on such a topic like shelters?
At the beginning of my research on Rignano’s ghettos, the idea wasn’t the “shelters” topic but the desire to tell and show a very hard social contest.
I was interested in people and their lives. I wanted to tell their stories.
Who lives in these shelters? Did you have any contacts with the inhabitants?
People who lives in these shelters are seasonal workers of Rignano’s ghettos to reach Daunia lands, a district nearby Foggia in South Italy, where they normally spend 12 hours a day working in the fields to fill up an average of 10 to 12 harvest bin of tomatoes. They emigrate from Morocco, Tunis, Togo, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Poland, Romania, Albania. They arrive in Italy to look for accommodation and a job in order to send money to their relatives. They end up becoming enslaved workers with no chance of changing their condition, instead.
Your hometown is not far from the location of your shoots. Did this affected how you worked?
Yes it is, and I think that it’s the first motivation to my work. I visited for the first time the Rignano Scalo’s ghetto in 2009, but I had already known it and its drama, a long time ago. When I was a child I used to cross by car the road near Rignano’s ghettos, with my family, when we were in holiday, traveling to the Gargano mountain. During those trips, I see some people walking in the sun, tired, alone, on country roads. Every time, I thought at them during all the day, and the image of them in Daunia lands never leaves me.
In your work, the harvest of tomatoes is only mentioned in the title and nearly inexistent in the pictures. Why did you decide to keep this information implicit and to focus only on the shelters?
The choice to show the effects and not the causes of social injustice has been for me an instinctive act. In this way I have been able to express myself with greater expressiveness and stylistic synthesis.
During the three years I visited this place, I met many seasonal workers. Photographing their homes without them was, for me, a photographic and ethic choice.
Do your shots have a social value? Or is it simply documentary?
I’ve thought at the social value of photography from the first time I was in the ghettos. In my shots, the shelters are symbols of a social event. The series method is a choice to express more strongly the sense of injustice and inevitability.