On October 15, 2011 there were riots in the streets of Rome, as part of the current wave of anti-government protests happening worldwide. An estimated 200 people were injured and 12 arrested in an unusual provocation compared to many Western protests (like the “Occupy” protests in the United States), which were relatively quiet.
Our friends at the Italian collective Cesuralab have published an interesting portfolio of the events, and I wanted to ask about their perspective on covering such a story in their own country, after a year of photographing protests and revolutions elsewhere in the world. Last year we talked about Cesuralab covering an earlier anti-Berlusconi riot, and in February showed amazing pictures from Cairo by Alex Majoli and Gabriele Micalizzi. In June 2010 we also interviewed Cesuralab about their collaboration.
Could you give me some background on what is happening in Italy these days, what is inspiring these protests? I know there were protests in the last year, that also had some violence. Why is there violence in Italy now when there is not so much in other western countries?
The social and political situation is really dramatic. Our prime minister is a living joke (think about the whole escorts thing and the bought votes, for instance), unemployment is at maximum level since the postwar period, fiscal pressure is very high, retirement age is increasing, and the young people have no future, just the fact to leave parents’ house seems something unrealizable.
The reason of all this violence exploding is certainly that the situation is really critical, but you have to take in count that there’s always infiltrations in this kind of events: hooligans, extreme right parties, police…they are often the ones who let everything starting. In this last case you could notice a very serious organization of the centri sociali (leftist activists) and the clear fact that the police was allowing vandalism. I mean, it was necessary to create a media distraction to cover up what’s going on in our Parliament’s house. I don’t think that Italy is the only nation in such a situation; if we consider Greece, where you can find in the streets people from any social class and age that throw molotov, and not just a bunch of anarchic kids. And in Spain and Portugal the situation is not easy either, something is gonna happen there soon as well, the “indignados” movement is already a very interesting reality.
As far as I know, you both have photographed some of the “Arab Spring” events, the rallies and the battles. How does this overlap, or does this have anything to do with, your pictures from Italy? What is it like photographing dramatic events abroad and then photographing similar scenes at home?
We actually wish that what happened in Tahrir square could happen in Italy as well; that was a real revolution. Leisure prevents the deep dissent to come to life: the dissent that drives people to risk their life to change things. I don’t think we will ever see an Italian running throughout the bullets as the Egyptian people I’ve seen in Cairo.
After the demonstration here everyone goes back home as they went to a concert or at the stadium, no one stays and keeps going with the guerriglia to obtain what they ask for.
Beside this, in terms of feeling, the pathos is the same, the anarchic mood of the violent protest is something that fills any kind of contest, religion, territory, culture, etc..
What can you tell me about how Cesuralab is covering these events collectively? There often are many Cesuralab photographers covering these events, in North Africa or in Rome for instance, are you working together on the street? Or editing together? Do you publish together?
We always try to find a way to be more than one while reporting on these kind of events because it’s quite difficult to cover the event completely if there are many people and a lot of things going on in an extended area.
What is important for us is to cover the event and preserve the quality of the work, we do not care about ‘who’ rather about ‘how’.
We generally split up in different areas, except for special situations, also because we have very different way of working. At the end of the day we edit the work together and we plan the [distribution] to certain magazines we want to work with. The work is in this way collective because every single member of the collective interacts with the other in different ways, and we deeply believe in each other potentiality. Our approach to photography is structured to create a story and not to satisfy the editorial market needs. We carry our thoughts and philosophy and try to pass it down to the people that collaborate with us.