Massimo Cristaldi’s Touch Ground

Massimo Cristaldi recently submitted his wonderful project Touch Ground to us at dvafoto and today we are featuring this work and a short interview with him about his project.

In 2013 alone, over 40,000 migrants braved the Mediterranean Sea in an attempt to reach Italy (and Europe). Many of these migrants ended up in Sicily and the surrounding islands. The route was a familiar one, as thousands of these people have previously traveled this route in years past during previous attempts. In “Touch Ground,” I photographed beaches, harbors, cliffs—the places where, in recent years, migrants have first reached the shores of Europe from their original homes in North Africa. The photographs form an exploration of the idea of “Terra Firma”, a coveted place, object of hopes, tragedies, happiness, disillusion, and sometimes, death. – Massimo Cristaldi’s introduction to Touch Ground

Have you made any news reportage of the immigration story in Italy?
Not really “news” reportage in the sense that I like to come back to a place after the happenings. I believe there are too many screaming photos of desperate people on those “hope boats” and, as often happens, we’re becoming indifferent to those images as they’re part now of the usual way of telling this immigration story. I would like to suggest to people a perspective of the sea from those who are coming to Italy, but still also show the perspective of those who live close to the sea. The limit between sea and earth gets a completely differently meaning on the basis of where you look at it.

How did you come to take this approach to documenting this large and important story about immigration?
In 2009 in Lampedusa I was blown away by what was happening. The traces of the arrival of immigrants were everywhere. So I started a long process of documenting the beaches, shores and the places where immigrants arrived. And started to take photographs of those places where there were many events, often fatalities, happened.

Is there something specific about landscape images at night that helps to tell your story?
Night is often the moment when they arrive. Night can be scary and the lights of the towns you see finally from the sea could mean a lot for who is on those boats.

Do you have a personal relationship to any of the communities where these boats have landed? Or with the sea?
Yes I do. I had long conversations with many immigrants that arrived to try to understand what they are feeling when arriving. What are those trips, what is the experience. Those conversations improved my idea of working on this project. The sea, on another hand, is magical for me. I love it. I was born in a city on the sea (Catania) and swim a lot. For me feeling the sea from a different perspective was a great experience.

Massimo Cristaldi was born in Catania, Italy in 1970. After receiving a degree in Geology, he began managing international research projects. Art is the environment he grew up in and photography is the way he set his creative side free. The driving concern of his work is focused on traces that man and time carve over nature and things, representing effects and signs on “what remains”, with a particular interest to the “metaphor of the borders” (see more in the artist statement). He was awarded in many international photography competitions such as the International Photography Awards, the B&W Spider Awards, the Photography Masters Cup, the Travel Photographers Of the Year and the Prix de Photographie de Paris. Massimo has exhibited in Europe and in the US, in solo and group shows and at photography festivals. He is represented by galleries in Belgium, France, UK and Italy. He lives and works both in Catania and Rome. Massimo’s photographs are part of the permanent collection of the George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, NY (USA).

Matt Lutton: 2013 in Pictures

2013 was an interesting year for me, full of travel and new experiences. I was able to see a couple of stories I’ve been trying to produce for years turn into full pieces in major magazines. I was also thrilled to join Boreal Collective, where I will be collaborating with fantastic photographers and good friends of mine. We have a lot of exciting plans for 2014, and you can follow us on twitter or facebook. Another high moment from last year was exhibiting my work “Only Unity” in Belgrade, Serbia in November. It was the first complete solo exhibition of the project I’ve been working on for the last seven years.

It has been a year to take stock and think about how to present the work that I’ve completed in my time living in Serbia and start to plan what comes next.

Today, weeks late as is my tradition here on dvafoto, I present 25 of my favorite images from the last year, presented chronologically. Now I can’t wait to get started on new projects and new endeavors in 2014.

You can follow my work more regularly through my tumblr: and on instagram: @mattlutton. Here are some of the other major happenings in my life and work last year, some of which showed up in my slideshow above:

    I completed a story that I’ve been looking in to for the last year about segregation in Roma communities in Slovakia, which sometimes takes the form of construction of barrier walls separating Roma communities from Slovak neighborhoods. The project was commissioned by Vice Magazine and published in April as “The New Roma Ghettos: Slovakia’s Ongoing Segregation Nightmare” alongside an incredible story written by Aaron Lake Smith. More of the project can be seen on my website.

    In April I attended the first New York Photo Review organized by the New York Times and James Estrin of the NYTimes’ Lens Blog.

    I spent June traveling around Croatia and Serbia for the Dutch travel magazine Columbus. It was great to get off my normal beat in the Balkans and see some beautiful sights and eat very well, especially in Central Serbia near Uvac Canyon. The photographs from Croatia are now available in my archive.

    In July I was invited to be the first photographer to take over Burn Magazine’s Instagram Feed (@burnmagazine) for their new feature “Burn Diary”.

    While photographing for Burn I visited Istanbul, Turkey for a friend’s birthday and promptly found myself photographing street skirmishes relating to the Taksim Square / Gezi Park protests we wrote about in mid-June. It was my first real experience with tear gas and rubber bullets, giving me a new perspective on the work all of our colleagues who work in these situations regularly. It is not easy.

    In August and October I was reporting in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina for the Chronicle of Higher Education for a piece that was published as “The Science of Hatred”. My pictures and work was published alongside Tarik Samarah’s photographs from Srebrenica.

    My exhibition at the ArtGet Gallery, part of the Belgrade Cultural Center, was a part of Raw Season organized by the collective Belgrade Raw, who I interviewed on dvafoto in 2009. The series of exhibitions this year included shows by very talented friends of mine, including Donald Weber (who was showing his project “Interrogations”) and Pete Brook (who exhibited ‘Seen But Not Heard’: Photos from US Juvenile Prisons.). It was tremendous fun to show them around Belgrade when they were in town for their openings.

    The year concluded with an opportunity to see through another story I’ve been interested in for years, and to do it alongside my friend and fellow Belgrade foreign correspondent Andrew MacDowall. The Financial Times commissioned us to produce a audio-visual slideshow in Bosnia and Hercegovina about the unique relationship between a iron ore mine in the Republika Srpska village of Omarska and a smelter in the Federation city of Zenica. The piece which was published online as “Zenica partnership helps banish ghosts of Omarska” as part of their annual Connected Europe magazine. More images from this piece are also available on my archive.

See some of the presentations of these stories in print and pictures from my exhibition on the published work section of my website.

My yearly roundups from past years: 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.

Thanks everyone, and see you around dvafoto this year!

Notes from the Field: Andrei Pungovschi in Istanbul

Over the past two or so weeks of protests in Istanbul surrounding Gezi Park and Taksim Square, we’ve seen a lot of stories and photographs. Some of the first and best pictures I saw though were by my friend Andrei Pungovschi, a photographer based in Bucharest. While he was in Istanbul he was making a series of daily posts on his blog about what he was seeing and photographing in Istanbul. I wanted to share some of his work from the past week and his responses to a few questions I had about how he was covering this difficult and fast moving story.

dvafoto: When did you arrive in Istanbul?

Pungovschi: I arrived in Istanbul on Thursday evening, last week.

Did you go specifically to cover the protests?

When I first saw the protests on TV I thought it was just a local issue in Istanbul about Gezi park and didn’t really think it was something that could get any bigger. However, the brutality of the police intervention on what was a relatively small and peaceful protest triggered a very strong reaction in Istanbul. The movement turned from an ecological issue into a political one. That’s when I decided to go.

How have things changed in the time you’ve been there, what is the atmosphere in the park and the square?

By the time I got to Istanbul the police had backed off to such an extent that you could not spot a policeman anywhere around Taksim Square. Each evening, the square was filled with people and the whole scene looked more like a festival rather than a protest. The park and the square are two different scenes. The square is the place where each day after work people from all over Istanbul come to express their protest, sing, dance, or simply watch from the sidelines. The park is a community of people who want to express their support for their mutual cause by living together in this place in spite of the authorities who want them out of there. Most people I’ve spoken to in Gezi seem determined to stay there until their demands are met.

Tuesday seems like it was the most dramatic day in the last week, what was it like to photograph?

Everything changed on Tuesday morning around 7am when the police decided to clear the square (not the park). They attacked with what seemed like excessive use of gas and water canons. People fought back with rocks and Molotov cocktails. These things tend to get chaotic and this was no exception. Photographing under these conditions is not complicated, because there is always something going on. I prefer to get close to people, so I don’t use a telephoto lens. The problem then is that you have more than your frame to worry about. Plus the gas. Unless you have a proper gas mask, there is not much you can do at close range.

How are the police and the protestors treating the media and photographers? Is it difficult to work?

The police ignored us for the most part, which was good. I wish I could say the same about the protesters. They seem to be very discontent with their own media, so they would often throw rocks at groups of photographers and cameramen. Once you get close to them and get a chance to explain who you are and what you do, things get easier. The other problem I encountered was the way the police used the gas. The gas projectiles are supposed to be shot upwards at a 45 angle degree. More often than not, they would shoot horizontally, actually taking aim at protesters. A guy was shot in the face a few meters away from me while trying to throw a rock.

Overall, I can’t say it was particularly difficult to photograph. It’s not war photography. Common sense rules that apply everywhere apply here as well. With a little bit of luck and a lot of caution, you can get your job done.