The AmazonLife Project. Viaggio in Amazzonia stems from a recent expedition by photographers Pierpaolo Pagano and Marco Paoli and video-maker Fabio Ferioli through the world’s most important rainforest and the last great lung of the planet.
Seventeen flights in 15 days, landings and departures, tiring transfers, long hours travelling in jeeps and on makeshift boats. The expedition certainly developed beyond common tourist routes and was marked by the hectic rhythms of contemporary style of travelling.
The expedition pivoted on the theme of water. The water flowing in the Amazon River that crosses the region of Acre, where rubber tappers live, and the water of the Rio Nigro, where the metropolis of Manaus soars and, finally, the water of the Xingù River, where the Indio Kayapò people still live. Three different but equally important areas that underline the history and culture of the Amazon and its survival that today is so seriously threatened.
The visual work created by the authors cannot be labeled as a simple travel reportage though, nor as an ethnographic or ecological accusation. In their images, the anthropologic emergency and the tragic reality of deforestation, the elements profoundly linked to the collective contemporary image of the Amazon, remain intentionally in the background.
Instead, their images reflect an artistic perspective that is entirely subjective. They describe their emotional relationship with the act of observing, rather than the things actually observed. That is why, despite the fact that the authors visited the same places, met the same people, and often even took pictures of the same subjects and situations, their personal experience and their personal approach to the world of photography gave rise to absolutely different, albeit complementary, outcomes.
Marco Paoli exhibits a work made up of 14 large format color photographs. Compared to his previous work, which was marked by thorough digital postproduction and by an abstract, painterly processing of shapes and compositions, here the images are straightforward, without manipulation. Here, the evocative strength of the portraits that take shape to the shadows is given back a primary role, likewise the soft details of body decoration, the dense and irregular braiding of light and the reflections in the water of the Amazon rainforest; all elements that produce a sense of astonishment, of welcome, and of inclusion in the nature and the culture of a place.
Pierpaolo Pagano, a languid and meditative photographer who uses medium format equipment and strictly black and white film, describes the unease of seeing without being able to observe, the contradictions of an experience that remains far in the background, separate, and unshared. His decision to assemble the images in diptychs, meaning to display a dichotomy though, recalls the 19 thcentury photographic technique of stereoscopy, where images taken from slightly different angles were paired and gave the viewer an illusion of three dimensions. In Pagano’s work, this illusion is constantly triggered and then abruptly interrupted; creating a tension that reflects his suffered bond with the logic of the expedition.
The video by Fabio Ferioli closes the exhibition, focusing on the three frames of this voyage. Suggestions of a nature mirrored almost static in the mirror-like surfaces of the great rivers touched by the AmazonLife Project. Viaggio in Amazzonia. The twilight atmosphere of the Kayapò’s huts, where the eye of the camera lingers on the skin of the elderly village master, Raoni, or on the movements created by women painting tattoos; and, then, water again, water that registers the movement of the voyage itself through motorboats silently skimming the surface of the river.
In this way, the dialogue between the photographers and the video-maker, articulated in the suggestive setting of the Boboli Garden greenhouse, becomes an anthropologic metaphor that takes on deeper meaning that expresses the diverse emotional dynamics of the encounter with the Other and an encounter with ourselves.