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Touch Ground

Massimo Cristaldi | Italy

In the night of June, 14th 2013, a ten meter long boat arrive at the Eloro beach with 70 people onboard

 In 2013, about 42,000 migrants ventured out the sea to reach Italy and Europe, mostly through Sicily and its islands. Many thousands of people have done the same route in previous years.
In Touch Ground I photographed beaches, harbors, cliffs: places where, in recent years, migrants went ashore (or just attempted to arrive) from North Africa. It’s an exploration project on a firm Ground, a coveted place, object of hopes, tragedies, happiness, disillusion, and sometimes, death. Places that at night appeared full of meanings and in which I perceived absences that have influenced me, as indeed as a whole a migration of epic proportions has done. It is then, once again, a work on the borders, in this case between sea, land and men. Seascapes, and yet “places of the present”, places of contemporary history, theaters of tragic events for some, simply “sea” for all of us.

 We are living in a time of accelerated change. One of the unintended consequences of the technology revolution and globalization is the loss of wonder and curiosity as the world’s image bank is downsized into pixels of familiarity and uniformity. Our towns, cities and suburban landscapes are all becoming one undifferentiated, monotonous sprawl. My interest is in focused on depicting, particularly at night, this transitional moment in which the past, even a very recent one, becomes a metaphor for the present. Photography is drawing with light. At night, especially in those with no moon, the blackboard is black. Crayons and chalks are replaced with the colour of artificial lights. Sulphurous green lamps, neon lamps, almost white light halogen lamps. The combination of lights generates flashes of the absolute, in contrast to the deafening silence of resting humans, animals and things. The sensations when reviewing the resulting photographs supersede observation. A dog in the distance, a truck that decelerates and then with its headlights illuminates the scene. A rising moon at the horizon producing a light hard to be grasped. A scene. A dazzling match between my own interior idea, the sense of the on-going story I want to tell and its location; in a sequence of mental images that tell so little explicitly but rather suggest a clue, document something happened. A key that infuses mystery and ambiguity, that speaks to the borders of the visible – with the intelligibility of the subject – and inspires the viewer to find his own reading, to be carried by the image into a parallel and immersive world, with eyes like those of mine. A Border: an evergreen metaphor of the dualism that has so thoroughly permeated our culture. A physical, intangible, time border. Like pentimenti, the past fades but leaves behind its underlying traces. It is my passion for identifying and documenting these fault lines that inform the works in my portfolio. Positive and negative, good and bad, zero and one, past and present. In the boundary between the earth and the sky, while everyone is asleep, I obstinately keep watching.

 Massimo Cristaldi



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