Even though a quite late approach to the world of photography, Alessandro Vincenzi (based in Barcelona) becomes a great example into the documentary image. His first experiences with a camera go back to the university times with some friends inside his father’s garage.
While instead the 5 years as a biologist for Medicines Sans Frontiers will seriously bring him closer to photography, fascinated by the nature and the local life of communities met during the missions.
When the communication department of MSF decided to charge him of documenting refugee camps in Bangladesh, interviewing and portraying people, it became clear for Vincenzi that it would be the beginning of his personal mission as photographer. And that all the stories, places, people discovered during the five years will be of great influence for his career.
He says “the important of these experiences has been decisive for understanding different cultures and maturing respect towards other people situation.”
This respect for the around, together with being honest and trustable have been the keys Alessandro used to approach realities he was about to document. Unlike the multiplicity of other documentary photographers who have always shown distress and the difficult conditions of people and places, Alessandro Vincenzi decided to explore something different, unknown: his eye was captured by what is so far from us that is almost forgotten, places, lands and people that struggle to preserve their origins, their status.
This curiosity for what is hidden (even from the media world) is reflected into a big portion of Vincenzi’s research, the one regarding the Eastern Europe. He started visiting Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Crimea, Russia, photographing marginalised communities, “minorities all enriched by their diversities, that I consider a heritage for our society, not a threat”. Through his camera he has been able to understand and narrate diversity, considering these communities in what they are close to us, not distant. And only the fact of portraying them has meant spreading voices and truths that otherwise would have stayed silent.
Among the series about the Eastern Europe, Forgotten Italians represents the community with Italian origins living in Crimea and survived the discriminations and deportations. They are people who have changed their names, lost their documents to protect themselves, becoming by the time confused about their traditions, as if they don’t have any.The interest from a compatriot who wanted to tell their stories has given them a new strength to preserve, remember and attempt to be recognised as a minority.
Photography for Alessandro is the link between those who have a story to tell and those who have the willing to hear. His clean and minimalist images are full of messages to open to the world, they connect forgotten people as much as forgotten places or worst, on the verge of extinction…
Following the same line that investigates hidden realities and forgotten traditions especially in Eastern Europe, the Italian photographer dedicates himself to document an idea of nature nearly lost, and the relationship between the human being and his surrounding.
A land can’t be considered without a man and vice versa, a man without a land, he explains, they keep influencing and shaping each other, until we don’t remember anymore what is natural and original.
Everything is deeply explored in Man, Water and Fire, a still on going project started in 2015-16 after the spectacular encounter with the land of Lanzarote in 2008. Into this line of what must be preserved and documented, Lanzarote is an example of pure nature maintained in its authenticity and territory, since 1993 in fact, Lanzarote has been granted by UNESCO with the title of Biosphere Reserve. A minority inside the present landscape, damaged by the time and humans.
There is a kind of assonance between the Italians in Crimea and the East communities suffering to be protected and the Canary island, a place and a community of inhabitants working to preserve their beauty. “Lanzarote is still a magical place also thanks to the commitment of its inhabitants”.
Alessandro Vincenzi has been so fascinated by the volcanoes, cactus, lichens and lava circumscribed by the impetuous ocean of the island, that they never left his memory. He started going there relatively often, also thanks to his parents who decided to settle there, in a small fishing village for almost a year. Every time this land is able to give him something new, to enrich his need, Vincenzi says: “once I won’t be able anymore to feel and live new emotions, that will coincide with the end of the project”.
Unlike the other series, made in colour and with digital cameras, Man, Water and Fire has preferred the black and white film. The white refers to the colour of the villages as much as the black is the sea of lava all around. Into this bare, kind of lunar, landscape the photographer shows just few elements by the time (rocks, palms, waves, men in their activities into the territory). The analog method in fact allows the photographer to be more reflective about the characteristics and rhythm of the island, as much as the monochrome makes this project in a certain distance form the touristic “post card effect” that always accompanies Lanzarote. He wants to present this place as it is naturally and authentically, when he started five years ago, the photographer wasn’t searching for a specific story to tell, he only wanted the one that was already there hidden in the traditions of these places, and “that best described the land-water-man bond”.