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Ethical question

On the Identity of a Tomato Picker

Foggia, Italy – August 2014. Portrait of a tomato picker.
On the Identity of a Tomato Picker, Dario Bosio
[I] went to Grand Ghetto, a cluster of precarious shelters in the countryside near Foggia, Italy, with the intention of documenting the harsh living conditions of the thousands of African immigrants that work in the fields picking tomatoes.

I was living in a shelter in the Ghetto as well, together with a bunch of volunteers that set up a pirate radio for the workers to use as a communication and diversion tool. Through the radio, I had the opportunity to meet and become friend with some of the people living in the Ghetto.
Soon, I started being confronted by them about my right to shoot those photographs. Many others have been here before me, they said, shooting and distributing pictures that – according to the workers – were largely unrelated to the image that the people portrayed have of themselves. It’s an image that hurts, an image that is far from their identity.
I am not what I look like, was the key concept of this long speeches I had while I was trying to understand why people were so reluctant to be photographed.

Nevertheless, I was fascinated by the vast spectrum of humanity I had been able to come across during my stay. At the ghetto I met students, teachers, electricians, musicians and rebels. People that saved money for years in order to afford the journey to Italy, a place where – they were told – they could find a well-paid job and have a brighter future. People that left their countries and families to reach the ‘promised land’ Europe. People that didn’t believe their own eyes when they saw the Ghetto. People that now live in cardboard shelters with no water or electricity, working ten hours per day for less than four euros per hour. People that had to lose their identity and become tomato pickers.
I worked on this series with the intention of telling a story in a way that would respect these people’s right to self-represent themselves, a story that leaves some questions open. I did not want to exploit their appearance again, but rather collect hints and traces that could help me create an open narrative about their struggle to identify themselves with the pictures.

Foggia, Italy – August 2014. The mosque of the Grand Ghetto.
Foggia, Italy – August 2014. A tomato. The workers get paid 4 euros per every 200Kg of tomatoes. A large amount of these money, though, is needed to pay the people that manage the transportation to the fields.
Foggia, Italy – August 2014. A view of the grand ghetto is clipped to a map of Puglia.
Foggia, Italy – August 2014. Portrait of a tomato picker.
Foggia, Italy – August 2014. The final part of the worker’s journey from Gambia to Italy.
Foggia, Italy – August 2014. A group of workers from Senegal against the wall of an old abandoned farm where they live together.
Foggia, Italy – August 2014. A bucket of water which is being saved by the worker to shower. There’s no running water in the ghetto, but the municipality brings water twice or three times per day. Apart from this, nothing is being done for the harsh living conditions of the thousands of workers that live here.
Foggia, Italy – August 2014. The journey of one of the workers from Chad to Italy is written in Arabic. His portrait is clipped on it.
Foggia, Italy – August 2014. A mobile phone with its charger. Since there’s no electricity in the ghetto, those with an electrical generator ask for 50 cents to those workers who want to recharge the phone for a couple of hours.
Foggia, Italy – August 2014. A view of the fields around the Grand Ghetto.
Foggia, Italy – August 2014. Portrait of a tomato picker.

Q&A with Dario Bosio

Photography is…
Photography is a mean of expression. Whether it is used to make statements, ask questions, create a document or evoke feelings, it is a tool which is part of a communication act. There’s no reason to exist for a photograph if nobody sees it, just like there can’t be a speaker without an audience.
Being an inherently visual medium, photography shares the immediacy and universality of Arts, and for this reason it is maybe one of the most powerful and appealing tools that we have available to express ourselves. At the same time, and differently from most forms of art, Photography needs a reality to gaze upon, it needs something to be photographed. In this sense, photography is a bridge between the real world and the inner universe of the operator, a point of view, an incomplete document, a visual form of poetry.

Photography and writing…
Photography and writing are quite close to each other. I believe that photographs can tell stories, but every story needs a narrative structure. Just like beautiful words can’t stand on their own – they would not make any sense – any given photograph needs a context to be properly understood.
In writing, the context is given by the logical succession of words, sentences and events, while in photography the narrative can be created by the flow of images or by an additional text.
Even if they surely can evoke feelings and emotions, single images can’t tell stories. This is why I try to work with images using them as small particles of a bigger and open narrative through which a story can be told. Pretty much, we do the same thing with words every time we put a sentence together on paper.

Who left the biggest impression on you?
Hard to tell, I can’t really point out a single character. I believe that we, as human beings, are just the sum of the people we have met along the way. I do really feel that I forged my character through a vast spectrum of personalities and role models I had the opportunity to meet during my life. I don’t really feel like giving more importance to one in particular, since I feel that every single encounter I did has left good and bad marks on my personality.

Tell us a little about yourself
I am a 26 year old guy whose primary aim in life is to travel as much as possible. Since I was a kid I have always been an avid reader. I love stories, whether they are real or fictional, written, filmed, photographed or told by an old man in a bar. It goes without saying that I love books.
I like broccoli, gin and tonic and acoustic guitars. I can juggle, skate and climb. I collect typewriters and, of course, I spend a lot of time taking pictures.

Dario-BosioDario Bosio (www.dariobosio.com), 1988. I was born in Genova (Italy).
Before starting with photography, I graduated in Journalism at Florence University and worked as a video-journalist.
During 2011 and 2012 I completed the TV-documentary and Photojournalism I and II at the Danish School of Journalism in Aarhus, Denmark.
In 2013 I interned at NOOR Images in Amsterdam and worked as Project Coordinator and Francesco Zizola’s assistant at 10b Photography in Rome.
Now I live in Napoli and I work on my own projects.

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