[S]ince people started sailing in the ancient times, merchants across the Mediterranean Sea have given life to a rich trade with the other populations inhabiting the Mediterranean shores. For this reason, about three thousand years ago, Phoenicians merchants, coming from the region of present-day Lebanon, founded the city of Palermo (Italy). Their aim was to establish a port on the opposite bank of the sea to expand their trades. Panormus, the Latin name of the city, means “all port” while the North Star at that time was called the Phoenician Star.
Nowadays, every Saturday from the port of Palermo a crowd of Tunisians immigrants gather to take a ferry to Tunis, thus following in the footsteps of their ancestors. Some of them are travelling home during holidays, while others are professional sellers who go back and forth every week. Anyway, all of them carry something to sell. Since the economic crisis hit Europe numerous of immigrants have lost their jobs. By reviving the old practice of sea trade, these people have created a new chance for business and an effective way to deal with the slump.
As a consequence, the ties between the different cultures spread around the Mediterranean Sea are as much alive and strong as they were in the past, even in the face of the strict European immigration laws. Merchants and travellers meet each other like many did before them, contaminating the cultures they came from. For instance, some of the Tunisians living today in Sicily are commuters that regularly go back to their country. Because of these frequent exchanges, the distance between cultures and their carriers are growing shorter.
In the era of globalisation, when huge cargos ship products from a corner of the world to another, these immigrants are modern safe-keepers of a much older custom. In their journeys by car, they carry all sorts of objects, as many as they can fit in the vehicle. Rusty bicycles, dusty scooters, mattresses, pieces of furniture and stoves are piled on the roofs of old cars and transported from port to port. As well as their products, these people bring along their traditions and knowledge, contributing to the ongoing creation of the Mediterranean culture.
Q&A with Eugenio Grosso
In my opinion photography is a mean to tell something. it is like a pen for a writer.
You can decide to use your camera to take infinite different kind of pictures and you are responsible for your description of reality. Such as a journalist or a writer, with your pictures you contribute to shape others’ opinion. I believe photography still is and will be one the most direct and strong way of communication. Today we “consume” a huge amount of images and I have the feeling young people is more keen to communicate through images rather than words. In this sense the internet, the social medias and the mobile technology have definitively changed the way of communicate has been in use in the last century.
Photography and writing…
This is a topic I often think about. I believe photography is a very limited mean and needs lot of explanations to be fully understood. There are several levels of comprehension and to really get what an author want to say you need to know more about him/her and listen from his own voice. In my opinion a good project should impresses at first glance but then should have a more deep meaning, a message to delivery to the audience.
Who left the biggest impression on you?
That’s hard to say in the last year I met a lot of new people and listened to many voices. However I think who shaped me into what I am now is my former boss and mentor Francesco Nencini. He is a photographer and director and taught me not only about photography but also about life and work in general. What I consider his most important teaching is the respect for any work you do and the fact that you have to deeply engage with anyone you work with in order to make something good. Definitively those with him were the most important years for my personal development.
Tell us a little about yourself
I am 30 y.o Sicilian/Italian and I have been working as a news photographer in Milan for 3 years before moving to London in September 2013. I am interested in stories, really love to hear, read and watch anything tells me something new or in a new way. Movies and documentaries are my favorites but I complain about not reading enough in this last period. I believe people still want hear stories, same as it was thousand years ago when we all lived in caves.
Nothing has changed, we need to know and imagine lives different from ours. I love to travel but think stories are everywhere around the corner.
Of course it is more challenging to see those when you are part of the same environment that’s why talk to other people and listen others’ opinion is so important to me.
I have no idea about the future of photography and think we all are still trying to sort out how to manage this new situation. It is scaring but a great opportunity and exciting as well.
Sicilian born Eugenio Grosso (http://www.eugeniogrosso.com) moved to Milan at 18 to study BA Scenography at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera, graduating in 2007 with honours. He has first worked as a part-time commercial photographer since 2007 and then as full-time photojournalist since 2009. He is a regular contributor to Italian publications such as Corriere della Sera and la Repubblica. He has recently finished a MA in Documentary Photography and Photojournalism at Westminster University in London. He works and lives in London.