“Vaia: Conscious Journey into a Disaster.”

photographs by Manuel Cicchetti, words by Angelo Miotto

This project was selected by the Ministry for the Environment for the “All4Climate–Italy 2021” project.

October 2018, north-eastern Italy. Within a few hours a terrible storm of wind and rain upends the forests, causing millions of trees to crash to the ground. Electricity pylons are uprooted. Vaia leaves in its wake a landscape dark and so desolate as to be almost reminiscent of images of a war which brought such destruction to those same places.

Man is now called upon to consider his share of responsibility.

Vaia: Conscious Journey into a Disaster starts from this premise. This reflection upon Man’s work (first destructive, then reconstructive) begins with a glance at what happened. A glance initially astonished, then gradually more conscious, upon the landscape which Cicchetti immortalises in his stills, 34 black-and-white photographs.

The images portray the trees, now fallen; but what might they have shouted, one instant before the end? If the photographic testimony already gives voice to those plants, this work goes beyond that, and gives journalist Angelo Miotto the task of imagining the last thoughts of TwistedRoot, Foil, StraightTrunk, Bark, HappyNest and many others to whom he does the honour of bestowing a name upon them, bringing the reader their last message, like a Spoon River of our own forests.

“My name is Foil, because the last few meters of my top are thin and sway in the wind as if I were a fencer who fights against the wind. When the wind calms down I rest, ready for the next challenge. Those light blows now are no more, my blade has been broken and no-one can ever forge it again. It was not the usual wind playing with me on that day, but an angry whirlwind, I thought while I was crashing down.”

This book is at once a damning testimony, a firm cry against the abuse of Mother Nature, and a recognition of the immense work that humans – so small, in the images, compared to the magnificence of Nature – undertook from the start to repair, pitifully, however they could.

The volume is supported by The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust, who permitted the reproduction of the famous speech “Remarks Before the Platform Committee of the Democratic National Convention” given by Adams in Chicago, Illinois on 24th August 1968. The reflection turns also to how much, since then, we have failed to do.