Road to Nowhere | The Photographers Trailing the Highway to Capture Calabria’s Demise

Martin Errichiello and Filippo Menichetti capture the sadness and defiance of post-industrial Italy

by Clem Fiell
Aug 7 2018, 7:53am

Italy has always been a land of political paradox. Martin Errichiello and Filippo Menichetti wanted to explore this fact, creating the photography series ‘In Fourth Person’ as a case study which documents various points along A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway.

Taking a full 55 years to construct, the road is seen by many Italians as symbolic of the economic chaos and corruption to which their society is prone.

The series also documents the transition of Calabria from a flourishing agricultural region, to a dysfunctional industrial landscape. The photographers took Calabria as a microcosm of Italy as a whole; complete with urban revolts, political experimentation, displaced people, demolished villages, and hidden memories. The series is an anthropological project to unravel Italy’s fragmented and disjointed history – a narration of 55 distinctly Italian years.

For one week, we’d drive up and down the A3 Highway – the spinal cord of the region, in a way – and look for white elephants: abandoned factories, huge container ports. As we did this, we asked ourselves: where did this all come from? And with that in mind, we investigated.

We became artistic residents in Calabria, with the particular aim of documenting the region’s infrastructure, and what has been built over the last 60 years.

I’m interested in the traces left by human presence in the landscape, and what those imprints have to say about the relationship between man and nature.

Photo: Martin Errichiello and Filippo Menichetti

We were shooting in the streets of Reggio Calabria, and came across this old lady taking down this building tape that had been put up outside her house. We always referred to the A3 Highway as ‘Penelope’s Web’ – a reference to the Odyssean myth of the web that is always in construction but never finished. This lady’s defiant gesture reminded us of the ordinary individual’s constant battle against the powers that keep our cities and streets in a constant state of flux.

Photo: Martin Errichiello and Filippo Menichetti

This was the controlled demolition of the Italia viaduct. A year before this was taken, a man died during the pre-demolition works. This was in 2015 – before our first visit to Calabria. This man’s tragedy had stuck in our minds, and so we came to observe the demolition itself.

To us, this picture represents both the hope of the past, and failure of the present. That moment of ignition is our focus in the shot – it was imperative that we didn’t miss it. Fortunately, our friend’s brother, who worked for the demolition company responsible for the viaduct’s fate, made sure we didn’t.

Photo: Martin Errichiello and Filippo Menichetti

This is a shot of the demolition equipment, burning after the explosion. This striking image of fire evokes not only the continuous transformation of the A3 Highway over its lifetime, but also the flames and smoke of the 1970 Reggio Uprising, where citizens expressed their contempt for the police with burning barricades.

Photo: Martin Errichiello and Filippo Menichetti

A shepherd, taking his herd to graze in the back-port of Gioia Tauro harbour – the same area where the village of Eranova once stood. The story of Eranova (meaning ‘new era’) is perhaps more emblematic of our project than any other. The village was founded in 1896 by the families of day-labourers, tired of the yoke of local noblemen.

The small community prospered for almost a century, living off the fruits of their land and the tourism brought by their beautiful beaches. In 1980, the Italian government announced their plans for the demolition of Eranova, to make way for a steel mill. The inhabitants were driven out, and their houses were demolished. Plans to open the mill were shelved after the demolition of Eranova, and it was never built. This is what the land formerly known as Eranova looks like today.

Photo: Martin Errichiello and Filippo Menichetti

This is the arm of Ibrahim, a seasonal worker from Senegal. We wanted to find some way to express the constant flow of day-labourers that arrive in Rosarno to pick oranges in the fields, without going for the archetypal images of men at work or in the tent cities they reside in.

In Italian, “braccianti” means day-labourer; “braccio” means arm. With this picture, we’re showing what really happened with the death of Calabria’s industry. Calabrians no longer till the fields for themselves; instead, seasonal workers from North and Central Africa till it on lower wages for somebody else’s profit.

Photo: Martin Errichiello and Filippo Menichetti

We found this tree along the seaside of Reggio Calabria. It’s a ficus magnolioides – or a Moreton Bay fig tree – and was planted in 1908 after the earthquake that nearly destroyed the city. It was placed directly in front of the only commemorative plaque of the Reggio Uprising – we thought the shape in the frame was reminiscent of a petrified face; an event, nearly lost to time, but preserved in nature.

‘In Quatra Persona’, by Martin Errichiello and Filippo Menichetti, is published by Skinnerboox, and available to buy.