Interview of Salvatore Pipia about Melting pot

COVER_Melting PotSalvatore Pipia was born in Bagheria (Palermo, Italy) in 1966. As Letizia Battaglia’s student, in 1987 he begins to be interested in reports. He maintains many collaborations with NGO and other Italian and foreign not-for profit associations, that give him the opportunity for travelling around the world. In 2003 he specializes as psycho-pedagogical operator and begins to realize several projects on visual communication in some Juvenile Institutes and at Ucciardone Prison in Palermo. As a multimedia trainer, he worked with the Central Institute of Education Juvenile Justice in Rome and Messina.
Therefore, he looked after the realization of exhibitions, books, videos and cultural and educational events, such as “Mostra memoria del giudice Rocco Chinnici”, a victim of the mafia. He also looked after permanent photographic exhibition in the meeting room of the Juvenile Justice Centre for Sicily, in Malaspina, Palermo.
He collaborates with the photographic agency Realy Easy Star of Turin, and currently he is responsible of the photography of the review “Sottotraccia” (Navarra editore, Palermo).
His photos have been exhibited in Brazil, Guatemala, Mozambique, Canada, United Arab Emirates and Italy.

What is photography to you?
“Certainly photography is one of the most immediate means of communication with which we can produce incredible images, sometimes because of their apparent adherence to reality, sometimes for their surreal transcendence. In any case, a good picture can give the viewer very strong emotions and allows the photographer to tell about himself. But the reportage is an different art of communication because it has conceived after: the photographer never knows what he will bring out from his works. Only a strict selection, later, will allow him to represent his emotions. No photo reporter produces the same images to those of other photographers. Everyone chooses different viewpoint depending on his emotional experience and his own culture, and the miracle is this happens at the time of the shot. Personally, I am always surprised at what I find in my works”.

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What does it mean following an NGO as a photographer?
“I have the opportunity to work in some NGOs both as photographer and entertainer. I went abroad to tell and convey, to educators and young people of other parts of the world, my experiences working with guys so-called at risk of involvement in criminal activities, in the poorest neighborhoods of Palermo, in juvenile prisons and on the streets. This double perspective allowed me to absorb more easily the “other” cultures which I knew very little. Being with these guys, playing with them gave me the opportunity to share special events and emotions. I have always been part of the group and it helped me not to judge, to perceive their differences with less prejudices. I am not an idealist, and I do not think the work of NGOs can change the world. Certainly, however, it can help many people to become aware, to deal with different cultures and to learn or refine new methods of communication. And moreover, it can help to hope for a different future and to fight to get it“.

Dubai: Dubai creek (United Arab Emirates) from the book Melting pot.  © Salvatore Pipia / Realy Easy Star

Dubai: Dubai creek (United Arab Emirates) from the book Melting pot.
© Salvatore Pipia / Realy Easy Star

You travelled a lot but which one is the country that impressed you more?
“Certainly, the country which has most influenced my way of working with other cultures is Guatemala. It was my first mission abroad, in 1995, my first trip out of Europe. I found myself into a magic world, very different from mine, everything was incredibly different. To me everything was attractive but to my students everything was trivial. At first, they could not perceive the rarity of their everyday life. They often returned just pleased to have took a picture of a big sport bike or a luxury car. They did not realize that those people, with their precious and colorful costumes, could be the object of photographic interest. Finally they thanked me for helping them to look beyond.
Moreover, I left my heart in Mozambique. It is there where I found the past I had heard by my ancestors: the dirty alleys, misery, lack of hygiene, light and water. All the things my grandparents have told me during my childhood, had now materialized. I lived them in a distant country which was coming out with difficulty from a long civil war. I loved that country and its people”!

Why Melting pot and who do you turn to?
Melting pot is the expression which indicate the mixture in a human society: the mixture of races, traditions and cultures which, more and more, are affecting the urban scenes of our cities and, therefore, of our lives. In my stories, certainly, different and conflicting feelings and experiences clash. For a long time I felt the need to tell small anecdotes about the shots of my pictures because each photo is the result of a complex experience, a special alchemy born from emotional amalgam between me and the subject in the photo. The aim is to let the reader be part of it with his eyes and his mind“.

Institute Juvenile Criminal Malaspina, Palermo. Image from the book Melting pot © Salvatore Pipia / Realy Easy Star

Institute Juvenile Criminal Malaspina, Palermo. Image from the book Melting pot © Salvatore Pipia / Realy Easy Star

In this book there are 12 stories and 12 photos related to them, what do these different experiences have in common?
“As well describes by my friend Emilio Vergani in the preface of the book, these 12 stories and 12 photos have in common the wonder of being in any part of the world, rediscovering, in any different places, themes, feelings and emotions which you can recognize. This is the awareness that we are part of the world and we cannot know because we were born in one place rather than another”.

Melting Pot will give part of its proceeds to the Group Aleimar Onlus. What do they deal with and why did you choose them?
The Aleimar organization is an NGO which deal with projects of assistance and training in many countries around the world, on behalf of the weak people, usually women and children. With this organization I made my last trip to sub-Saharan Africa, in Benin (formerly Dahomey). I was very impressed, because, despite there is no war or conflict there, it is a devastated country, with an ancestral urban conception, no schools, squares or monuments. Social life takes place mostly along the connecting roads and seems to have no real organization. A small and poor country, but intensely exploited in the past century, because it was the ideal port of departure for the deportation of slaves towards America.
It is the place where the voodoo religion was born, the religion which fascinates the anthropological interest in the West, but which produces discrimination and prejudice. Here children are often abandoned by their parents for religious reasons, as well as poverty.
I have experienced the work of Aleimar. They want to be involved in this and many other countries with their small actions: building an orphanage, a school, a nursery, dealing with distance adoptions. Little amounts of help which is not meant to change a culture that is so different to what we know, but certainly give hope of a better life to individuals“.

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