POV

The Never Ending Odyssey.

Risking their life for a fragile dream is better than the utter desperation they experience in their home countries.

images by Simone Perolari - interview by Luca Babini

Simone Perolari is a young and talented Italian photojournalist. For over ten years, he has been documenting the immigration waves from Africa into Europe. His black and white images have a unique point of view. They transmit the angst and the drama of the thousands of migrants for whom, risking their life for a fragile dream is better than the utter desperation they experience in their home countries. Unlike most media, he doesn’t report on the ‘dead’. Instead, he spends weeks living the life of the migrants to better understand their struggle.

A meal at the Africa House, Calais ©Simone Perolari

A meal at the Africa House, Calais ©Simone Perolari

You remember the moment you decided to be a photographer for the rest of your life. In addition, why did you choose photojournalism?
I began photography by accident, as a child, I was only curious to learn how to insert a negative into a camera. (Useless now). When I turned 22 I decided to change my lifestyle, I saw an ad in a paper looking for a photographer for at a tourist resort. I met the photographer from the ad in Turin, where I lived, and told him I had no clue about photography. He told me it did not matter… I would have time to learn. I spent the summer at the resort, taking pictures by day and learning photography by night.

Lampedusa ©Simone Perolari

Lampedusa ©Simone Perolari

When I got back home, I was in love with the craft. I started contacting professional photographers to be their assistant and I finally found a great one that took me on. He thought me a lot about photography and the history of photography. He also told me I had to make up my mind on the kind of photography I wanted to focus on. Therefore, I began my first project “About Us” dedicated to famous photographers and their craft. After focusing on local photographers, I was lucky enough to spend time with some of Italy’s best: Scianna, Basilico, Berengo Gardin, Jodice etc from this project I learnt what it means to be a photographer. It was an invaluable experience.

After the crossing, Lampedusa ©Simone Perolari

After the crossing, Lampedusa ©Simone Perolari

And the ones that inspire you the most…?
After working on “About Us”, my mind was clear. I can give you a few names, I’m sure I’ll forget some… Paolo Pellegrini, Alex majoli, Joachim Ladefoged, Christopher Morris and then, of course, Capa, a myth. I also got interested in portraits hence Diane Arbus…Paolo Verzone

Afghan boy in Patrasso ©Simone Perolari

Afghan boy in Patrasso ©Simone Perolari

UNWELCOME is a complicated project with a wide scope. A logistical nightmare. You followed the migrants for a long time. Is there a solution to the problem?
The immigration issue started getting worst about 10 years ago. There was a lot of talk about it and it made me curious. Through a collaboration with an NGO I went to the island of Lampedusa (Sicily). In those days, there were not many media operators. Today there are more TVs and reporters than migrants. They are mostly attracted by the scoop of a sunk vessel. They don’t cover much of the aftermath. After Lampedusa, I went on to Melilla (a Spanish city in Northern Morocco), Oujda (on the border between Morocco and Algeria) later on to Patrasso (Greece) and finally to Calais (France).

a memory of home for the crossing ©Simone Perolari

a memory of home for the crossing ©Simone Perolari

Amongst illegal immigrants, a camera is like holding a gun. It takes a long time to gain their trust. You have to live with them, talk to them, and understand them. You also have to be aware of the authorities. Forget getting permits. You’re as illegal as the immigrants.

Police Raid - Africa House, Calais ©Simone Perolari

Police Raid – Africa House, Calais ©Simone Perolari

A solution? Oh boy, that’s a tough question. In the past ten years the situation in the Arab world has changed a lot. Life has become a horrible struggle. The disparity between the rich and the poor is immense. You have to understand that these people risk their lives and sometimes the ones of their families, because they have nothing, nothing to lose.
A friend told me once that walls to separate the rich from the poor will soon be built. Isn’t that what’s been happening at the border between Mexico and the US?

Minors detention center, Melilla ©Simone Perolari

Minors detention center, Melilla ©Simone Perolari

Tell us about your ‘unlimited budget’ dream project.
Well, I have been photographing poor and desperate people for a long time. I would like to switch to the opposite extreme and do some portraits of the extremely wealthy…

Simone Perolari Website

Shelter from the rain, Africa House, Calais ©Simone Perolari

Shelter from the rain, Africa House, Calais ©Simone Perolari

the divider between Spain and Morocco, Melilla ©Simone Perolari

the divider between Spain and Morocco, Melilla ©Simone Perolari

a boy in Patrasso ©Simone Perolari

a boy in Patrasso ©Simone Perolari

young migrants learn their new language ©Simone Perolari

young migrants learn their new language ©Simone Perolari

on the dock after the crossing ©Simone Perolari

on the dock after the crossing ©Simone Perolari

shipwrecks in Lampedusa ©Simone Perolari

shipwrecks in Lampedusa ©Simone Perolari

The wall between Spain and Morocco, Melilla ©Simone Perolari

The wall between Spain and Morocco, Melilla ©Simone Perolari

Wall, Africa House, Calais ©Simone Perolari

Wall, Africa House, Calais ©Simone Perolari

looking at the dream beyonf the ocean ©Simone Perolari

looking at the dream beyonf the ocean ©Simone Perolari

 

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