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Antonio Denti


The Human Fire

It is not easy to talk to a 9 year old kid about a catastrophic earthquake. It is an event that strikes right at the natural trust in life and the world that is so strong in childhood. But when I came back from my work assignment covering the earthquake in Turkey last February – as a Reuters cameraman – my son didn’t even let me put my bags down. He hugged me so tightly and at length that I knew I could not avoid tell him about where I had been. He had sensed I had come back from a form of abyss. I choose to do it with pictures – I found it easier. But not my work pictures, which showed too much death, destruction, desperation. Rather, with a series of more personal photos I had been taking, imagining one day to use them in a long term project on human resilience. They were pictures of humans huddled together around fires in front of the ruins of their collapsed houses and lives. The fire gave them some protection from the cold of the night but also from the dangers of despair. When my son, Marti, saw the pictures he told me: ”Dad, they look like the primitive humans who invented fire”. He had got straight to the essence of those pictures, an essence that still escaped me. This is how this series – The Human Fire – was born. It really is just a replica of the visual conversation I had with my son. The Turkish nights I saw were punctuated by these fires, with humans trembling around them. From a distance, it looked like the night was full of fireflies. At a closer look, like our ancestors, humans who in a few seconds had lost everything achieved by human genius and technology that had always protected them from the indifferent power of nature had reverted to fire to survive. And around those fires, throughout Turkey and Syria, their lives had already started again, they were starting to get back on their feet. ”The Human Fire” is a conversation I had with my child-son about the unavoidable shocks of existence and about the moving resilience and courage of the human being.

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