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The Book Column : Mattia Balsamini and Raffaele Panizza : Protege Noctem


For The Eye of Photography, photographic books are as important as an exhibition or a portfolio. They make the history and the news of the medium. Our correspondent Zoé Isle de Beauchaine takes a tirelessly curious and informed look at the latest releases.

While 83% of the world’s population has never seen the Milky Way and the stars are invisible to the naked eye in most of our cities, Mattia Balsamini, photographer, and Raffaele Panizza, journalist, publish Protege Noctem, the result of a two-year investigation into the consequences of light pollution and the solutions implemented.

The disappearance of the night is an increasingly alarming phenomenon. The loss of the circadian rhythm is having disastrous effects on human health, ranging from depression to diabetes and cancer. Diseases have also been detected in animals, especially the nocturnal ones.

Artificial lighting emitted from all over our planet is causing considerable disruption to our ecosystems. Raffaele Panizza gives the example of the moth. Exhausted by hours of twirling around night lighting, it dies before being able to mate or to participate in the pollination of flowers, thus hindering the cycle of daytime insects. Plants are losing the sense of seasons. Migrating birds are losing their way. Nocturnal species are threatened with extinction.

An apocalyptic scenario that is echoed in Mattia Balsamini’s photographs. The ominous atmosphere of his series, a certain aesthetic research, the light effects, the play between macroscopic-microscopic and positive-negative reminiscent of experimental photography, as well as the dynamic layout grant this documentary series an artistic dimension, bringing it closer to fiction.

Mattia Balsamini’s images also show various research sites, animals and humans undergoing all kinds of tests, as well as scientific documents: the Italian duo travelled the world to report on studies and ways to fight light pollution, initiated by scientists but also engaged citizens. Some municipalities are now installing softer, blue-light-free lighting. Amber lights are an example, as well as the red ones placed in a Dutch town to protect the local bat communities.

With compelling texts and a visual process moving away from the traditional documentary approach, Protege Noctem delivers a striking and necessary investigation on the scourge of artificial lighting and the means deployed to overcome it. It should be noted that in France, according to the National Biodiversity Observatory, 85% of the country is exposed to a high level of light pollution…


Mattia Balsamini & Raffaele Panizza – Protege Noctem

21×28,5 cm / 200 pages
800 copies / Hard cover
Design by Multi Form
Published in February 2023
ISBN: 979-12-80177-22-3
In all good bookstores and online

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