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Haunting environmental devastation showcased in new photography book

Fastidiosa book about the plant epidemic taking over southern italy from dying olive trees by italian duo photographers
(Image credit: Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina picinni / Overlapse)

Two Italian photographers are set to release a photo book, Fastidiosa, that will detail the current plight facing local farmers along with environmental devastation caused by a plant epidemic in Puglia, Southern Italy. 

An unfiltered and personal account of Xylella Fastidiosa, the intense plant epidemic that threatens Europe, Fastidiosa is the result of the Italian duo of Caimi and Piccinni documenting the environmental devastation currently facing areas of southern Italy, over a period of six years.

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The photo book features a mix of monochrome analogue portraits and landscapes, color images detailing scientific experimental efforts and research, and archival photographs with moving words from residents of the region.

(Image credit: Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina picinni / Overlapse)
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The duo, comprised of Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni, is renowned for its documentary and personal photography projects dating back to 2013. Working under the project title 'This Land is My Land', the pair spent time with farmers unfortunately facing the destruction of their history, culture and livelihood, in the form of heritage olive trees that had to be cut down in order to prevent the spread of infection into northern Europe.

Millions of trees so far have been felled as a result of the Xyella bacteria, and there is no known cure for this plant disease. First discovered in the touristic Gallipoli region in 2013, Xylella Fastidiosa has been rapidly killing olive trees in Italian regions for the past several years. 

The disease is spread via sap sucking insects and as a result can stop the flow of water and nutrients flowing through the xylem vessels of olive trees, causing them to die from the inside out. 

(Image credit: Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina picinni / Overlapse)
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Although no direct remedy has been found to save the trees, agronomists and scientists are researching solutions that involve effort to create a resistant ‘super-tree’ species.

Containing further outbreaks has meant that European Union authorities dictated all trees within a 100-meter radius of an affected tree must also be destroyed as a precaution. An economic catastrophe has resulted, causing disorder in a region where olive oil production is the main source of income for many, now cut in half, with farmers across Europe fearing a predicted spread of the incurable pathogen. 

Caimi and Piccinni took a careful approach to documenting this subject, narrating the farmers’ personal stories while maintaining concern for the circumstances and loss of income they are suffering. 

By interviewing the farmers, the photographers have given them a public voice – and you can view their multimedia video presentation (opens in new tab) that includes these discussions. While photographing this project for the duration of six years, Caimi and Piccinni lived in an olive oil mill where they also developed their film.

The photographic duo won the 2021 Italian Sustainability Photo Award for the work that comprises Fastidiosa, also winning a Gomma Grant for best black-and-white documentary story. 

Overlapse Photobooks is publishing Fastidiosa, available to order now from its website (opens in new tab) at a price of $43 / £32 / AU$60 approximately.

(Image credit: Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina picinni / Overlapse)
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A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.