Book Reviews

, Dust, Kehrer Verlag, 2013

Winner at the SI Fest 2012 of the Open Your Books Prize, given to authors of self-produced photo books, Dust is Michele Cera's first book.

Dedicated to the face of Albania, it is in fact the binder book of all the faces of Albania, portrayed along that dusty strip of land overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Michele Cera deconstructs the ideology of linear narrative in order to produce in a single frame the catalogue of the human universe of Albanian people. 37 photos but a large literature on the issue of marginality, geophysical and anthropic in total camouflage.


It is an ordered sequence of images whose compositional structure is always the same, id est articulates around the geometric shape of the square in which the human figure not only lives, but it is made ​​unique and tactile in continuous cross-reference between man and surrounding landscape, both absolutely present but precarious.

While cities disappear into the universal topographical anonymity – as well as the subjects escape the determined gaze of the camera – these frames consider the urban environment primarily as a human environment and then as the ground for a game of participation between the author and the landscape, activating it of coexistence and interpenetration.

This strong immersion of the omniscient narrator is justified and defended by the will of the same Michele Cera to surrender to the memory of his grandparents who have raised the parents in Italy after the Second World War.


A book in which to walk among the ruins of a post-war Albania (or is it Italy?) with the over-exposed language of photography and of that autobiographical feeling that keeps everything together as a rebinding.


Valentina Isceri: Can you tell us how did you start this story?

Michele Cera: I could say that I started when I set foot for the first time in Albania, in 2007. At that time I was in the suite of the Association of Engineers Without Borders in Bari and I was driven by curiosity more than anything else to a country so close to my city and in the same time so different. At that time I had no photographic project in my mind or the idea to go back there several times.

Valentina Isceri: The line of "dust" that separates or unites more geographical borders between Albania and Italy (where Albania always seems to long for italian dream and Italy seems not to recognize itself, in his own imagination of 80s.) also seems to mark a further dualism between distance and proximity. The progressive action of distance – proximity – distance, made ​​by the author concerning the subject being photographed, is perfectly tangible in the sequence of the pages of the book. So I ask you: how, and if, did you get in touch with these players? Can we define theme marginal compared to a strong sense of ash, sand and earth that governs the scene?

Michele Cera: We can say that I used them as unaware, protagonists figures of my attempt to reconstruct an imagination that is that one of the Second post World War. The social or psychological dimension, that probably required a different distance, interested me less. The dialectic between distance and proximity, in the case of Dust however, was very important, as well as the process of approaching the subject that, in the construction of the book, can not be fulfilled completely and turns into its opposite.

Valentina Isceri: Speaking of your activities, together with Federico Covre, we can say that with Platform Documentary you have started a true evangelization project that has as theme "the area".
That's because in your opinion it is a constant of the urgencies documentary?

Michele Cera: The term "evangelization" does not make me feel at ease. I do not feel to belong to the "Church" of the photo of the territory, it is certainly an interest of mine, but not the only one. However, Documentary Platform intended to be an archive of photographic projects on Italy (and not only on its component strictly territorial) made ​​in a manner "documentary." This term, however, does not lead to an unambiguous definition and presents a series of theoretical problems not easy to solve. Let's say that we have given a very restrictive interpretation, however, is not free, I think, to some ambiguity. What is certain is that our intention was to watch Italy through photography, rather than look at the photograph in Italian itself.

Valentina Isceri: You lead seminars on architecture and urban landscape with tha LAB for four editions, almost five. The same director of LAB is primaly made up of engineers and architects and very often meetings collect the presence of people interested in landscape. In your opinion, there is anything in particular that attracts the eyes of an architect / engineer? Why so often happens that a photographic product of great artistic value today is "manufactured" by an algebraic mind?

Michele Cera: What I can say is that very often the training of an architect / engineer involves an analytical attitude to reality and attitude to the project. In addition, there is an obvious connection between the object exposed to the attention of the photographer of architecture and landscape, and the object of study of a professional architect or urban planner.

Valentina Isceri: From Andrew Phelps to Zed Nelson and Cuny Janssen and Jan Kempenaers, from Polignano a Mare and Madonna Grottole in Cisternino/Torre Canne and Molfetta, four authors and four different pathways for the formation of your Southern Photographs: would you leave us a short comment on each experience?

Michele Cera: I believe that the four authors until now main characters of the four workshops have given each one a different contribute depending on their personality. However, all of them have oriented the participants on a journey that faced the issues of contemporary urban development every time with different accents, without forgetting an approach that could be more social, especially in the case of the workshop conducted by Zed Nelson in Cisternino.

Dust was published last November by German publisher Kehrer with the support of Lab – Laboratorio di Fotografia di Architettura e Paesaggio with which for some editions Michele Cera has been training the eye of many photographers and enthusiasts.

Michele Cera was born in Bari in 1973 and his work is represented in major public collections, including the MAXXI in Rome, the Museum of the Territory of Biella, Boundary Line for Contemporary Photography. He won the Atlante Italiano 07 Photographic Prize and is co-founder of Documentary Platform, a visual archive on contemporary Italy.

Kehrer Verlag
Number of pages:
72 pages
20 x 24 cm

Curated by Valentina Isceri

Translated by Emanuele Spedicato