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Sebastião Salgado: When we drink coffee, let’s never forget that each bean has been touched by a human hand

Culture / -

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© Dal Pozzolo

Sebastião Salgado was born into a family with lots of brothers and sisters in the inland state of Minas Gerais in Brazil. His father transported coffee to the ports on the coast and he himself later became an economist and worked for the International Coffee Organization, later deciding to bear witness to the sustainable development of the planet. Here, Sebastião Salgado narrates the journey taken by coffee, from plantation to cup, via his photographs.

What is the message that you would like to convey in this exhibition that forms part of the Coffee Cluster
The planet has one big problem. There’s lots of talk, lots of conferences are held, but little is being done on the practical level. Too little is being done by people amongst themselves, which is where things really get achieved.
The images that make up my exhibition show the people who are actually producing coffee. There are about 24 million families engaged in this process, and they have been doing it in the same fashion for the last century. Indeed, very little has changed in the interim.
This exhibition in the Coffee Cluster is aimed at prompting people to understand what lies behind the everyday cup of coffee. Coffee has become a popular product, with an upmarket image. I want to show the concentration of income and technology that underpins coffee production.
I was overcome at the inaugural ceremony for Expo Milano 2015. The Pope’s speech concentrated on a new kind of love for others, a different way of sharing, and of respect for the earth. Change is needed.
The great hope is that, an event as major as the Universal Exposition, which has considerable public acclaim, and which is likely to get tens of millions of visitors, can serve to engender real sharing. This would create a different world, not one based on exclusivity as we have had before.
At the inauguration, Matteo Renzi, Italy’s prime minister, said the same, that we need to move away from a habit that is too common in the developed world and among intellectuals: that of using good words, and shift into engaging in good actions.

In order to create this reportage, you had to meet the coffee farmers and those that work the crops. But do these people taste the finished product? Do they know what coffee tastes like?
Yes, they do. They don’t drink their coffee roasted the way we do, but they do drink it.
Everyone that produces coffee, loves it. I had to spend a lot of time with the coffee farers when I was making this reportage, I had to get close to them, and to be with them. It was a great pleasure to be there, and coffee came to play a major role in my life too.
We became very close: these are very simple people, very human, honest and dignified. They live in their own communities, as can be seen in the images. They’re not poor. They pay for their children’s education, for social services, for medicine, and they all have their own homes. They do work from morning till night, though, and they may not be adequately remunerated for all the labor they put in. I hope that Expo Milano 2015 will provide the chance for people to be more honest in general, and that this will lead to people’s contributions being recognized in an appropriate fashion.
We need solidarity: there is a sore need for solidarity on the planet. I would like to think that Expo will provide the chance for people to start talking and putting solidarity into practice.

Your images promise to take visitors on a journey “from the soil to the cup”. Can you give us some background on just two of the photos?
There’s one that shows a member of the Massai people picking coffee beans in the north of Tanzania. The Massai have their own community, their own land, their own livestock, but they choose to work as laborers in the larger plantations. That said, they take their culture and their own traditions with them. In this image, we see someone wearing the typical Massai jewellery.
In this second picture, we have women in Ethiopia working in a place where coffee is selected for the export market. The coffee beans are collected, cleaned, and then sorted, one by one, by hand.
I believe that this image teaches us a lesson: that when we drink our coffee, we should bear in mind that every single one of the beans that have gone into creating that welcome cup have, without exception, been touched by the human hand, from the person who grew the beans, to the one who cleaned them, to the one who selected them.

Your commitment in terms of protecting and safeguarding the environment is well known because of Instituto Terra, the civil, non-profit organization, that you founded in 1998 with your wife. As you traveled to make this reportage, where did you see the greatest evidence of the consequences of climate change?
Everywhere. In the specific case of coffee, during the rainy season. Rainfall patterns are changing, and this impacts when the flowers appear, and also affects the pace of the production cycle, and the habits of the farmers. Everything is changing so quickly and the world of suffering as a result of climate change, not least coffee production.

Enrico Deluchi. Food and smiles, the most beautiful images of a universal language

Lifestyle / -

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Amedeo Novelli / Canon © Expo 2015

With all of the most fanciful architectures of the world, the thousands of colours, ingredients never seen before and visitors from every continent, to transmit the values of Expo Milano 2015 through images is a great challenge. Enrico Deluchi, Managing Director of Canon Italia, tells us about winning it.

What are the deep consonances that have helped the decision of Canon Italia to invest in Expo Milano 2015 with such a deployment of forces, energies, resources?
The deep motivation is inherent in the name, the fact that we are called Canon Italia. All my collaborators and I consider this event as a moment of pride for Italy, an Italy that wants to display itself well in all its beauty, not only for the things that everyone knows, fashion, food, but also for the ability to make. In the many years that I spent abroad I was always embittered when I heard giggling from people reading articles about us on foreign newspapers. Italy is an entirely different thing, so to see that we are playing such a match in front of the world has urged me to do something, as an Italian. For Canon Italy, to be able to participate in an event that gives us prestige is such a reason for pride, so strongly felt by the 120 employees who have chosen to come here, at the Exhibition site, to participate in something unique during these six months. Besides being a commercial opportunity, this is an opportunity to give new meanings to our work.
What is the role of Canon Italia in Milan Expo 2015?
Here, Canon Italia is Imaging Sponsor. It is a key role because an event that speaks to the world must necessarily be independent of national languages. We may not understand what a Japanese visitor or a Thai visitor is writing but if you look at their photos and their videos, I understand the emotions they want to convey. To play this role of interpreter of the values that Expo Milano 2015 wants to transmit through image is just perfect for us.
What are the shots, the architectural treasures or even the Pavilions that according to you will remain most impressed in the collective imagination?
Personally, for now I can say that I have been struck more from the point of view of the shapes and colours of the Kuwait Pavilion, that bonbon that is the Vietnam Pavilion, the fascinating work by Daniel Libeskind for Vanke and then the work by Michele De Lucchi, in different areas. Visually interesting is the ethereal English Pavilion, especially in the evening. In general the Arab and Middle East countries have done a wonderful job, with so many amazing things. But what visitors who experience Expo Milano 2015 will always remember is the atmosphere. The atmosphere is serene, there is the entire planet in a kilometre and a half, and you can hear the smells of food, music, costumes, all mingle with visitors easily, people are relaxed. If the world were a big copy of Expo Milano 2015 it would be perfect.
You mentioned the Decumano: will people remember even this long axis that accompanies visitors, or not?
The Decumano offers a memorable glance. You arrive and see this interminable avenue swarming with people. The nice thing is what happens all around them. And even here the Italians have a lot to teach, considering that Cardo and Decumano are inventions of the roman architecture.
How long has Canon Italia been present on the market, what are the figures and how much is it growing?
In Italy the products are present since the birth of Canon, the company turned 78 in 2015. Canon Italia S.p.A.  was born in its current form in 1972, with a headquarters in Verona that is here in Milan today, in Cernusco sul Naviglio. In recent years the number of employees has grown a lot even because many acquisitions have been made: for example of the Océ, leader in industrial printing systems, and, very recently, of the Integra Document Management, specialized in business process outsourcing and document management. Today, as a group, we are 1,600 people. We sell from 5-Euro calculators to massive printing systems costing millions of Euros. Few know that, between statements and bills that arrive at home or at the office, seven out of ten are printed using our technologies. We have two factories in Italy, one in Agrate (Mi) and one in Catania at the STMicroelectronics for the production of printed circuits. Our machines are located within hospitals, doctor’s consultation rooms, and when we go from the ophthalmologist probably the appliance into which we are looking is a Canon. We all know the photographic market, but we also cover the professional world (here, where we are conducting the interview we are just in an area dedicated to professionals, where we give the Expo Milano 2015 credited photographers a Canon camera), and the world of video footage for films and television: if you see a reality show or a football match, the probability that they are filmed by a Canon camera is very high. As an extension of an excellence for lenses we operate also in the surveillance systems world with the acquisition of the Danish company Milestone and the Swedish company Axis (note: a Japanese company, Canon that invests so heavily in Europe). Lastly, printing systems, from domestic to massive prints up to those for the graphic arts industry. We printed the large format images of the photographers’ shots of those who decorated the Cluster at Expo Milano 2015.
Isn’t is fascinating, if not ironic, that so high competences with scholars of the calibre of engineers – like you for example - chemists, physicians, are at the service of fun, playful, entertaining, moments as the subjects of photographs, for example children's games, countryside landscapes,  dishes on the table?
The engineer is someone who invents, and then creates. For this it, they seem sometimes reserved, their minds are always engaged in fantasy inventing new things, but then focuses immediately on how to realize them. All the things we use are the result of an engineering design, even the funnier ones. We think of merry-go-rounds. It is good to have fun but they need to be designed seriously. This is the point. Behind any technological innovation, whatever makes man’s life better, there is a scientific evolution that, in order to be replicable and sustainable must have solid bases. Canon invests approximately 8% of annual revenues in research and development, and this generates from 3,000 to 3,500 patents registered every year, placing the company among those that register more patents in the United States.
Image is a universal language, and perhaps the most universal among human gestures is the smile. For this, we have created the tag #expopeople on the Expo Milano 2015 website. In your opinion why is so good to see a photo of a smiling person?
We are prepared on this, there is also the song dedicated to Expo Milano 2015 by Andrea Bocelli that translates to “The Power of a Smile” (Il Potere di un Sorriso) ... I am a positive person, and this goes also for our company. A smile makes those who show it feel good and also those who see it. Moreover, why do children make us feel good and look so good in photos? Because they smile, they joke spontaneously, naively with one another. One nice thing of this Universal Exhibition – starting from the inauguration – is that is triggers feelings without special effects, everything is natural, without superstructures. We have worked on the basic things that are common to all men, able to join them truly and spontaneously.
Another of these things that unites everyone is the theme of Expo Milano 2015 that reminds of the atavistic act of eating. Can I ask you what is a dish linked to a special memory?
If I think about a childhood dish, I would say fried egg with the peas. Why? When I was at my great grandmother, who lived in the countryside, around the age of four or five years, I remember that we used to go to the hen house and collect the eggs and then onto the field for the peas and we just shucked them there are then. And five minutes later they were on our plate: the fried egg with the peas. I have never eaten peas so fragrant. Today, I have many favourite dishes, I am a gourmet. The eggplant-based dish called Parmigiana is very high up on my list! Instead, when I’m travelling, I enjoy local dishes very much. If we go to any country, we must taste what locals eat India, Indonesia, and Japan are magnificent from this point of view. But I would like to remind you that there is a social value that accompanies food: it is rare to eat alone. And if you eat in the company, you are creating a relationship; you are eating well, drinking well, enjoying everything more and bringing people together. It is another of the beautiful things that Expo Milano 2015 can show to the world.

Alessandra Sanguinetti: For my photographs I want to experience the contact between man and nature, even at the table

Culture / -

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A symbiosis between people, places and nature. Alessandra Sanguinetti of Magnum Photos travelled to the islands of the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean to take the photographs for the Islands, Sea and Food Cluster exhibition.

For Expo Milano 2015 you are in charge of the photographic exhibition within the Islands, Sea and Food Cluster. For this project you traveled to some fascinating and beautiful places, to islands in the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean, and have covered life in these places. Which aspects did you focus on when you selected the photographs?
During my time spent on the three islands I concentrated on aspects where people had a direct connection with the land. Be it the coral paste in Mayotte that women cover their faces with, or the use of the land as a playground, the use of vegetation for housing, for spiritual and physical sustenance. My work is just a reflection of this.

Which food that you tasted during these trips has left the biggest impression on you?
The preparation and presentation of the Lap Lap in Vanuatu. The process begins with banana leaves being torn from the trees next to the house and used as a container for the layers of mashed plantains, the catch of the day and vegetables. The banana leaves are then folded around it to form a package tied with vine.
This is then laid on a bed of hot rocks and left to cook for one hour. In the event of a village party, a large hole is dug in the ground, a fire is made in the middle where the hot rocks are placed, then the lap lap is covered in dirt, resembling a volcano, and unearthed by the children after one hour. Beginning with the banana tree leaves, the rocks, the vine used to tie the lap lap, to the branch used to grate the plantain, every single ingredient in the lap lap comes from the land it is made on.

You grew up on a farm in Argentina. How is this early contact with nature reflected in the way you photograph?
I didn’t grow up on a farm. I grew up in the city spending summers and weekends at the farm. I loved the life there, I became alive in it, but it was inevitably more as an observer than an active participant. So I would spend my time roaming the corrals, watching the sheep, cows, and pigs being herded, being taken care of, vaccinated, and eventually shipped away or slaughtered. My view of this wasn’t the practical farm girls view, but maybe a more romantic and also a questioning one. As a child I would see most things from the point of view of the animals, rather than the people, and I stayed very attune to that all through my photography project, “On the Sixth Day”.

From the farm you went to live in San Francisco: how did this change your way of eating? What locally-farmed produce to you still eat? Are there any foods that you miss, that you can’t find in the city?
In the farmlands of Argentina, the staple food is meat with very few vegetables and fruits in the diet. I am an anomaly in Argentina, for I don’t eat meat, so I can’t say I miss the food there!

San Francisco is a food oasis in the US, with so many fresh fruits and vegetables always in season, with delicious and healthy food all around. However it’s far from free, and land to grow your own food is a luxury few can afford. This came into sharp relief after visiting Vanuatu and Dominica, where because of the nature of the land, everybody has access to banana trees, coconut trees, cacao trees, avocados, mangos, pineapples, figs, breadfruit, fish and clean water.
Processed food hardly exists and delicious healthy food is made from scratch from the land right outside people’s homes. I'd never been anywhere where, no matter what the financial situation, people are so independent in their nourishment, where eating is a natural continuation of the land around them, and the way they grow and prepare food reflects rituals and traditions carried on for generations. It was beautiful to see this.
Your official biography describes you as a 'trobadora', a storyteller whose stories feature real people transported into a dreamlike, often theatrical setting. How important is the element of dreaming for you and how does it combine with your photography?
It is only with The Adventures of Guille and Belinda that I combined the dream lives of the girls by encouraging them to act them out – thus giving the images a theatrical quality. That was specific to that work. As I photographed them this approach came naturally, for it was their world I was trying to represent. And a child’s life is best explored through play.

I approach each subject or theme I work on in the manner that I intuit will be the most organic. With animals, I would instinctively go down on my knees and photograph them at their eye level, follow them around and try to be in their rhythm.

It’s the way you tell a story that matters. Every subject, place or theme I photograph, will evoke different feelings, reactions, expectations, so as a storyteller you use the best tools to evoke what the story means to you. In the case of Guille and Beli evoking their (and my) fantasies seemed like the most natural and faithful way of presenting them.

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