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  • 14.644

    Almost twenty years ago, I was flicking through my parent’s wedding photographs album. In one of the picture, there was a young man, smiling alone. I’ve never seen him before, so I asked my father about him. He told me: “He's Umberto, your cousin; a few years after the marriage, he decided to disappear”. Nobody knows what he did, and nobody knows where he could be today. We have just our “last Umberto’s picture”, smiling behind his 70’s glasses.

    In 2010, I started the project 14.644. 14.644 is the number of people who have disappeared in Italy since 1975. Approximately 400 per year, more than one every day. Until now, none of them have been found. The reasons for the disappearance remain undetermined, but all of these cases fits one definition: voluntary estrangement. On any given day, at any given hour, anywhere, men or women decide to cut their ties with the past, with their social and family roles, with their image. Thanks to the collaboration of an Italian journalist and the study of documents from the Italian Ministry of the Interior, I constructed a map of the places where missing people had been seen last. The idea was to locate these territories, which had become places of a processual truth (it is from these places that the police investigations began) following the testimony of a person who had recognized in the portrait, submitted by the family, the missing person.

    I photographed these places to create images that contained a possible truth through the gaze: an old photograph of a missing person, a witness, a photographer, an observer. This stratification of gazes could thus generate a new reading of a territory, which until then was banal and unnoticed: a geography built on the recognition of an image and on the belief in this image.

    The photographs of this project did not escape this construction of a visual truth. But if these images are to be considered as documents, then they should be regarded as “weak”, temporary documents, valid only until another witness thinks he or she has recognized the missing person in another place. At that moment, what will become of these photographs? What is the nature of these documents? What truth do they hold? Is there truth in an image only if it is shared by its observers?