“La terra è bassa/The land is low” is one of the sayings that best embodies the essence of the Marches’ countryside (and not only) in its sheer starkness.
It was uttered among the farmers of old and can still be heard among their successors today, who have tasted the harsh and bitter truth of this proverbial phrase thousands of times.
“The land is low” is a project stemming from the desire to unravel this rural life, starting from a small provincial village. It is a complex and multi-faceted world, forged by people who approach farming exclusively as a profession but also by passionately engaged individuals who carve an entirely new sense of belonging and identity by working in the fields. The “low land” is populated by youths who experiment in their quest for new methods of bringing the earth’s magical cycle to fruition, and by elders, who frequently rely on practices tinged with a quasi-religious dimension in their relationship with the land, but which are often more accurate than any weather forecast.
My photographs capture a world imbued with passion and sacrifice, in which the totemic power of the “ditch” marks the boundary between an archaic yet ultra-modern world and the roads we travel on daily, speeding away ever more hastily and unawarely.
After crossing the “ditch” and treading on the low land, I discovered time and space: time made of mud, and space made of wind.
Talking to the land may seem absurd, but older folks are good at it. They decide what to sow by studying the soil’s porosity and rely on the seasons, which are increasingly unpredictable, to obtain a good harvest. On the other hand, youths are resourceful: they respect traditional know-how but look to the future with a conscious eye in an effort to protect the land and the environment. They adapt to nature in performing their tasks, often privileging quality and respect for the land’s rhythms over profit. Land’s intrinsic value seems to inevitably bind the elder generations, with their faith in divine providence, while the younger generations are more passionate and eager for wholesome and authentic success, which is no easy feat.
We hadn’t fully realised the fact until now: the only setting for community life, marginalised and hardly covered by communication networks in our so-called globalised world but capable of weathering the coronavirus era, is the “low land”. How would we have survived without it and the products that crossed the “ditch” to reach our tables, despite all the odds?
It is not a question of purely physical survival, the mere satisfaction of our food needs: these youths and elders, with their feet firmly planted on the low land and their attentive gaze surveying the integrity of the ditch, indicate to us a way of living. A way to redemption that is dense with meaning at a time of pandemic. We will only be saved if we rediscover our primordial contact with that low land which is also the Mother who bore us. And for our future to materialise one day, it must rekindle that ancient spirit that generated it. In other words, to paraphrase the poet: the future is within us, before it happens.
@Alessandro Scattolini 2020