In the five-year documentary project On the Route to Ruins: From Baalbek to Bukhara (2018–23), I chronicle the physical, cultural, and economic transformations occurring along the Silk Road as great tourism programs are instated. From Jordan to Kyrgyzstan, then beyond into China and India, I photograph contemporary specimens of the monumental—from restored ruins to amusement parks to agricultural and construction projects—and record the stories of the individuals working within the tourism industries.
This exploration of Southern Italy exists as a side trip of the larger project due to Italy’s already established tourism industry. Still, Southern Italy’s links to North Africa and Arabic cultures, along with its economic struggles, tie it aesthetically to what I discovered in Lebanon and Jordan. Someone said to me of his Sicilian land: It is “amara”. Bitter. I told him I would say “raw.” He replied: This is the same. I sought out this raw edge during my time in Sicily and Naples, eschewing the more traditional sites and views that felt over-manicured after the awe experienced in rough-and-tumble Baalbek and Petra. These photographs, then, are quotidien moments, quiet, turning away from the grand so to contemplate the qualities of what might be bitter—a taste, it should be noted, that the Italians cultivate. It is with a sip of “amara,” of course, with which one ends the traditional Italian meal.