In the green splendour of Lombardia rises Lodi, a small city founded by Frederick Barbarossa almost nine centuries ago.
In the past days the small town, far from the urban rolling swarm of its county seat, has been on the main pages of many international magazines due to a recent and extremely controversial policy.
Parents had to declare their assets in order to qualify for the standard cost of meals, those who failed to do so were then obliged to pay the highest price for it (€5 per meal per child). This request was obviously harder to respect for migrants family, since getting such papers was either impossible or meant flying to their country of origin; a problem that led the children of immigrants to pay more for school lunches than their Italian counterparts. The ones who were not able to pay such price were excluded from school canteens and forced to dine at home – numbers speak of more than 300 children as first reported by Piazza Pulita (an Italian television talk show).
While Lodi mayor was absolutely irremovable on the matter, finding the support of many Italian families, others were not of the same opinion and in a couple of days 145.000 € were collected across the whole peninsula to cover for the expenses of the kids who were not able to afford school meals. This incredible act of kindness momentarily hushed the far-right party, despite Salvini’s initial immoderate support to mayor Sara Casanova.
In the same days of the scandal, Lodi houses The Festival of Ethical photography – now at its eighth edition – which intent is to “bring the general public close to ethically significant contents using photography as a means of communication and knowledge”. During the years the festival curated numerous exhibition, displaying the photographies of many photo reporters from allover the world. The festival raison d’être is commendable, yet in the past days it was often accused of not adopting a position on what was happening in the town. We had the chance of interviewing one of the creators of the festival, also founder of the Gruppo Fotografico Progetto Immagine (coordinator of the initiative), Alberto Prina and ask him more about the matter.
P: In the past days the festival has been attacked quite frequently, accused of not taking a position on what was happening locally, would you say something about it?
Alberto Prina: Concerning what happened we said all the necessary in our public statement. Anyway our philosophy can be summarised in two main points: we talk through photography hence we make our choices in this field; the aim of the festival is to give a voice to photography and photographers. If somebody thinks that photography is not strong enough, we are sorry, but we decided to organise an exhibition on what is happening next year, once again we choose photography as a tool to express and take a position.
P: One of the most praised quality of photography is in fact its objectivity. Yet people is criticising the festival for not “picking a side”…
A.P: When we created our association, almost 28 years ago, we struggled in keeping politics out of it. We preferred to be equidistant from every party. Once again I would like to say how the festival is not running away from picking a standpoint – despite this being something we have been accused pretty often in these days -. We hope that our way of “creating” culture will not be perceived as something abstract, but as something that we actively work on in very earthly ways, for example the space where the festival take place has been restored on our expenses.
P: Yet the festival is connected to Lodi, a town that has not been very ethic recently, is this a contradiction?
A.P: The festival is not sponsored by the town, which does not provide a penny to it, the same goes for the Mibac. We won a local competition and had then some money from Lombardia but that is it. The town only supported us by participating to the cleaning expenses for the space we are using, which will be later used from the town itself.
P: So much has been written on the festival, from people suggesting to boycott it, to random accusations, would you say something about it…
A.P: I am sorry that a lot of inaccuracies have been written on the festival, with people suggesting to boycott it, saying that we were not saying anything about what was happening because the municipality was sponsoring us; once again, the town does not give us money.
P: What about the declaration written by Premio Voglino, which is hosted by the festival isn’t it?
A.P: Yes, it was initially connected to the Festival of Salso Maggiore, when it closed we decided to hosted it here. They tagged us in their public statement, the one addressed to Lodi mayor. Personally I appreciated a lot the ending question “what kind of photography of this country do you want to provide?”.
P: Is it true that a photographer decided to take away his photographs from the exhibition?
A.P: We were sorry about it, yet this is still a way of expressing one’s opinion. We have been criticised for “portraying only what happens far way from here”, but as I said we took this consideration and decided to create an exhibition that ponder on this very situation.
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