Stefano Pesarelli: a slight common thread
The bitter Taste of Malawi (2007-2009)
When I thought I could tell the workers’ day in the tea plantations, I immediately became aware that the reportage should be dealt with in black and white and not in colors. My choice was not just aesthetic, but necessary to underline the story and not the places or landscapes full of green hills and red roads.
I took photographs to tell, imagining in advance the result that should be obtained so that my efforts were not vain.
In many shots the image of the characters is not in focus, is cut or is a subjective shot to allow the reader to focus his gaze on movements and particulars that otherwise would be lost.
What I needed was a slight common thread that aesthetically bound each shot without never going beyond or becoming a symbol. The “guardian” umbrella, for example, is sign of difference in roles, common thread together with the buckets that women use every day, but also a tribute to Salgado, one of the greatest photographers alive who, with his tea plantations in Rwanda, has written this century photography story.
Margareth’s shy, cold and patient look opens the reportage and invites the observer to discover the characters that, like in a novel, are the key of the story. Women and men alternate each other in a theatrical dance with the plantations as scenery in a constant work of collecting, weighing and processing.
Everyone has his/her role: someone collects, someone weights, someone controls, someone drives the tractor and someone works in the office; they all have in common just an aim: collecting tea.
It’s evening now, the sun is setting and workers go back home. Margareth goes back to her life; her bucket is well balanced on hear head, while her boss with the umbrella goes back home.
When I chose the shot that should close the story I wanted a happy ending as conclusion of the working day.
That shot is the mirror of the reportage, there are all the elements that compose it and the schematic jobs of characters and so the guardian with the umbrella is in the middle of the scene, in focus and lit up by a bright light, while Margareth due to her social position is out of focus and on the edges of the image, almost invisible.
The story took place in the amazing Malawi tea plantations by matching life experiences with complex photographic strategies.
In the last three years I have been travelling a lot and spending many months near the workers which allowed me to have a good knowledge of the territory, of places and characters so as to be in sync with the story in a world so distant, far away, but at the same time very fascinating.
Written by Stefano Pesarelli