The Mountain

Claire Power

2018 - 2020

The Mountain is an enchanted place where humankind comes face to face with the mystery of its own existence: being at once inside and outside of nature. Banished from Eden, man still exercises the divine right of ownership over beasts and plants which he’s named. But humans work the land with their own sweat and to the land they’re destined to return.

There is no place where the illusion of human omnipotence is so fragile as on the slopes of Vesuvius. Potential catastrophe underlies its inhabitants everyday lives. They tame it as they can calling it mountain.

The project follows the traces of an ancient agricultural history which is transmitted through the christo-pagan rituals, through the blood and the gestures, through the relationship between beings and land. It tries to reproduce an almost tactile experience, suggestive of effort and care, bringing us back to the body as inevitably linked and wholly immersed in the material world.

The images evoke magical elements, incorporating new and ancient superstitions and mythology, potions and imaginary rites of communion and divorce. The interrelation between the photographs transforms the subjects, blurring the boundaries between the material and the symbolic, human beings and the natural world.

Vesuvius, almost invisible in the series, is a constant but subterranean presence, silent but alive, hidden, lying in waiting.

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  • One of the participant to the Festival of the Mountain, on the peak of Monte Somma, the old caldera, facing Vesuvius. The festival, officially a celebration of the Virgin Mary, has many elements of ancient spring festivals.

  • A man cutting a tree stub during the Festival of the Mountain in preparation for creating a fire to cook on. From young to old, the whole community comes together, climbing Monte Somma at dawn and descending at sunset. Food, wine, traditional dances and singing fill up the whole day.

  • A beekeeper inspects his hive after having calmed down the bees with the smoke from burnt hay.

  • An alpaca used as support animal for neurodivergent children and its carer

  • A net to protect fruit trees from hail lies on the ground after being used

  • An inhabitant of Vesuvius

  • A child on a farm spreading a chicken's wings

  • A girl plays on a swing in her father's garden

  • Collecting grape must. Vesuvius has been celebrated since Roman times for the fertility of its soil, with grapevines cultivated since the V century B.C.

  • A tree from the estate of the Royal Borbonic Palace in Portici fallen after a powerful storm.

  • A man using a winepress

  • A cauldron for boiling tomatoes. Every summer around August families get together for a few full days to make passata

  • A girl ties a horse's mane into plats. Even before the Grand Tour, visitors from all over would climb to the top of the volcano with the help of horses. There are still many equestrian centres on the slopes of Vesuvius from which guides will depart for horse riding tours.

  • A man dressed up as Venus on a carnival float

  • A boy on a farm running after goats

  • A representation of the "Death of Carnival", a local tradition of the area, usually using a straw man. In this case, the man, pretending to be dead was dragged around the town by a donkey, while his friends teased him.

  • A family having a pic-nic on the slopes of Vesuvius. Visitors have climbed the volcano since the 17th century often stopping for a rest and a snack on the way up.

  • A view of one of Monte Somma's peaks at dawn.

  • The remnants from a fire broken out in a pine wood in Torre del Greco. During the summer, accidental or intentional fires are a familiar presence. In 2017, almost 2000 hectares of woods were destroyed by fires.

  • A girl playing in the woods during an "Ecological Day" dedicated to cleaning the woods around Somma.