How long is the night - PhMuseum

How long is the night

Filippo Venturi

2021 - Ongoing

Italy

The Antrona Valley (from the Latin antrum i.e. a deep, dark cave) is a territory which, for centuries, has been explored and excavated in search of gold and today boasts countless abandoned and forgotten mines.

Here lies Viganella, a town of about two hundred inhabitants which, between 11 November and 2 February, for 83 days, is not illuminated by the sun, hidden behind the natural barrier formed by the valley, thus finding itself immersed in a constant shadow that changes colours and moods.

The origins of the village in this position are lost in time, but it is assumed that it emerged around the year 1200 (the date of the oldest document that mentions the village and its community of miners and charcoal merchants), motivated by the exploitation of the local area.

The prolonged absence of the sun, as a reference but also a symbol of life and hope, provoked a visionary and poetic reaction: the installation of a large rotating mirror, on top of the mountain to the north, enabling the sun’s rays to be reflected onto the town.

For all the inhabitants, 11 November 2006 is “the day of light”, the magical moment in which the mirror, weighing 1100 kg, was inaugurated, installed uphill from the village at an altitude of 1050 metres, in the district of Scagiola, where on clear days the sun arrives and stays from 9 am to about 3 pm, giving the town square about six hours of reflected light.

This year, however, after 15 years of operation, the mirror did not work, due to problems which have yet to be cleared up, leaving the town in darkness.

Through photo archives, using portraits and landscapes, I have attempted to stratify my visual investigation into a place which, just like the photographic medium, suffers from the lack of light and, hence, the same need to make use of artificial lights. In addition to the desired and sought-after meeting with the inhabitants, in particular the creator of the Viganella mirror, Pier Franco Midali, and his wife, Paola Ghessi.

{{ readMoreButton }}

  • A horse inside a private land bordered by iron bars. Antrona Valley, Italy, 2021.

  • On the second step of access to the bell tower of the Church, there is this stone with the engraving of a symbol whose meaning is unknown. Parish Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (16th century), Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • Manipulated archival photograph. Viganella, Italy, 2021

  • Matteo Di Gioia, one of the founders of "Underground Adventures", an association born from the passion for caving and exploration. The Antrona Valley (from the Latin antrum, meaning deep and dark cave) is a territory that, for centuries, has been explored and excavated in search of gold and which today has countless abandoned and forgotten mines. Antrona Valley, 2021.

  • Landscape overlooking the town of Viganella. Viganella, Antrona Valley, 2021.

  • Rosa Sebastiani, 20, student of the Locarno Film School (CISA - International Conservatory of Audiovisual Sciences - FILM Academy). She is a member of the film crew in charge of shooting a documentary about the village of Viganella. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • Davide Londero, 20, student of the Locarno Film School
    (CISA - International Conservatory of Audiovisual Sciences - FILM Academy). He is a member of the film crew in charge of shooting a documentary about the village of Viganella. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • Aires Cristiano, 21, student of the Locarno Film School
    (CISA - International Conservatory of Audiovisual Sciences - FILM Academy).
    He holds the role of director of the documentary on the village of Viganella. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • The mirror of Viganella, weighing 11 quintals, installed upstream of the town at 1050 meters. above sea level, in the locality of Scagiola, where on clear days the sun comes and stays from 9 am to about 3 pm, giving the town square about six hours of reflected light. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • The Provincial Road that leads to Viganella. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • Gate of a house in the central streets of the town of Viganella. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • Pier Franco Midali, 61, former Mayor of Viganella and creator of the Mirror. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • Seventeenth-century banner of the "Good Death",
    kept inside the church, with the human skeleton on the front.
    Parish Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (16th century). Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • Pier Franco Midali, former Mayor of Viganella and creator of the Mirror, observes the valley in the shade after an unsuccessful maintenance intervention. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • Wood near Viganella. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • A cat in the central streets of the town of Viganella. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • Detail of a wooden panel of the seventeenth-century confessional with the evident sun-shaped engravings, made by the master Giorgio De Bernardis.
    Parish Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (16th century), Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • Paola Ghessi, in her own home, wife of Pier Franco Midali, former Mayor of Viganella and creator of the Mirror. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • The village of Viganella on 12 November 2021, under the shadow line created by the natural barrier formed by the valley. Viganella, Italy, 2021.

  • Detail of an abandoned mine in the mountains of the Antrona Valley, whose road is flooded. Antrona Valley, Italy, 2021.

PhMuseum 2022 Photography Grant Candidate

This project is in consideration for $12,000 in cash prizes, exhibitions at international festivals and more. Share the project to show your support and consider joining the open call with your work!

Apply now

Newsletter