Image © Paolo Marchetti
Paolo Marchetti is one of four recipients of this year's Getty Images Editorial Grants. He's won $20,000 to continue his series Fever, which looks at the 'tremendous growth' of the fascist movement in Europe. He speaks with BJP
"In Europe, there is currently an awakening – a tremendous growth among the followers of the extreme right," writes Paolo Marchetti, an Italian photographer. "The number of people fleeing their own country has grown exponentially in the wake of the Arab Spring. This mass exodus [caused by] desperation has not occurred in decades and is one of the factors that has amplified the fear and racial intolerance in many parts of Europe."
Fever explores the various social layers of fascism in Italy, but also, thanks to the Getty Images Editorial Grant, in other European countries such as the UK, France, Spain and Hungary.
Marchetti speaks with BJP's Olivier Laurent about his vision for Fever, and the importance of the Editorial Grant in realising his vision.
BJP: Why did you want to document the awakening of European fascism?
Paolo Marchetti: Fever is the first chapter of a personal research project I started a few years ago. I'm trying to investigate a primordial feeling that is affecting us more and more: rage. I began to query the triggers and multiple emotional layers that rage can have, and immediately realised I had to invest myself emotionally in this rage. I didn't want to analyse and theorise the subject, as I usually do. The first step was to look at politics. To achieve my goals, I had to immerse myself in this world. I needed to soak completely in certain dynamics; for example, through the lives of my interpreters. This feeling – anger – gave me the opportunity to know the pack, the nest, where anger macerates and reproduces.
BJP: Why the title Fever?
Paolo Marchetti: I began to photograph the fascist habitat in 2009, and over the years have tried different approaches and photographic techniques. I learned how to find the right distance between the subject and myself – not only photographically, but also psychologically. In the past two years, I have wondered what would be an appropriate title for my research. I've written down dozens of notes, words, key concepts, but I was never able to find the right one – until last December. I was speaking with a friend, who told me to empty all of these drawers full of notes. He asked me: 'Paolo, how do you feel when you are inside the pack?' After a long break, I said, 'It 's like having a high fever.' And he smiled.
BJP: In Italy, how did you gain access to these movements? How do you go about making your subjects trust you?
Paolo Marchetti: Before I even tried to gain access, I needed to find the right group to join. I needed to find people who would understand my approach, and that was difficult. At first I contacted a dozen guys, telling them I wanted to discover the ‘fascist reality' in Rome, with the project to tell photographically their activities. But for a couple of months, I didn't receive any answers. No one seemed interested in my proposal. But I persevered. I ended up getting in contact with someone at Forza Nuova, Italy's far-right party, who agreed to meet with me once, then again, and so on. I was able to attend meetings. But for four weeks I never brought my camera. I did this out of respect. I didn't want to be labeled as "the photographer". And I could tell they appreciated that. By finding the right distance, I was able to be accepted in their world.
As the months passed, I was able to meet different factions of the fascist scene, observing the different social layers of the extreme right, including the youth, but also the skinheads on the streets. I started in Rome, and then all around Italy. Of course, I wasn't always welcome, but I knew when to leave, or when to lower my camera.
Image © Paolo Marchetti
BJP: You have been working on this project for the past four years. How has the situation changed in these four years? Is it getting worse?
Paolo Marchetti: When I use the words ‘fascist vivarium' it is to show that we're dealing with a functioning mechanism. These movements use rage to trap the young generation – they use testosterone and the warmongering culture to attract them. It's based on fear, and the growing and global economic crisis is amplifying this fear. The dominating philosophy is based on the concept of every man for himself.
BJP: You want to document the same movements in France, the UK, Spain and Hungary. How are you going about making contacts in these countries? Do you expect more resistance?
Paolo Marchetti: Over the past four years, I have developed many relationships based on trust with members of different fascist factions in Italy and in other European countries. By using these connections, I will try to insert myself with the same attitude and, hopefully, finish my project abroad.
I do not know what to expect, but I know what to do if I meet resistance. I also had plenty of time to plan a behavioral strategy and a photographic one. I'm fully aware that it would have been simpler to stick to documenting the situation in Italy, but from the beginning I wanted to explore other opportunities.
I just want to be a witness, without any ideological filter. I seek to tell a clear story, free from interpretations. I want to create a humanistic document. I do not want to intrude but only to be welcomed as a passenger.
BJP: In France, will you be looking at the Front National, or are you documenting more extreme movements? What about the UK?
Paolo Marchetti: I have just started to plan this part of my project. The forces involved are very different, and the intimacy I'm looking for has a high cost. I know how to handle these situations, but what I can't do is anticipate exactly what they will allow me to tell. The strength of my project is based on an exchange: my honesty for their hospitality.
BJP: How important is the Getty Images Grant to you?
Paolo Marchetti: The Getty Images Grant is a great opportunity for me to share my research and my understanding of this world. In terms of visibility, it's much more than a great showcase for my work – it's also a bridge between the story and the audience. It's a bridge between the actors of Fever, who are thousands of people we think we already know, and the rest of the population. To honour this great opportunity, I will continue with the same attitude. I will continue to be a neutral witness. The grant has also given me more strength to continue this work.
BJP: When do you expect to complete your project?
Paolo Marchetti: As I said previously, I find it difficult to establish fixed points in my project. The actors of Fever will determine the entire timeline. Of course, I have to fulfil the grants' conditions, but I already know that my work will continue for a long time.
BJP: What do you want to do with the images once the project is complete?
Paolo Marchetti: First of all, I want to succeed, without transforming my images as a series of ‘screaming' images, full of gratuitous energy and anger. I love the idea of bringing together a significant body of work that represents my photographic and intellectual vision, and maybe create a book. I know I want to share this story.
For more information, visit www.paolomarchetti.org.
Most Popular Articles
Updating your subscription status
We have a vacancy for a Key Account Manager working on The British Journal of Photography
Magnet Harlequin, one of the UK's leading Creative Production Agencies is seeking a new Head of Photography.
We have opportunities for two experienced photographic, audio or video technicians.