Jean-Marc Caimi & Valentina Piccinni – THE BURNING PLAIN

A photo-essay about life on the Phlegraean Fields, a volcanic area to the West of Naples, Italy.

“We heard a boom and then another one. The earth shook and then all was quiet. With time we got used to that, it’s the volcano” (Gaetano a laborer in Pisciarelli – February 2017)

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The Phlegraean Fields, one of the most densely inhabited places in the world, are sitting on a super-volcano. The area extends across the entire bay of Pozzuoli, Naples, and consists of a 13km-wide cauldron-like depression with 24 craters. Half a million people learnt to coexist with the “volcano” and the constant eruptive activity of gas or mud, with earthquakes and with the bradyseism, a phenomenon causing the soil to slowly swell and deflate for several meters. According to the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, the “calderas” recently showed clear signs of unrest and even if it’s not clear exactly if or when the eruption will do a final blast, this would be very dangerous. Life on the Phlegraean Fields is a mixture of anxiety, hope and resignation, in an unique blend of emotional and geographical landscape, where the connections of humans with the nature and God is under the spell of the Volcano.

Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni projects focus both on documentary photography and personal creative projects. Their features are regularly published in the press and web medias worldwide. The duo published three books: “Same Tense” (Witty Kiwi Books), “Daily Bread” (T&G publishing) and “Forcella” (Witty Kiwi Books) an extensive work about a mafia ridden  neighborhood in Naples. In 2017 they received the Gomma Grant (UK) for Best Black and White Documentary Work, for the project “This Land Is My Land” about the fading rural culture in the South of Italy.

See more at of Caimi and Piccinni's work on their website. 
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A surveillance monitor of the Vesuvius Observatory (INGV). The institution was founded in 1841 on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius it is the oldest volcanology institute in the world. The ultra-modern headquarters are now located between Naples and Pozzuoli.
After the 1980 earthquake, Giulio, together with other families, fled from Naples and occupied a refurbished ex-factory in Via Pisciarelli, near Pozzuoli, back then intended as a temporary home for NATO soldiers. Pisciarelli is a no-man land casted between Naples and Pozzuoli and now one of the most dangerous spots of the whole Phlegraean Fields area. It is a densely populated area with only one main access road and no evacuation plan in case of a volcanic eruption. According to Giulio “if the Solfatara erupts, here we will die like rats”.
The priest of the main parish of Monterusciello, which is a “new town” now hosting 30.000 people, relocated after the volcanic activity and earthquakes in Pozzuoli. It was built in 1985 by the Italian Government in only six months.

A cross hanging from a wall at the seniors club in the center of Pozzuoli, where aged people meet to find some company, play cards or watch TV. People there remember the old times when the famous “Terra District”, once the center of the city, was forcibly evacuated in 1970 due to a bradyseism crisis.
A geologist monitors the Pisciarelli fumaroles. A recent study led by Italian and French scientists from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Bologna states that of the several quiescent calderas worldwide, Phlegraean Fields has recently shown among the clearest signs of unrest.Ó The Pisciarelli fumaroles and mud pools from the Phlegraean Fields caldera are the most spectacular symptoms of the alarming situation.

The mud erupting form the “bocca grande” of the Solfatara, in Pozzuoli, near Naples. Solfatara is a shallow volcanic crater part of the Phlegraean Fields volcanic area. It is a dormant volcano, which still emits jets of steam with sulfurous fumes and mud. Its activity is constantly monitored by scientist. In recent months some out of the ordinary activity was registered, rising the concern of the geologists.
Andrea one of the original inhabitants of “Rione Terra” of Pozzuoli. He remembers how the army was involved to forcibly evacuate the place on March the 2nd 1970. He reckons that the relocation of people was a good thing, since the hygienic condition of Rione Terra were critical at that time. It was a poor people area, with fishermen and artisans having their home there. Homes were often the “basso” a typical Neapolitan basement located house with direct access to the street and living conditions were mostly precarious.

A fisherman at the local fish market in Pozzuoli. The place had an infamous past with Camorra infiltrations to control the business.
The Italian super-volcanic area of the Phlegraean Fields is showing signs of reawakening, with any eruption potentially affecting half a million people, scientists say. The area is located across the Bay of Pozzuoli not far from the Vesuvius, which saw one of the most destructive eruptions in history.

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