Spellbound by the ancient white quarries of his home country, photographer Luca Locatelli set out to capture them from the air
He’s well known for his awe-inspiring photographs revealing how humans and technology are altering the world we live in, so it should come as no surprise that Luca Locatelli’s body of work about Northern Italy’s majestic marble quarries delivers a devastating blow – in the best possible way. Locatelli was recently shortlisted for an award in this year’s Sony World Photography Awards for White Gold, published by The New York Times Magazine, which series turns the spotlight on the Italian marble trade.
The Italian photographer has been training his lens on the stunning Apuan Alps, an area rich in marble – the naturally occurring and extremely desirable stone made from tiny crystallised creatures compressed over hundreds of millions of years. Since Roman times, humankind has ripped the dazzling white stone from the land via hundreds of quarries that operate in the region. Activity in this part of Italy is as intense as ever.
Outside of the country, current demand mainly comes from cities from Abu Dhabi and Mumbai to Beijing, with the marble destined for mosques, malls and hotel lobbies as well as lavish palaces. To say it is big business is an understatement; quarries such as Henraux Cervaiole, the Calacata Borghini and the Borghini, all of which Locatelli photographed, are working flat-out to keep up with demand.
As Locatelli’s images so powerfully show, the quarries are staggering in terms of size and shape, and their sheer scale is not always immediately obvious. Look once and you’ll see the jagged side of a mountain, but look again and you realise there are tiny tractors and men crawling all over. Using a drone to capture many of the most breathtaking views from above, Locatelli also went inside the quarries, boarded a cargo ship that transports the marble, and visited a workshop where sculptors are pictured honing their craft.
“The marble quarries of northern Italy are famous around the world and they are so impressive,” says Locatelli, who is based in Milan. “I was curious to find a way to shoot them – to show their majestic dimensions – so I was making pictures, which I started to share on Instagram.” Shortly afterwards, The New York Times Magazine contacted him suggesting they work together on a project.
“For thousands of years we have taken from the mountains and created a powerful alternate landscape,” he continues. “You can see those mountains as ruined by humans, but at the same time, the mountains – and this is what attracts me to the story – are in some of the best pieces of art we have on the planet. […] I wanted to talk about what’s behind those great pieces of art.”