It’s all too easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of London working life. For photographers as adept as Paolo Zerbini, the lure of the city’s creative scene can be difficult to ignore, especially when the commissions are rolling in. However for this photographer, when the chance to photograph a plowing competition arose in his native region of Italy, Paolo seized the opportunity to return to the sun-drenched countryside.
Despite taking place during Paolo’s busiest season for work, the photographer tells It’s Nice That, “My friend told me I had to see the plow competition.” With the promise of meeting “people who hardly ever leave their farm,” the competition took place in the tiny village of Quingentole, attended by “thousands of farmers from all over the peninsula, some say, from all over Europe.”
The community of farming fanatics gather to show off their best plowing techniques. Some showcase old war-time models and others display original pieces of machinery that make up the heavy industrial vehicles. Paolo certifiably adds, “It doesn’t get more farmy than this. It surely doesn’t get more passionate.” At 10 am on the highly-anticipated day of events, the air roils with excitement, as well as the “dark smoke discharged from the heavy tractors.” While some of the farmers are already “hitting the cheap Prosecco,” Paolo eagerly attempts to take in the masses of information “being thrown around about these beautiful beasts.”
With more going on around him than he can absorb, Paolo quickly learns about the difficulties of trading original Landini or Ford parts. He meets “a gentleman with a vigorous moustache,” called Mr Vincenzo who is quick to point out how “many of these folks have little other passions other than for the land.” Mr Vincenzo travels for two days on his tractor from the countryside and has attended the plow competition every year for the past fifteen years. While many of these farmers view it as a “real holiday,” their communal joys feel visceral in Paolo’s warm hues and welcoming compositions.
“I realised I had been introduced to a whole new world,” he continues. “It’s part of a place where I was raised that I knew nothing about and there was something disarmingly real and refreshing about it.” In a place where everyone seems “delirious in their own pleasure,” Paolo documents the otherworldly heat of the Italian countryside through these dedicated individuals.
The photographs capture the sense of tradition that has been passed down multiple generations of these farmer’s lives — young and old gather on the dry soil while hands on hips await the day’s events ahead.
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