A few months ago, Mattia Balsamini went to Pordenone, in region of Friuli, Italy, to attend L’Adunata Degli Alpini. This annual, three-day event, takes place the second weekend of May in a different Italian city each year. Originally created in World War I to protect the northern borders of Italy, The Alpini are a military organization, specializing in mountain warfare, and are the oldest active mountain infantry in the world. Many current members are actual descendents of Alpini who fought during WWI and WWII. “The particular affection towards the Alpini corp is a consequence of their work,” Balsamini said via email to PDN. “They usually are the first military force to intervene on environmental disasters, serving more as a civil defense.”
Each year 300,000 – 400,000 people attend the event in cities where the average population is only 50,000. This event, Balsamini says in his artist statement, destabilizes the normal balance of the city and it’s inhabitants. “Central streets and outskirts of the city are filled with camping tents, chemical toilets, and improvised barbeques, radically transforming the appearance of the town.” To put it in numbers, the estimated amount of port-o-potties is 600 units, 200 showers, 240 sinks and 350 tons of waste. Balsamini says the “takeover” is a peaceful one, strongly supported by the host city.
He calls this series,”The Best Family,” which, in Italian, translates to “la meio fameia,” an expression some Alpini give themselves. These high contrast images were shot using a digital SLR and one or two portable flashes to get a real film “feel.”
Balsamini returned to his homeland of Italy after spending a few years in California attending the Brooks Institute of Photography and assisting a variety of photographers, including David LaChapelle. His client list includes WIRED, The Guardian, Mercedes Benz, PUMA, GQ, Vanity Fair and TBWA.