“A photo can be a spark that ignites a process”
Flavio joined his first mission on the Ocean Viking as a photographer in June 2020.
He captured the aftermath of the horrific shipwreck the crew witnessed in April 2021 and was on board throughout the summer of 2021, documenting twelve rescues during which 1,127 people were brought to safety.
His photos and videos have helped shed light on the current situation of the central Mediterranean from the point of view of the Ocean Viking.
You have worked as a photographer in a lot of different environments and on a lot of different issues before. What’s the biggest challenge for you as a photographer working in the central Mediterranean?
I have worked in contexts where I took photos and videos from a RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) before, mainly in maritime conservation and operations against illegal fishing with the organisation Sea Shepherd. The most important skill when taking photos and videos in such a setting, on a fast boat, is adaptability, and that’s the same in the context of search and rescue. If you can adapt, you can take good photos and videos everywhere. In my previous work, I encountered a lot of different and unpredictable scenarios. In the central Mediterranean, we have to deal with this uncertainty every day. Each rescue is different, being ready to assess the situation and adapt to it is crucial to capture the situation at best.
Once the survivors are on board, the challenges depend on the kind of photo that is required. Portraits are not more difficult to take on a ship than elsewhere. For other kinds of photos and videos, I follow the rhythm of the ship and the operations. It all depends on the situations that present themselves, so it’s about documenting what people do and how they interact – be it people playing, moments of rest, or children’s games among other situations onboard.
What effect do you wish your photos have on people? What message or feeling would you like to convey?
I don’t think that a single photo or even photos in general can make a change in the world. However, I believe that multiple factors come together to change the way an individual person thinks about a situation of injustice. In this sense, a photo can be a spark that ignites a process. If someone is already in the process of becoming aware of something wrong, and they see a photo that speaks to them or touches them, it can tip the scale and make a change in that person’s understanding.
When it comes to feelings, honestly, I would like to make people angry about the current situation in the central Mediterranean. I think if you’re not upset about a context like the one we are operating in, there is something wrong. I believe it is important for us to be or to stay upset about a system that doesn’t give equal value to the lives of all human beings.
Which photo stands out to you from your latest mission?
It’s not a single photo, but a series of photos of a newborn that is handed over to one of our rescuers on a RHIB from a boat in distress. The fact that someone takes their 3-month-old baby on a boat to attempt to cross the sea speaks for itself. The way the baby is handed over to the rescuers is something you would never see in a ‘normal’ context – no one wants to hand their baby to strangers, and no one wants their baby to be passed on in such a way, like a sack of potatoes. But in this case, you can clearly see the thought behind these gestures: “Just take the baby before it’s too late.”