About his exhibition at the Nami Gallery of Artists Forum, he says: I came to see the people of Iran and take their photographs. I never had any specific geographical location in mind.
The exhibition is a collection of photographs he took during his many travels to Iran. Titled People and Land of Wool, the exhibit includes 60 photos of nomads captured in the cities of Fars Province and Talesh in Gilan Province, as well as nomads of southern Italy.
The 60-year-old artist has photographed nomads of many countries, including Romania, India and Morocco, over the past 12 years, and for the same reason made six trips to Iran. The most interesting feature of the exhibit is that the photos depict the similarities and differences between Iranian and Italian nomads. The collection has been awarded the Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic.
Vitale was the head of a photo project for D’Abruzzo magazine for five years. He collaborates with magazines and publishers at the national level. He has published books and excursion guides that use photography to investigate nature, architecture, popular traditions and the manifestations of spirituality.
On why he went for this particular project, he says: I first met with the people of Firouzabad. I talked to my colleague Paolo Riccelli about the experience and we came to the conclusion we could create a project that depicts the lives and works of Iranian and Italian shepherds and nomads. We returned to Iran on several occasions to learn more about Iran’s nomadic culture and tradition. I even lived in their tents to have a hand-on experience on how they live and everyday.
On how long it took to complete the project, Paolo Riccelli says: We began working on the idea back in 2015. We visited northern Iran to learn more about the people of Talesh. We stayed there for ten days before returning to Italy. In addition to taking pictures, we collected traditional tools and equipment for our exhibition in Italy. The exhibition went ahead last year at a museum in Pescara along with similar tools used by our own ancient people. It was interesting to compare the traits and similarities between these two cultures.
Mauro Vitale goes on to say: We visited Iran six times and took many pictures in a period of five years. We took similar pictures from Italy. Italy no longer has grasslands or nomads. We did follow their ancient routes to take pictures from what remains from their way of life and work.
On how hard it was to connect with Iranian nomads, Paolo Riccelli says: We faced language barrier but that’s all really. We would connect with them using hand movements, smiling and facial expressions. But to learn more you have to talk to them in their language. We needed a translator. The way people live here is interesting. Your culture, nature, art, and tradition are really interesting. But more interesting than that is the people and their body language. There were kind-hearted.
On differences between Iranian and European cultures, Mauro Vitale says: They are huge difference. We always think that your people are not open-minded, that this is an isolate culture. But when you visit Iran things are different. People have an open mind about other cultures. They keep telling us Iranians are dangerous people, which is not true. People here are kind and caring.
On whether their exhibition was a success in Italy, Mauro Vitale says: People liked the way your people respect the nature. Your nomads see themselves as part of the nature and not above it. That was the main theme of the exhibit. Visitors were particularly moved to see so many commonalities between the nomadic cultures in Iran and Italy.
The Italian artists have also visited and taken photographs from the people of Romania and India. Vitale says they only visited those countries, unlike Iran, where they actually interacted with its people. He says he had no specific geographical location in mind. People were his main focus in the project and that’s what separated this exhibition from others.
In conclusion, Vitale said he plans to travel to Iran’s Turkmen region to take pictures. He says that will be his next project when he returns. On whether he likes the New Iranian Calendar Year, known as Nowrouz, Vitale says, “Iranian people are friendly and fine. Their hospitality is interesting. They are sentimental and lovely.”