I’ve been living in Conegliano, a small town in the north of Italy, since 2002. It’s on the edge of the hills and the edge of the plain. Head south and it’s all flat down to the Venice Lagoon. Head north and it’s hills and vineyards leading you up into the Dolomite mountains. It’s not a bad place to live.
Cutting through the area, like a wide, stony gash through the landscape, is the River Piave. For Italians it’s a river that holds a lot of memories, mostly bad ones. It was the scene of the final battles of the Italian front during the First World War, an event that saw its waters literally turn red with blood. Two hundred thousand dead. Since then, they say, it changed it’s name from La Piave (feminine) to Il Piave (masculine), the horror not befitting of a lady.
More recently, in 1963, the river saw death once again as a section of mountain slid down into the Vajont Dam near Longarone causing a huge wave to flood the river killing 2000 people.
For me, as a foreigner, the river didn’t hold these memories. It represented more of an obstacle than anything else, driving around for work or with my family, each time having to cross the river on one the few small roads and old bridges that link Conegliano with the ‘Destra Piave’ towards Treviso and beyond. I was aware that it’s special. For a start it’s wide. Really wide. And nearly empty for most of the year until it swells violently in the spring or early winter. For the rest of the time its just a bed of stones. Each time I crossed it on a bridge I would take a quick glance and see this vast landscape stretching out in both directions. It fascinated me. I wanted to know what was under the bridges and along its banks.
So that’s how this project began. I decided to make a series of images along the river, focusing on the bridges. I was interested in them as structures and in their relationship with their environment; sometimes blending in, sometimes detached. They also offered me a pretext to explore the landscape along the river. This is one of the most artificial rivers in Europe, it's waters exploited and re-routed by a series hydro-electric plants and irrigation systems. Only a small proportion of its water actually reaches the sea.
As a landscape it’s dificult. There's something uncomfortable about it, a little disturbing, a little sad but occasionally quite beautiful.