EuropeShotTravel Photography by Mauro De Bettio

Born and raised in a little village in the Italian Alps, now based in Barcelona, Mauro already felt from young age the desire to tell. He discovered that the camera was the right tool for him, the eye through which he could speak to the world.

Born and raised in a little village in the Italian Alps, now based in Barcelona, Mauro already felt from young age the desire to tell. He discovered that the camera was the right tool for him, the eye through which he could speak to the world.

An instrument that began to walk by his side towards a long journey of discovery. Definitely, to grow by himself, without the influence of schools, courses and lessons has slowed down the process of technical knowledge, but because of this he learned his own way of seeing and been formed and shaped by the environment and the people who surrounded him in his long travels.

“Although it is difficult to express, I think that the photograph represents my way of speaking and what I try to do through my language is to capture the sense of what I breathe and touch with my hands. Not only in appearance but also, and especially, in the essence; trying to express nuances and subtleties contained in a single frame. I think that’s part of my personality and my work fully expresses what I am. My story, my soul”.

As a photographer, the only powerful medium to express and communicate he possess, then, is his camera. A tool that offers an infinite range of perception and interpretation, creating images that stimulate and provoke thoughts. Mauro spent over a year working on several project regarding social and human rights issues in India and Bangladesh. This curiosity for such different cultures and ways of living led him to the country’s most hidden corners to capture the emotion and trauma of suffering humanity of several individuals and their unique histories. He explored the fragile balance between those people and their environment in realities like ship breaking yards, leather and bricks factories, transgender community and acid attacks survivors.

“During my long trips I had the good fortune to meet great people and from each one of them I absorbed something: happiness, joy, passions, and sometimes even anger, sadness and shame. Emotions that sometimes were like punches in the stomach that took my breath away. I always feel a huge responsibility in finding the correct approach with people, to be able to properly explain with the images what they experience to others that are not aware of it. Communication is always the first move to learn each other’s values but sometime even that is not necessary. Sometime smiles and glances are enough to gradually build a mutual trust and soon the mental and emotional barrier between me and the people I meet brakes almost immediately. Despite often the conditions and situations in which I am are not easy, I always do my best to capture those smiles and joy. It’s extremely important for me to show those particular emotions because they represent their strength and resilience. I am convinced It’s a source of inspiration for all of us because it shows that anything is possible when you face something with the hearth and the courage from within. The determination they show in the images I take is an extraordinary example of how every challenge can be converted into opportunity”.

Reproduce all these different moods into images is to evoke an emotion in someone else. Draw public attention to real-life situations. Stop people and make them think. His pictures are a visual story able to highlight unseen or ignored realities. A vital tool that can help bring about social changes.

“Photography is a fantastic storytelling medium. Just ask yourself what story you want to tell and photography can bring you there”.

HIDDEN ANGEL – S
Is called Daulatdia, the largest brothel in the world. Build by the British during the colonial government is now owned by a powerful local family. Beautiful and colorful blooming trees surround what looks like a small town, but actually is a prison without a way out. A gigantic trap with over two thousand shacks, each housing a prostitute. They call them ‘sex workers’ and every day they momentarily satiate the ardor of about three thousand men (Daulatdia, Bangladesh)

CHASING SPIRITS
 – Every winter, between Christmas and New Year, in the north-eastern regions of Romania, the annual Dance of the Bears takes place, a ritual that symbolizes the death and rebirth of time. Men and women of all ages dress with bear skins and dance to the rhythm of flutes and percussion to drive away evil spirits and welcome the new year (Comanesti, Romania).

THE WALL OF SILENCE – This is one of the wonderful little everyday-gestures that during all my life I have observed in her. Placida, my grandmother, she was 39 years old way back in ’63, when under the wave of the Vajont she lost her husband. A person who, unfortunately, fate has not left the time to let me know. Everyone knew that that piece of mountain would have fall in that artificial lake. But no one expected that the water would sweep away forever an entire village and almost all its inhabitants. A wave that left her, and a handful of souls, completely alone in the world (Longarone, Italy).

FREE-RIDERS – 
Taj and Akash they travel every day from station to station with their mother begging to make a living. Train surfing is not without risk, even if dangerous and illegal, is a common form of transportation in Bangladesh. People have suffered electrocution, severed limbs, falling onto the tracks and colliding with tunnels. However, this can not stop them and jump onto moving trains running away from the police bamboo sticks become daily routine (Arichpur, Bangladesh).

SHADOWS AND SILHOUETTES
 – Darkness, chipped walls, old rusty tools. The time, here, is marked only by the drops falling inside the glass drip. Hoarse voices, fragile necks slightly bent, thin arms, slender fingers. 200 beds, 200 patients: National Institute of Diseases of the Chest and Hospital (NIDCH) in Dhaka.

SHAPLA
 – Immersed in the silence, I watched the gentle movements of this guy while he was piking long water-lilies from the river Moyur, on the outskirts of Khulna. Shapla is a flower floating at ease in all the lakes, ponds and streams in the country. A flower symbolizing purity and national symbol of Bangladesh (Khulna, Bangladesh).

BUILDING A NEW WORLD – (brick after brick)
Thick clouds of smoke hang in the horizon above tall and slender chimneys. It’s like a scene from a long-gone age. Men and women, among the debris, walking in single file up and down steps as if climbing a pyramid. Toiling under the baking hot tropical sun, these lost souls are carrying out back-breaking and exhausting labor in the most perilous conditions through days that pass equal to one another (Hemayetpur, Bangladesh).

CRIME OF PASSION
 – Sweety was just a little girl when, on one night 12 years ago, her husband decided to rob her beauty. From the very first moment I set foot in her home she never stopped smiling to me. She is so lovely and radiates happiness that no other name could be so appropriate for her. Pain, tears, suffering, 5 years of treatments and 6 surgeries, but she never lost her smile. Sweety is just one of the many heroes that demand justice by removing the veil and speaking out. Proudly showing her face. They are the real symbol of a cruel fate that is changing. Their strength and resilience are a source of inspiration for all the victims of all forms of violence, showing that anything is possible when you face something with the courage from within (Dhaka, Bangladesh).

ON MY SKIN – 
Hazaribagh, known as the “city of a thousand gardens”, on the outskirts of Dhaka, is one of the most polluted areas of the planet. Twenty thousand cubic meters of poison flow every day from here into the maze of waterways that quench the country. Here, since always, the most precious leathers in the world are being produced. The most wanted and at the same time the most hated. Saeful, 20, works the leather, dipped down till his ankles in the tannery pits, since he was 11. It’s the first working process of the raw leather, called “Wet Blue”. This is one of the 250 tanneries that dominate the neighborhood. Under the metal roofing sheet temperatures reach up to 50 degrees celsius. And in this hell, infested by the stench of the rotting organic residues, hundreds of souls work forgetting about the asthma, the burns or skin irritations, that come along with this work. “The acid doesn’t matter, says Saeful, when I’m hungry I need to eat” (Dhaka, Bangladesh).

LA DANSA DE LA MORT – Verges, a small town in Catalunya, is famous all over the world for the celebrations of the “Dansa de la Mort” that is celebrated on every holy Thursday. It is probably the last dance of its kind in Europe, performed continuously since the Middle Ages (Verges, Catalonia).

MUSTAFA
 – Mustafa wakes up every morning with the first rays of the sun that, through the roof of his wheeled-house, caress his face, playing and hiding between his wrinkled skin. It starts here, every morning, his daily struggle. Waiting for the passengers and attracting them with his smile, slamming the aluminium bell against the wooden staves. Racing then, once the client is on board, in the maze of streets of Kolkata, exhausted in the crowd of people that attack him smashing him against the walls. Naked feet in contact with the hot melted asphalt. His shiny back covered with sweat and his thin but muscular arms that balance his business-tool (Kolkata, India).

LATTU
 – The wooden spinning top (“lattu” or “latim”) is a popular game that is played in many parts of India and Bangladesh even today. A cotton string is wrapped around the lower half of it, then thrown on the ground with a jerk and the string is pulled out as the lattu moves round. The children take turns at spinning the top, and the one who spins it the longest, is the winner. Jai, 9 years old, is the king of the street here in Mohammadpur district, showing me how he spins the lattu in his palm (Dhaka, Bangladesh).

A LIFE IN A BAG – 
They call them “babas”, a word very common in India that can mean friend, father, grandfather or uncle. A Sadhu (good man), chooses to leave everything behind, following the “Sannyasa” (renunciation). He chooses to live a life apart from the edges of society to focus on his own spiritual practice. A very tiny and simple life. A life so small that can fit in a bag, as I heard from someone of them (Varanasi, India).

RUST AND SWEAT – 
Char Kaliganj, slum and home to one of the largest shipyards in Asia. The noise is incredibly loud. Looks like time is marked by thousands of hammers banging incessantly against the bodies of these huge ships to remove the rust. Rusty, old supertanker ships come to die in this place when their lives as vessels on the ocean expire. The age of labourers ranges from 8 to 80 and they all work together. The work is hard, crude, dirty and dangerous but it gives thousands of them employment and wages to feed their families (Dhaka, Bangladesh).

DESTINATION ANYWHERE – 
I feel that it is healthier to look out at the world through a window than through a mirror. Otherwise, all you see is yourself and whatever is behind you (Daulatdia, Bangladesh).

BEHIND BLUE EYES
 – He was born and raised together with the cobras, his most loyal companions. Karan, 11, is the member of an ancient tribe of snake charmers from Kanpur, who over the generations have captured poisonous snakes, making them dance to their music. Snakes are revered in India and snake charmers are considered the followers of Lord Shiva, the Hindu god always portrayed with a cobra around his neck (Kanpur, India).

SWEET GOLD
 – There are rare tribes in Nepal that have been haunting honey from Himalayan cliffs for centuries. A tradition that’s carried on for generations. Wrapped in a tornado of angry giant bees, hanging with bare hands to a bamboo rope hundreds of meters high, these people risk their lives to collect the precious spring ‘red honey’, famous for its medicinal, aphrodisiac and hallucinogenic properties (Dhaulagiri Region, Westerrn Nepal).

AMIR
 – Char Kaliganj in Dhaka, the largest shipyards in Asia, is a city made from the giant skeletons of old ships, which provide employment for around 15 thousands souls that work to both break down the massive shipping vessels, as well as create new ships from the salvaged parts. The age of the labourers ranges from 8 to 80 and they all work together. The work is hard, crude, dirty and dangerous but it gives thousands of them employment and a wage to feed their families (Dhaka, Bangladesh).

WRESTLER’S LIFE
 – Kushti, the traditional and ancient Indian wrestling. Not just a sport, it’s a practice that requires the rigorous discipline of all martial arts. An ancient subculture where wrestlers live and train together. A way of life spent following strict rules, focusing on living a purity life and help building strength (Varanasi, India).

LEARNING TO FLY
 – Bithi she’s 10 years old and, since she was little, every weekend she ask her parents to take her here at the airport. She likes to wave and say goodbye to all those people that, close inside the bellies of those giant flying machines, fly away to explore the world. Following the contrails, she runs pervaded by a sense of joy and freedom, and for a moment she can fly away with them. For a moment he is able to escape from reality. The imagination lifts her from the ground till she can touch the clouds and brings her to explore magical places (Dhaka, Bangladesh).

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Photo by ©Ryotaro Horiuchi | Japan | Issue#14
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