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Finalist 2008

Stefano de Luigi

Tortoise community. The reconstruction of innocence


In 2004, after 15 years of civil war, a group of former child soldiers came to live among these ruined villas, built during the ’70s for the richest families in Monrovia.They were involuntary participants in this bloody conflict, used by both rebel and government forces; the war survivors who were trying to carve themselves a future in a country still poor and without hope. Nowadays, they’re the African version of Jorge Amado’s “Capitaes de areia” (Captains of the sands), a group of children who have grown up too quickly, and have chosen to unite together in order to survive, and forget their murders.

That community learned how to make use of all the sand on their huge beach in order to build bricks, and how to fish for cat-fish from the lagoon to resell them to the market. Nowadays, protected by the reassuring roar of the waves, the Tortoise Community’s members try, little by little, to rebuild their own imagined horizon.


I was born in Koln and spent all my life so far, between Rome, Milan and Paris. Even if we are living in a time where is not really trendy , I feel myself deeply European. I choose photography to became my language, because I felt it is universal, the only filter you have to use is your own mind-eyes.
Below the essential of my biography

I am a photographer since 1988. I attended 2 years courses at ISF (Instituto Superiore di Fotografia) in Rome between 1985/87 and moved, the first time, to Paris from 1989 to 1996, working, among others for the Louvre Museum. Back and forth from France to Italy. In 2000 I received the Honorable Mention of Leica Oskar Barnack Award.

That same year I started the project Pornoland, a photographic journey on pornographic movie sets around the world. In 2004 Pornoland became a book enclosing a 16 pages text by English writer Martin Amis. Pornoland has been published by: Thames & Hudson, Knessebeck, La Martinière and Contrasto.

This work has been exhibited at REA gallery (Paris 2004), Santa Cecilia Gallery (Rome 2005), Lanificio (Naples 2006), Festival Transphotographiques (Lille 2007), New York Photo Festival (NY 2011).

Personal exhibitions in these years, among others, include WHO Headquarter (Geneva 2010), VII Gallery (New York 2010), 10b Gallery (Rome 2010), Museum of Modern Art (Rovereto 2011), Photofestival (Athens 2011/15), Fondazione Stelline (Milan, 2013) FotoIstanbul (2015), Candiani Cultural Center ( Venice 2017) Plenum Gallery ( Catania 2018) Museum of Palazzo Ducale ( Genes 2019).

From 2003 to 2010, I worked on Blindness-, my main work, lasted 8 years. A photographic project on the life condition of blind and low vision people, around the world. Blindness received the patronage of Vision 2020- World Health Organisation and won the W.E. Smith Fellowship Grant in 2007.
In 2006 I embarked on the project Cinema Mundi, a World Cinema exploration on the alternative cinematographic scene external to the Hollywood dream factory including China, Russia, Iran, Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea and India. Cinema Mundi has been also transformed in a 7 minutes short movie screened at Locarno International Film Festival on August 4th, 2007.

I have been awarded from World Press Photo contest four times in different categories (1998-2007-2010-2011).

In 2009 the Moving Walls of Open Society Foundation has exhibited my work in Washington and New York. In 2010 I was recipient of the Days Japan International Photojournalism Award and the Getty Grant for Editorial Photography.

I published 4 books Pornoland (Contrasto), Blanco, (Trolley book 2010) iDyssey, (Edition Bessard 2017) Babel with Michela Battaglia (Postcart 2018).