A young woman, a camera, the world, a dream and overcoming the difficulties of our times.
Elisa Paci is twenty-three years old. She studies English literature at the University of Venice, in Italy. A country whith a 41% youth unemployment rate. In 2016 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a study revealing that in Italy, 27% of the population between the ages of 15 and 29 are not in education, employment or training. This translates into two and half million young people robbed of the possibility to even conceive a productive and satisfying life for themselves.
‘ I’m afflicted by wanderlust! ‘ Elisa tells me. ‘ I can’t wait to finish studying. I want to travel. I want to see the world with my camera! The first place I’m going to visit is Australia! ‘
Elisa’s eyes sparkle when she talks about photography. As I listen to her story I cannot help but think: ‘It’s been a long time since I’ve witnessed this kind of passion in a twenty-three year old.’ The fact is, when you live in a country that is undergoing such a massive economic and moral crisis, most people are overwhelmed by desperation and dreams become less affordable. Inadequate education contributes to the loss of self-esteem in youth and tends to validate a dangerous notion. ‘We have to be happy with what we have. It could be worse!’ A widely accepted mindset in the boot, where it is not unusual to work full time for 400 euros (sometimes less) a month, especially if you are a student, fresh out of school or a woman trying to earn a second income to make ends meet.
Things get worse if you dare to imagine yourself making a career out of art.
Elisa’s smile disappears when she is forced to admit: ‘I love photography, it is what I wish I could do in life. I wish it could become my job but, I realize that it will probably end up being a hobby. This is why it is important for me to secure a degree in English. The more languages I speak, the easier it will be to travel, find work and earn the money I need to persue my passion.’
Today’s world, our lifestyle offers little opportunity for young artists to thrive. Often, being an artist means clashing with the prevailing idea that writing, acting, drawing, painting, singing, playing an instrument, composing music, are not real jobs. Rather, they are and can be for very few people. Yet the arts keep humanity in touch with beauty and oneself, in relation to the environment we live in. They nurture hope when all around us things seem to crumble and shatter before our eyes. Art has the power to change society’s perception about important issues thus helping to dismatle distructive biased attitudes which feed hate and violence. Art accompanies progress, it leads to kinder and more just communities. Fostering youth’s desire of art is a stepping stone toward the type of world we all deserve to ‘borrow from our children.’
Elisa’s voice trembles: ‘Beauty is imperfection. A woman’s beauty is not an impeccable body or a flawless face. The beauty of a woman lies within her innate ability to communicate feelings. Feelings have been forgotten. The day people look at my pictures and tell me they evoked feelings will be the day I might be able to call myself a photographer.’
I first admired Elisa’s work on facebook. Though I’m not an expert in photography, her pictures caught my attention amidst the array of images that flood the net. They left me trying to interpret expressions, gestures, colours and locations I would otherwise never have discovered. They filled me. I felt connencted to them. I saw myself in the past but also in the future, through the fragilty and the strength of ancient walls whose shades had been worn out by time. I recognized myself in the cracks of chipped wooden window frames, in the damp scent of an abandoned farmhouse. I felt the nostalgia of lights at dusk, the need for solitude, contemplation, music. I could hear stories of olden days telling youth to live beyond age, not to give up, no matter the countless difficulties life thrusts upon us. For the beauty we build today is the inspiration that will generate the drawing board of tomorrow.
My wish for Elisa and for all young people struggling to find and elevate their talents is to engage this planet without fear, fear is stifling. Being ‘afflicted’ by wanderlust is a blessing. It eliminates boundries and allows us to discover what we deem to be true in life, and not what others view as authentic. Our own thoughts make us unique. That’s how we stand out in the crowd. It probably will not make us popular but it will make the journey of life rewarding in so many different ways.
As Robert Louis Stevenson wrote in Travels With A Donkey In The Cévennes: ‘For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.’