Camp Erech Project: Report on Stage #1

The first step of the project — encompassing the journey, our stay at Camp Erech, and the creation of content — has been successfully concluded. At its core lies Riccardo and his story.

Here, I’ll keep my words brief: I’m thrilled to have finally met him and had the privilege of living with him and his loved ones (in Camp Erech, matriarchy prevails), delving deeply and unfiltered into numerous themes, including some of great delicacy. I can now affirm that his story absolutely needed to be told. They have all become incredibly significant to me.


Geographically…

From a naturalistic standpoint, at least regarding the region we visited (Adrar), Mauritania is stunning and remarkably hospitable: I highly recommend a visit.

The desert exceeded all my expectations: despite the intense heat and sand infiltrating every crevice, I felt at home, in a place where it was beautiful and right to be.

Nouakchott (the capital), on the other hand, didn’t particularly appeal to me, but it’s undoubtedly interesting to explore thoroughly to grasp all the contradictions of a major African city.

Moreover — contrary to certain outdated or misleading reports — Mauritania also proved to be a very safe country: we never felt endangered. In 45 days, I didn’t witness a single violent incident or even a particularly heated argument – something unprecedented in my travels across 50+ countries.

I can’t quite explain it, but it seems that this tranquility (which doesn’t imply the absence of socio-political tensions) is primarily due to the absence of alcohol and drugs.


Technically and physically…

everything went smoothly. The photographic equipment performed flawlessly even in extremely harsh conditions. Aside from two UV filters practically sandblasted (!!!) during a storm and a dust brush worn out from excessive use, everything remained as good as new.

As for ourselves, aside from a thorn in Giulia’s foot, we encountered no issues. Initially, we struggled a bit with the heat and the lack of fresh water, but once we began drinking from the well and cooling it with what the Mauritanians call “the local refrigerator”, we adapted to the conditions, and nothing was lacking. We were consuming over 20 liters of water per day…


Economically…

Ayzoh! — thanks to the resources secured from previous work — managed to sustain everything independently. However, crowdfunding isn’t going well. In reality, I didn’t have high expectations for it because we need to face facts: we simply aren’t equipped for such operations.

Furthermore, on certain platforms like Produzioni dal Basso, it’s challenging to stand out when sharing space with mega-entities like the Municipality of Milan or Venice (personally, I find it scandalous that publicly funded entities engage in crowdfunding). Nevertheless, the amount received so far has been very helpful (thanks to those who contributed!), and, since you never know, we’ll keep it active until December 31st.

But we’re not foolish, or at least not entirely; we already know that funds will come through other channels: the sale of editorial products born from this project, exhibitions, festivals, and — above all — paid commissions facilitated by what we achieved in Mauritania.


Humanly…

one after the other, certain experiences — especially when they are so extreme — primarily serve to immerse us in the human condition, expand our cognitive repertoire, and chart clearer paths on our emotional map.

This journey is no exception and has bestowed many gifts upon me. My life has been enriched by Riccardo and his family: I will treasure them in my family chest. I’ve also had the great fortune to meet a fantastic person like Francesca, who has done so much for us: I know we’ll become great friends.

I’ve also had confirmation that Giulia is an ideal travel companion. Few would have lived together in almost total harmony — with such different ages and personalities — for such extended periods under such difficult conditions. Certainly, we sometimes got a little irritable due to both my mistakes and hers. But that’s part of the game, and when people are capable — with sincerity — of saying “sorry,” relationships can only strengthen and ascend to a higher level.

Of course, not everything went smoothly: some abandoned us, others didn’t keep their promises, while others fueled my deepest contempt towards those who gain personal advantages through hypocrisy, falsehoods, lack of respect, and disloyalty. It’s normal: it happens, and we must learn from it.

Such journeys also serve this purpose: to help us distinguish the true from the false, the important from the superfluous, the solid from the ephemeral. They help us decide where we want to stand. They help us focus on how, where, with whom, and why we want to use our energies.

Ultimately, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s text, which underpins the project, states, certain experiences — whether lived firsthand or recounted by others — primarily serve to understand “what your gods really are and how much they are worth.”