Marble Mining Heroes
by Liz Ream
From the arches, to the forums, to the brilliant amphitheaters, the architectural structures of ancient Rome remain unprecedented today. However, these renaissance structures came at a price, as they are constructed of marble mined from the quarries of Carrara.
Back in the 1800s these marble mining heroes were among the most neglected labor workers in Italy, with many of them being ex-convicts or fugitives from justice.
Recently, while shooting in Italy for a new portfolio showing craftspeople and workers in their natural surroundings, the Carrara quarries caught Markus Altmann‘s eye and he felt an urge to take a closer look at the people working there today.
Of course, during shoots like this, safety is always an issue. Markus gained access to the quarries by getting in touch with a large marble manufacturer in Germany. Through him, the workers were convinced to let Markus move freely about the premises during working hours.
One of the main challenges for Markus was the language barrier, as well as finding out what exactly was going to happen next. He did a lot of moving around and hiking to different spots to get the shots he was looking for. As far his “not so fluent” Italian, Markus utilized a native friend who accompanied him as an assistant and translator.
Although the work is still very dangerous and physical, the conditions have improved immensely since the 1800s, and Markus even said that the workers are pleasant and proud:
“The workers were extremely helpful and they enjoyed having us around for a change. They are really proud of their trade and they were always happy to explain in detail about the art of mining marble, cutting the blocks and transporting them down the steep mountainsides. Depending on their positions some are more and some are less educated, but in general they are just regular people, well integrated into their local communities- definitely not outcasts or neglected.”
Markus also said that the lunch break in an Italian quarry is a serious thing, as they have excellent food, freshly cooked and delivered by a caterer all the way up into the mountains every day!
Markus portrays the workers in an authentic way— a style he consistently carries throughout his work.
For more of Markus’s work, check out his website.