WATCH OUT,          

Photo credits:  Daniel Patterson

Book made of recycled paper from kiwi and white alga
2021 - Ongoing

"Watch out, look around you" is a photographic project that investigates the concept of extinction, focusing in particular on the plant species Wollemia Nobilis.

At the beginning of the work you can find a number of names of animal and plant species belonging to the Italian Red List. The names belong to the species of flora, butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, bees, bony fish, corals and vertebrates that are currently extinct or severely threatened. The Red List was established in 1948 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and is the most comprehensive global species risk database : these lists provide up-to-date information on the conservation status and maintenance of plant species.

Assessments and analyses of the risk of extinction of the species covered by these lists are based on a system of criteria and extremely strict scientific categories.

Such methodologies of analysis are used for all living beings and are the means, to global standard level, to understand the extinction risk assessment. However, although the names in the red lists are reliable, they do not remain absolute.

It may sometimes happen that some species are not possible to be classified and study for lack of data, or that a small percentage of species considered extinct are rediscovered as still in the process of extinction.

Wollemia Nobilis is a seemingly common plant, but hides a history of extinction and rebirth.

In August 1994, Forest Ranger Dave Noble accidentally discovered the plant, inside a Wollemi National Park ravine in Australia.

Through the analysis and studies of the researchers, the plant species was identified as conifer of the Aucariaceae family, plant present on the earth
200 million years ago. 
The area was immediately closed and isolated, to try to protect the plant.The National Wollemi Park sought in particular to protect the plant from potential damage that could be caused by man: this is why currently very few people can access the area and know the exact location of the mother plant. The place is secret and rumors circulate that botanists and researchers who must study the mother plant, are brought to the place in a helicopter and blindfolded.

Wollemia Nobilis remains in the category of extreme risk of extinction and is classified by scholars as "critically endangered": for years they have tried to disseminate the specimen as widely as possible.

During my stay in Rome, I discovered that Wollemia Nobilis was in the Botanical Garden.

I searched for her several times, initially without success.

I couldn’t see the plant, because hidden and very small, it was situated on a rise among other larger trees. This episode made me think that extinction is just this: a cycle, a process that has always been present, but that we never see.
After I managed to identify which plant was Wollemia Nobilis, as soon as I could, I went to find “her”.

I spent as much time as possible with “her”: I sat down next to that little crooked plant to reflect on her story.

Even when I wasn’t with her, my thoughts always went to that plant.

One day I bought a tarp and I went to the plant to protect her.

The wind continued to moved the tarp, and the more I tried to cover her, the more the wind moved it and carried it away.

Eventually, I had to leave. I had to say goodbye to the plant. A few weeks later, I called the botanist of the Botanical Garden of Rome, to discover more about her.

On the phone, he told me that the plant I was always trying to find was another greater Wollemia Nobilis.

Wollemia Nobilis has a very complex reproduction process, but the botanist has succeeded through several attempts to get a clone. Each year with small tags the branches are measured to monitor her growth. She grows a few centimeters a year.

The botanist then added that lately they are having some problems: several people have tried many times to sneak in at night to take the suckers of the vegetable and thus try to make it reproduce, illegally.

It’s been a while since I’ve last seen her.

Sometimes I still think: who knows if someone sometimes visits or thinks about her.