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With her project "Tsukiji", photographer Francesca Semerano takes us to the heart of Tokyo's historic fish market.

"One of the aspects that I am interested in exploring through the medium of photography is the landscape, historical, social, cultural, economic, and ultimately human context of a certain territory. Thus, photographic expression/interpretation rises to the role of iconographic testimony of historical significance. It has the aspiration to document facts, but it also bears witness to how those facts are seen by a photographer as a man of his time, expressing the sensibility proper to a certain historical period."

It is in this perspective that the research on the ancient fish market of Tokyo, the one of Tsukiji, photographed shortly before its transfer to the more peripheral area of Toyosu, should be placed.

"The market is a real temple for the grandeur of the covered structure, supported by trusses equipped with sliding rails, to facilitate the movement of goods. Inside, in an immense reserved area, all kinds of fish are traded and processed: live, frozen and dried, they are filleted, cut and packaged. In the market thousands of people move quickly, but with cadenced rhythms, as in a religious rite."

No smell, Francesca tells us, but the blood is everywhere: "it makes me think of the ancient religious rituals of animal sacrifice, even if in reality the essential phase of consecration is missing. A sharp blow is dealt to finish a rumble. I see it vibrate in the spasms of death and a shiver runs down my spine. The panting of life coming out of a body is always a painful and gruesome image. I can't take a picture of it, I prefer to linger on a saw that produces smoke while slicing a frozen tuna. And again, as in ancient rituals, some of the food is cooked and eaten and all around the market where the fish is sold, a thousand tiny restaurants open up, where you struggle to find a seat."

Francesca Semerano

Francesca Semerano

Born in Bari (Italy), and a lover of the figurative arts, she has always looked around from a photographic perspective, shooting first on film and then on digital. Classically trained, she has a degree in law and has taught law and economics in state institutes of higher education. She currently lives and works as a photographer in Rome.

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