Matteo de Mayda

“There is no calm after the storm”

Location: ITALY

An extreme weather event hit northeastern Italy in October 2018, the incessant rain had rivers bursting their banks and the 200 km/h (124 mph) sirocco winds brought around 14 million trees crashing to the ground: an event the likes of which Italy had never seen before. It’s estimated that the storm, classified as a hurricane due to its strength, devastated around 42,500 hectares of forest (equivalent to 70,000 football pitches), and caused €3 Bn worth of damage.

Four years after the Vaia Storm the consequences are still tangible.

The European spruce bark beetle feeds on the wood’s tree, a parasitic beetle that has moved on and is now feeding on the trees that are still standing, causing six times the damage that was generated by the storm itself. Furthermore, fallen trees are no longer able to provide protection against landslides and avalanches, and the now unstable river beds are no longer able to channel and contain water. As if that wasn’t enough, the local economy in these mountain communities has suffered incalculable damage: the price of wood has plummeted and many tourism related businesses have been temporarily closed. 

Storms have always been a fact of life in these woodland areas, but there’s no doubt that climate change is increasing their strength and frequency. The Mediterranean Sea’s two-degree temperature increase certainly contributed to the intensity with which Vaia hit these areas.

The photographer developed his investigation over the course of four years also thanks to the collaboration with the TESAF and DAFNAE Departments of the University of Padua.

The project was completed with the support of the 2021 ISPA Grant.


Matteo de Mayda (b. 1984, Treviso, Italy) is a Venice-based photographer and his visual research focuses on social and environmental causes. His images have been exhibited at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, MUFOCO, London Design Museum and Triennale Milano. In 2019 he published “Era Mare”, a book about the high water phenomenon in Venice. In 2020 he was selected by ARTRIBUNE as the best young Italian photographer of the year. In 2021 he was one of the FUTURES talent selected by CAMERA and won the Italian Sustainability Photo Award (ISPA) grant with his project about the Vaia storm. In 2022 he won the British Journal of Photography International Award. His images have been featured in The New York Times, Financial Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Internazionale, Zeit, 6Mois, National Geographic and Vogue.




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