Void, 2021. Edition of 500 copies. Hardcover with obi, 76 pp., b/w illustrated throughout, 170 x 227 mm. Photographs by Francesco Merlini.
Winner - FotoRoom + Void open call 2019
Selected as one of the Best Books of 2021 by Vanessa Winship
"Tragedy in classical theory is supposed to inspire both pity and terror, but the daily horror and violence of world news often leave us struggling to produce those responses. No one can really feel on cue the emotions apparently required of us by a daily news stream of anniversaries of bombings and economies on the brink. But a hippo being shot with a tranquilizer dart in a flooded city street is another matter entirely." Jonathan Jones
Late on 13 June 2015 heavy rainfalls hit Tbilisi and the nearby areas. By the morning, 19 people would be dead. Many families were now homeless, a zoo destroyed, and a city in shock. The city became a wilderness full of dangerous beasts.
The zoo lost more than 300 animals. The majority, killed by flooding. Several survivors — a hippopotamus, big cats, wolves, bears, and hyenas—escaped from destroyed pens and cages to the streets of Tbilisi. Some were killed, others recaptured and brought back to the zoo.
Many Georgians condemned the foreign media’s focus on the zoo and their indifference to the stories of the human victims. Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, an influential head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, in his Sunday sermon, blamed the floods on the "sin" of the former Communist regime. Which, he said, built the zoo in its current location using money raised from destroying churches and melting down their bells.
Merlini uses the photographic medium to transform reality into what seems fantastic. Creating metaphors and symbolisms. Making photographs look surreal and suspended between perception and meaning. With 'The Flood', the photographer attempts to dare the viewer's self-confidence. Making them read this story from a new point of view.
Francesco was born in Aosta, Italy, in 1986 and he’s based in Milan. In 2016 he was selected by the British Journal of Photography for 'The Talent Issue: Ones to Watch’. In 2020, Francesco was shortlisted for the “Prix HSBC pour la Photographie”. In 2021, he's been one of the nominees for the Leica Oskar Barnack Award.