A magazine about miracles and happy people in tears

by Kitty Drake in March 2019
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Art & design Travel

Not your usual travel magazine, the editors of Cartography look for the “holiness” in each place they visit. Speaking on the Stack podcast last year, Paola Corini and Luca De Santis describe this approach as a “form of religion”: their explorations of a place are meant to connect the reader with the earth, water and rocks.

That is not to say that reading Cartography won’t make you want to sell everything you own and book a luxury mini-break immediately. The magazine is even divided into itineraries (“Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, 18 Days; Abruzzo Italy, 7 days; Portugal and the Azores, 15 days”). It’s just that these itineraries feel self-consciously imaginary; more like dreamscapes than actual concrete travel plans. The magazine itself is enormous, totally unsuited to any tourist’s back-pocket, and the photography often surreal. One series, exploring the relationship between hunter and prey in the Inuit world, is particularly unsettling — every image washed with cold, blue light.

We asked Paola to talk us through the fifth issue in images, and tell us the stories behind them.

High Arctic — photography by Luca De Santis

“We were travelling on an expedition ship often surrounded by stunning icebergs and reading a lot during sea days on the way to the Canadian Arctic. So I had this book from the ship’s library about the Inuit world and their system of beliefs. And there was this passage: “there’s a pact between hunter and prey and it’s that the prey will offer itself to that hunter who can respect its soul and let it migrate”. We’re passionate about anthropology and mythology, and the more we travel the more we meet people telling us that we have to let our souls migrate to the next place and time, let them go further.”

West Greenland — photography by Luca De Santis

“We met this indigenous lady last summer in Sisimiut, 40 km north of the Arctic Circle. The name of the town literally means “the people living in a place where there are fox dens”. She was hidden like a silent fox in a little working space for local artisans, she was sewing. Inuits of Greenland have used beads to decorate themselves and their clothes, as as well amulets for good fortune and protection against evil spirits, for thousands of years. Soft stone, bones, mussels, teeth and parts of the fish vertebrae and skeleton.”

Flower carpets before the Procession of Our Lord of the Sick in Furnas, São Miguel, The Azores — photography by Luca De Santas

Travelling is pointless. If you’ve got nothing on the inside, you’ll never find anything on the outside. There’s no use of going to the world to seek what you can’t find inside yourself said the wise old man to Tiziano Terzani in the book One More Ride On The Merry Go Round. These volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean are powerful, primordial, silent and holy. If you’re not afraid of this solitude and peace and you’ve got something inside you, The Azores stop being just a place, but soon become a state of mind.”

From the story Happy People in Tears, The Azores, Portugal — photography by Andrew Sutton

She swam into my head and never left it. She is still there, in my dreams, Philip Hoare writes in his essay on the history of people of the Azores and their bond with whales, the supreme ‘metaphysical’ animals. When we asked Philip what his most indelible memory of the Azores was, he told us about his first encounter with a whale. What Cartography is always chasing is that intimacy and communion, between people and animals and their land.”

From the story Abruzzo, Italy — photography by Paolo Zerbini

“Love is part of this story; we do love miracles and traditions. Abruzzo is such a tiny region of Italy, a land at once sea and mountains, only inhabited by descendants of shepherds, fishermen and farmers. The old lady in the picture is from the splendid historical town of Sulmona, she’s holding a beautiful composition of traditional “confetti”, the sugared almonds made here according to a centuries-old tradition.”


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