Where Reality and Imagination Collide

Devote young individuals leap through tall flames as a purifying gesture.







On Friday, January 17th, I received a WhatsApp message from my friend Antonella Raffa from Tortorici. She sent me the poster for the Feast of San Sebastiano and invited me to witness the “BURA” (as the people of Tortorici pronounce it) on Saturday evening, a torchlight procession culminating in leaps through the fire. I wasn’t familiar with this ritual, so I did some research online. I found videos showing young people jumping through flames, which intrigued me. I couldn’t find photographs that represented “Bula” well, and I immediately got an idea of how to capture it, how to best depict this ritual. I promptly told my friend that I would join her.

The next day, on Saturday, I prepared my camera gear, charged the batteries, and started thinking about which lenses to use. The ritual takes place in darkness, so photographing the fire would be challenging, I thought. I packed a 35mm, a 135mm, and a 24-105mm zoom lens. In the afternoon, I called my photographer friend Carmelo Lenzo and invited him to go out with me to take photos. He agreed without knowing where or what we would be shooting. Around 3:30 PM, before setting off, I also called my videomaker friend Calogero Ricciardello and said, “Do you want to make a great video? Come with me, it’s a surprise.” He also said yes. Right from the first day, I felt that it would be wonderful and that a great piece of work would come out of it. “The usual luck.”

Upon arriving in Tortorici, we stopped by a friend’s bar, Lidia Cala, who offered us typical hazelnut sweets and a nice coffee to energize us. We walked through the narrow streets of the historic center and reached the church of San Sebastiano. Everything was ready, the “bula” was leaning against the church door, and families were prepared to take the bundles of “bula” to light them and go around the town. In the meantime, I met my friend Antonella, had some chats, introduced myself to some other people, and began trying to focus on what I should photograph. The ritual started, lots of fire, a bit of confusion, I didn’t understand what was happening. I tried to take some shots, but nothing special. At a certain point, people with the lit “bula” returned from the torchlight procession through the streets of Tortorici. And here, the LEAPS began, spectacular. I started to let go, not thinking about anything anymore. My friend Calogero asked me about the exposure I was using. I told him I was exposing for the flames. I didn’t even turn on the camera’s little monitor once. I went by instinct. I was shooting at a thousandth of a second, at night, but the young people leaping and the flames of the fire gave me back what I had imagined the day before. Photographs never seen before, unique.

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