Home > Expat Men > Lorenzo Moscia and Gerry Conlon
jerry conlon

I’ve known Lorenzo for many years. We met in Latin America in 2007, when I first interviewed him, and we have stayed in touch since then. I greatly admire his work: Lorenzo is one of the most daring, complete and intense photographers I have ever met. But to define him as a photographer is not enough: recently, Lorenzo has become increasingly committed to his real passion, the movie camera, producing superb documentaries, along with their soundtracks.

I asked him to tell me how he felt when he left Chile, where he had lived and worked for years, and what had been the greatest challenges he and his family had to face. I chose to interview him not only because I think his personal and professional experiences are interesting, and fit in well into the Expatclic framework, but more importantly, because his latest project has moved me deeply, and I want to do everything I can to help him bring it to fruition.

The documentary Lorenzo is producing on the life of Gerry Conlon is rooted way back in the past, as you will see. It’s a unique project, because like all Lorenzo’s work, it is founded on extraordinary human understanding and respect. I find that Lorenzo’s photos, documentaries, and books take me on an amazing journey around the world. Listening to him talk about what lies behind his work is a privilege which I am happy to share with you.

I entreat you, if you can, to support Lorenzo’s documentary about Gerry Conlon with a donation, however small, on his fundraising page, where you will also be able to view the documentary trailer. In addition, please circulate this article as widely as possible: It might just fall into the hands of someone who is interested in supporting this excellent project.

Thanks, Lorenzo, and thanks, all of you.

 

This is the fundraising page of the documentary: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/in-the-name-of-gerry-conlon

This is the website of Lorenzo: https://lorenzomoscia.com

Claudiaexpat

 

Lorenzo in Rapa Nui

Lorenzo in Rapa Nui

We left Chile in 2012, after 15 years. We did it in an attempt to ‘open’ our children’s minds. It’s no secret that meeting you, Giorgio and your children was a great inspiration to me.

Moving from one country to another entails suffering, and children, in particular, are affected, but it’s the best way to help them grow, and broaden their outlook.

I’ll admit that Chile was beginning to feel a bit restrictive. It’s a fantastic country, with amazingly diverse, spectacular landscapes. I gained a huge amount from living there. But it’s like an island, bordered by the Andes on one side, and a 4500-kilometre shoreline on the other.

Living abroad for years makes me appreciate the good things Italy has to offer

For many years, Chile was my base from which to take off on my photo journalistic adventures in Latin America. But trying to move on to other objectives was prohibitive, from the points of view of both time and finances. A ticket from Chile to Italy costs more than one to Australia. When I travelled to Libya with a Chilean colleague during the civil war, we only just managed to cover our travel and other costs, despite the good sales we made.

I’d say that already from around 2009, I started feeling the call of my homeland, most of all because it would enable me to reach those heights that would have been difficult from Chile. But 2012 was the latest possible year to make the move, since our eldest was turning twelve, and delaying the move any longer would have been to hard on him emotionally.

In any case, our departure from Chile was not a complete break. If my return had depended on an improvement in the economic situation, I would never have gone. Living abroad for years makes me appreciate the good things Italy has to offer: its culture, its history, its food. I know these may sound like clichés, but I’d rather see these simple factors than the continued mood of depression and resignation that surrounds us. Let’s say that the only way to get through this change is to accept it as a new adventure, and try to tell stories that would have been impossible for me to tell before.

My daughter wrote an essay a few months ago in which she declared she had at last overcome her greatest challenge: moving from one country to another.

From the work perspective, I have continued to work with a couple of Chilean magazines, and with an Argentinean and a U.S. agency. Since 2012 I have made a few reports both in Italy and in wider Europe, and I’ve worked with some Italian magazines and agencies. But this is not ideal, since agencies and magazines pay increasingly less and payments are slower and slower.

The children of Lorenzo and Colette

The children of Lorenzo and Colette

The children, in particular the two eldest, suffered a lot, especially at the start. The hardest part, clearly, was leaving their friends. The eldest now speaks with a perfect Roman accent and is in the first year of high school. He has chosen to study in the arts branch: in Chile this would not have been such a complete experience as it is in the Eternal City. My daughter wrote an essay a few months ago in which she declared she had at last overcome her greatest challenge: moving from one country to another.

Since our last interview, in 2007, I think I have matured in my choice of subjects for my work. Now I try to write more than I used to. I confess that I am also much more afraid than I used to be: I avoid dangerous places. Although I was never really a war zone photographer, when I remember my times in Haiti with the Chilean troops, or in the favelas in Rio, or in a police car in Santiago, I acknowledge that I had more guts then, I was more daring.

In these last few years I have also lived through some dark spells, characterised by lack of inspiration or finances. But I believe that the beauty of being able to tell stories with photos and movies is unparalleled, at least for me.

So how is my modus operandi different, as compared with Chile? There I used my car more; here I travel by plane…but the rest is much the same. If I am commissioned for a job, say by Greenpeace Italia, or by a Chilean magazine, I try to do my work as they want it done, leaving little space for improvisation. If it’s a freelance job, I take more risks, like the time I went to the Philippines simply because I had a contact in Manila and the ticket was cheap. I lived on rice and Coca Cola for a week, but I was lucky enough to find a fantastic family who hosted me in Tacloban, and after a few days, requests started flooding in from a French magazine who was sending over a journalist and wanted me to accompany him, and also from a Chilean magazine.

As for Gerry Conlon, let’s say he has been an almost daily presence in my life for the last 20 years. Even before I met him. Like many others, I first learnt of his story on 1993, through the film In the Name of the Father. But what really raised my opinion of the man, and gave me a passionate desire to meet him, was the book Gerry wrote when he had just come out of prison, and which inspired the famous film: Innocence Proved.

It was 1995. I was studying law, and was doing an Erasmus year in Madrid. I was going out with an English girl. When I went to see her in Manchester, I spent my days in libraries, researching articles about Gerry Conlon and the Guildford Four. I photocopied the front page of a daily paper which had a photo of Conlon coming out of jail. This photo remained on my desk until I graduated with my law degree. I would never have imagined that eighteen years later Gerry Conlon would have signed that copy with a personalised dedication.

During the first few months of my return to Italy, as I looked about for stories, I remembered Conlon, and after a couple of email exchanges with Irish photographer and journalist friends, I managed to trace his mobile number. I called him, and he accepted to meet me in Belfast for an interview.

Lo

The plan was to get together for a couple of hours in a pub, but in the next few days he invited me to his home: I think he got over his scepticism about me, and gradually opened up more each day. One Saturday he invited me to his home to watch Manchester United (his team) playing Liverpool, with a couple of his ex-convict friends. On that occasion he asked me to switch off my cameras, and I understood I had been accepted into his circle of friends.

…once he was out, all the torture he had suffered, the fear, and the stress of those fifteen years reappeared.

As the days went by, I stopped seeing him as Daniel Day Lewis, who plays him in the film. I stopped seeing him as the young man (he was 35 when he left prison after 15 years spent inside although he was innocent) coming out of the courthouse proclaiming his innocence, filled with passion and rage, his fist raised. What I saw was a 60-year-old man who was still fighting with the ghosts of his past, a man who had suffered an immeasurable injustice, a man who had considered suicide, a man who could not be healed by Blair’s excuses, fame, or money.

As he says in the documentary, when he was in jail he had to fight to get out and to clear his father’s name, but once he was out, all the torture he had suffered, the fear, and the stress of those fifteen years reappeared.

Let us not forget that a Northern Irish prisoner in an English jail at that time had more chance of being killed than other prisoners.

For Catholics, believing that God will never inflict on you more than you can bear can help at times. I think Conlon got very, very close to this limit, and even went beyond it, but managed to carry on somehow.

I wasn’t thinking about making a documentary when I interviewed him on camera. My intention was to watch the film and write an article, which I did. When I heard about his death, I tried to reconstruct his story, using my interviews. I hadn’t bothered about the framing, which I think is the reason I managed to reach that level of intimacy. The movie camera was simply sitting on the kitchen table, on a packet of cigarettes. Gerry Conlon was a great orator, in fact in his final years he spoke at conferences round the world, offering his experience to help obtain civil rights and protection for people who had been caught up in miscarriages of justice.

Gerry was also a generous person. Both when he was a petty thief in Belfast in the early seventies, and when he was being pampered by Hollywood, he would take a bunch of his friends off to Jamaica for a few weeks, all expenses paid.

It’s an honour to have spent a few days with him, and it’s an even greater honour to produce this documentary, which will help spread his story and tell the world the type of man Gerry Conlon was.

 

Lorenzo Moscia
Rome, Italy
March 2015

 

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