Last night I was very fortunate  to attend the opening of a exceptionally good exhibition of work from the BA  Students from London College of Communications. Both the photography course and the photojournalism course had some very thoughtful and inspirational work.  Joshua Hughes photographed I Carbonai for his final project. He is a talent to watch.

Josh Hughes

The Carbonai stop work for a cigarette. Although they spend everyday surrounded by smoke from the burning wood all of the Carbonai smoke.

This is what he said about them

‘I Carbonai means The Charcoal Men in local Calabrian dialect. It is the name affectionately given to the small number of men who continue to produce wood charcoal using centuries old methods in the mountains of Southern Italy.

Bruno, 40, stands on top of his burning Scarazzu, feeding the fire at its centre.

There are a number of charcoal sites dotted around the mountains of Calabria dating back hundreds of years, these photographs were taken on a site just outside the remote town of Serra San Bruno. The site itself has been in operation since the start of the 20th Century but the process has been around much longer. The wood gets dropped off at the site where it is sorted based on size and then arranged into a conical shape with the larger wood in the centre and smaller pieces on the outside. A flume is created in the middle to allow in oxygen during the burning process. A layer of hay, mud and clay is then compressed around the wood to protect it as it burns, the completed structure is called the Scarazzu.

I carbonai

Sacks of charcoal wait to be loaded into a lorry and taken to Sicily and Puglia where they are sold.


This project focuses on three of the Carbonai, Angelo aged 50, Nazzareno aged 43 and Bruno aged 40. The three Carbonai are brothers, sons of a Charcoal Burner they come from one of the most famous charcoal families in Italy. By focusing on these three brothers the project has a more personal perspective but also highlights the close family nature of the work.’

I Carbonai

The three brothers, Angelo, Nazzareno and Bruno relax in the sun after lunch.

Share →