Motionless synthetic waves, stains of futurism that break the rocky uniformity of a familiar landscape. The proportion of this celestial scenario is suggested only by the silhouette of a human figure who enters the frame, resembling a broken pixel on a screen. Like a shield that protects and keeps contained and unknown source of vitality and concern, the question about its effectiveness looms over like vultures flying over a forthcoming feast.

In 2021 for a few weeks, the mountains near the Tonale pass in Italy, and the Champs-Élysées in Paris have been bonded by something that has not been seen before; Huge monuments covered with hundreds of meters of immaculate sheets interrupt the surrounding grayness, sparkling under the sun's rays and reacting to every gust of wind like possessed sails. In France the packed monument was nothing other than the famous Arc de Triomphe, transformed by a group of volunteers into a posthumous work of art by the famous and dear departed artist Christo who made a life mission to pack giant objects. On the border between Lombardy and Trentino-Alto Adige with an operation of much more impressive dimensions, an attempt is being made to save a giant that has been dying for some decades now, under the lashes of the increasingly violent solar rays because of global warming: the Presena Glacier.
According to a well-established custom, which has been going on since 2008, every year, the slopes of this glacier are covered with geotextile sheets placed by the Pontedilegno-Tonale consortium to protect it from melting. These sheets are made of polyester and polypropylene fibers and are 3-4 millimeters thick. Lying on the glacier, they reflect sunlight and protect the underlying snow and ice layer from heat and ultraviolet rays. 25 meters long and 2 meters wide, they are placed in June and removed in September by specialized workers who, moving as equilibrists on the ice, unroll and sew together this huge blanket which, with the help of snow fired from ten snow cannons, protects and consolidates the glacier below (technically we speak of "ablation"). This summer, the sheets made it possible to save 2 meters of ice, in line with the trend of recent years.
The melting of the glaciers shows no signs of subsiding but proceeds at an ever more pressing pace. As a recent study by the British University of Leeds published in Nature magazine found, polar ice melts six times faster than in the 1990s. The first geotextile sheets were installed in 2004 in the Swiss Alps and are currently used in a dozen sites in Italy, France, Austria and Germany.
This first chapter of my ongoing project has been possible thanks to Glac-UP a startup created with the aim to safeguard and enhance the most loved alpine glaciers, involving people, companies and local communities. To make this activity economically sustainable and take concrete action, the 4 founders of this start-up have developed a system that offers individuals and companies to invest, "adopting" square meter by square meter, portions of glacier, to buy the indispensable "sheets", place them and recover them at the end of the summer season, replacing them when they become ineffective.
The Presena glacier is the first to be affected by this operation and constitutes the starting point for testing and bringing this model of economic sustainability to the areas where the covering with geotextile sheets is already used but above all to those Alpine areas where such practice has not yet been adopted due to the very high cost.


Francesco was born in Aosta in 1986 and he’s based in Milan. After a bachelor's degree in industrial design at the Politecnico University of Milan, he completely devoted himself to photography and now he works mainly on personal long-term projects, always looking for a point of contact between his documentary background and a strong interest for metaphors and symbolism. In 2016 he was selected by the British Journal of Photography in order to be part of “The Talent Issue: Ones to Watch" and 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.

His pictures have been published on important magazines and newspapers worldwide including Washington Post, Financial Times, Le Monde and many others while his projects have been featured on renowned photography platforms as American Suburb X and Time Lightbox. Francesco’s work has been exhibited worldwide in collective and solo shows.

Francesco’s first book “The Flood”, published by Void, has been released in 2021.
IG: francescomerlini

Words by Erika Giulietti
Post coordination by Vincent Urbani