Annalisa Natali Murri

Then The Sky Crashed Down Upon Us


“Give me water, I beg you – give me water – I heard a girl near me imploring for water – We were a few blocked under the ruins. Some of us died, I’ve seen them dying. It had been about three days since the collapse, we were still trapped there. We didn’t know if we would all have died down there. Then I saw the girl trying to bite the neck of a corpse at her side, with her last strength, to suck and drink its blood. I have no words to describe what I saw. When I was rescued, after 4 days, she was dead”. Imran Hossain, 48, sewing operator for Phantom Apparels at the 3rd floor of Rana Plaza, tries to bring his mind back to last year, April 24th, when everything changed for him and nearly other 2500 survivors. One year has passed after the accident, but that hell keep reliving relentlessly in the memory of those who entered the building that black morning.
The trauma is overwhelming and is having a long-term impact on psychological well-being of these people. Still hundreds of people suffer from invisible, intangibles wounds. Many are no longer able to sleep at night nor can hear the slightest noise. Many others suffer panic attacks, memory losses, hear continuously mourning voices imploring help or even see dead workers laying beside them.
The tragedy and pain are far from over.
The intention of the project was hence to draw out the invisible, psychological aftermath of the disaster, focusing on PTSD affectd victims and their struggle to conduct a normal life. Portraits of survivors, relatives of the victims and rescue workers try to give shape to their fears and memories in a chaotic and disorienting merge of their own ghosts, derived from the trauma, which everyday and night threaten their minds.




Annalisa Natali Murri (1982), freelance photographer, approached for the first time to photography at age 27, while attending Architectural and Urban Photography School in Valencia (Spain).
After completing her studies in engineering, soon she began to alternate her work to photography, focusing on personal research works and documentary projects, mainly inspired by social issues and their psychological consequences. Her works have been awarded in several international contests, including 70th and 71st POYi. In 2014 she was selected as an attendee for LOOKbetween mentorship program. She’s currently based in Bologna, Italy.


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27 thoughts on “Annalisa Natali Murri – Then The Sky Crashed Down Upon Us”

  1. Brilliant and haunting, excellent in every way. It is hard to imagine how this essay could have been any better. It takes photography to the limits of what photography is capable of expressing. Had I been a judge for the EPF, I probably would have awarded this essay first place.

  2. While double exposure or multiple images layered together in one is nothing new, among photo essays this one is unique. As Sidney says, “Brilliant and haunting, excellent in every way.” The photographer what could have been a gimmick and made a master work of it, both in terms of reportage and art. I have earlier stated that I would never want to be a judge of anything like this, because so much fine has been submitted how does one judge?

    Yet, in this case, to me, now, there is no question: I would have given this first place. “Finalist” is an excellent place to land, but in this case does not give the work its proper due and justice.

  3. Yes, I have to concur with Sidney and Frostfrog. This is so well done, so unique and daring in execution, so powerful to look at, it is hard to fault. It is daring in that this sort of imagery is not usually considered to be pure documentary. But it is so arresting and effective. I can hear a sound track running in my head when I view it.
    Congratulations Annalisa

  4. I have to concur with all who have written as well…very intelligent in every way….visually and intellectually…if i were a juror i would also probably have given this the number one spot….she surely did not “lose” however…she will be noticed…keep your eye on this photographer…she is brilliant…..

    cheers, david

  5. marcin luczkowski

    I am sorry for comment above, but i was not able to post any comment since two months. Quite surprising.

  6. marcin luczkowski

    And comment i tried to write before, I am not a big fan of collages, but this is great. So many strong pictures inside. Very unique.

  7. Peter David Grant

    Fantastic photographs, made exceptionally well. The opening quote by Imran set the scene for a thoughtful set of photographs.

    Thank you for submitting so we got the chance to see your wonderful work.

  8. This essay probably has received more positive comments than all the other ones in this series and, I would think, generally, deservedly so. That is why I feel I can write my thoughts below. While some of the double exposures or layered images are excellent my feeling is that that 18 of them becomes too much of a good thing if this is to be taken as an essay on the subject in question. I feel that there is too much similarly in expression in these pictures. That is to say, the attempt too “draw out the invisible, psychological aftermath of the disaster” is somewhat attenuated by the similarity of most of the photographs. I would have preferred to have only, say, three or so of the layered. I think, would have been even stronger.

    In an editorial on his blog, Jörg M. Colberg writes that he likes photography go beyond “a simple and obvious degree of descriptiveness”. And I think that Ms. Murri’s essay does that but needs more variety of expression. Colberg, interestingly, writes, “If, however, you look at the photography that was made decades ago and that still resonates with us – ask yourself why we still talk about it. Why do we still look at Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’, for example?” That’s worth thinking about, although hard to answer — and even harder to apply to one’s own work. Here is Colberg’s editorial, which worth reading and thinking about — but I hasten to say that I am not applying some of his harsher criticism in his article to Ms. Murri’s essay:



    i always appreciate your thoughtful and often academic critique….however, on this one i must disagree with you that the pictures somehow look alike…for me, it is exactly the right drumbeat…never goes offtrack…18 photographs….with 18 photographs or even with a whole book, i for one do not want “variety”…..when i want variety, i look at another book, another photographer…for an essay or a book with authorship, i want to get basically one thread…one melody…the visual juxtapositions have a similarity yes, yet the relentless repetition of singular style or vision for me is a strong point , not a weak one….i do not know where Annalisa goes from here….sure , she will have to change up on the next essay, yet i do not see her needing to be ambidextrous for this specific set….

    it is quite interesting that Colburg is asking for “emotion” when of course most art critics abhor emotion in this era….most of the most recognised art photographers could not be more distant… his approach and wishes i do find quite interesting….

    however, truth is though Mitch, i do not know any serious photographer who reads that stuff…why would they? most of the really great photographers just go do what they have to do…if they read critics and tried to assuage them, then they would be chasing their tails like commercial photographers trying to “stay current”…you must do what you do and let the chips fall where they may….most critics are actually forced to write something by Thursday afternoon…same with movie critics…they are the ones who gotta come up with something on deadline….sound intelligent…there is imo no more good criticism than there is fine photography….good stuff is rare…just the way it is…

    many thanks always Mitch for taking a careful look….

    cheers, david

  10. David – considering how uniform the praise had been, and also that you liked these a lot, I thought long and hard before writing my dissenting comment. I’ll come back over the next week and look several more times and see whether I come to see these differently — because I’ve found your judgment spot-on so many times…

    Cheers, Mitch/Bangkok


    I will do the same Mitch….I always value your critique as well….for sure we all have different expectations and parameters for work we view, films we see, music we listen to…on top of that, our moods change for what we want and when….context also counts for a lot…i have seen music slide shows of work that brought me to tears, and then saw the same work in a book, and was not moved….

    at the moment i think i guess i hope that Annalisa will take us continually to new ground…yet we will have to wait and see…

    a bit off topic, but it did come up earlier about Robert Frank and WHY we still talked about The Americans essay…i think in entertainment, literature, film making, photography , well all the arts, there was an era just prior where icons were made that just cannot be broken…Frank is one of them…we did not hold Frank responsible for anything after the The Americans and yet if he had done that today, we would be asking for “yea, but what has he done lately?” No matter how good a rock band might be today, there will never be another phenomena like The Beatles, or The Rolling Stones…nope those days of mega icons are over…Frank might indeed catch some shit here with the Burn crowd if we just ran a title as totally pretentious as The Americans and we just looked at the pictures and we did not know it was FRANK…i can hear already “but what’s the story?” “what’s with that text? doesn’t match the pictures”..ha ha well no way to know, but it is always something to think about…yet alas, time puts all into perspective…

    hope to see you BKK in the spring…

    cheers, david

  12. DAVID RE: FRANK. Is it also possible that the reason the Work is still talked about and viewed is that it is just very very good photography. Each image standing as much for itself as for the images alongside it, and that the pictures are not dependent on any imposed conceptual framework even if one exists for the work as a whole. Your own work still follows this ethic as far as I can see.

  13. The funny thing about the photographers many admire is the sense of emotional attachment these photographers have to the scene in front of them, co-inciding with the emotional detachment they have with the subjects within. This emotional detachment leaks out of the image whenever I detect the photographer’s inability to record the fundamental human activities of verbal or non-verbal interaction, communication, sharing. It’s one thing if this is absent in a single image; if it’s not there in an essay or book, chances are pretty good it’ll be missing completely from their work as well.

    The irony is that the person tasked with the noble pursuit of “recording the world and our position in it” is generally one who is emotionally distant. They are an excellent fly-on-the-wall with an amazing ability to record human history in an unengaged manner. Unfortunately this strength of disengagement makes it fairly impossible for them to photograph people who are engaged with one another. This follows the fundamental nature of what I believe to be tautological to photography, that the photographer photographs himself. If one cannot photograph the relationship of two or more people interacting with one another, it likely because the urge for creative self-expression through photography (or any other art) becomes the easiest, quickest and most efficient means of communication for the emotionally distant person.

    There are many great photographers who cannot break through that wall, even if their nose is pressed right up against it. I believe the final frontier for documentary, journalistic or anthropological photography resides in the recording of interaction and communication. Robert Frank was able to do it in a few of the images in “The Americans”. Kiana Hayeri does it in spades in “Jense Degar” (The Other Sex); I’m thrilled that she was recognized by the EPF judges, and I hope her ease at recording the thing others find impossible to do, will serve as a challenge and an encouragement to photographers.

  14. Jeff. I think you confuse ability with intent. The type of work you reference requires only a shift in stance towards the subject. That some do not make this is not a limitation or ‘impossible’, but a choice made with regard to the required subject/photographer dynamic. I can put on my charming hat as well as the next person and go for the ‘human’ angle…but I choose mainly not to do so as they do not provide images that say what i wish them to say. Not doing and not being able to do things are very different.
    Also…over analysis. I dont know about you but I work best (and seem to make my best work) when i am not thinking at all about what i am doing other than looking for light and angles. and in a odd way I am dancing with the subject.


    You raise an interesting set of issues that are always lurking behind photo work and particularly the essays we see here on BURN. Naturally this isn’t the first time I’ve been made aware of this business of photographers and emotional detachment, but you put it in a particularly elegant and succinct manner:

    “… The funny thing about the photographers many admire is the sense of emotional attachment these photographers have to the scene in front of them, co-inciding with the emotional detachment they have with the subjects within… The irony is that the person tasked with the noble pursuit of “recording the world and our position in it” is generally one who is emotionally distant… If one cannot photograph the relationship of two or more people interacting with one another, it likely because the urge for creative self-expression through photography (or any other art) becomes the easiest, quickest and most efficient means of communication for the emotionally distant person…”

    While I believe this has generally been true of many members of the class we have hereto called ‘photographers,’ I think it has never applied to all of them and has recently broken down in the last few decades as photography has become technically more and more simple, accessible, casual, and ubiquitous in daily life, at least in the ‘developed’ world…

    But there’s a lot to think about in the issues you bring up. Recently I have watched a lot of ‘long form’ TV and movie dramas (we used to call them ‘soap operas’) and I am astounded at the subtlety and richness of the acting, the interaction, the interpersonal communication, the range and timing of delicate facial expressions, the ambiguities that hang in the air, etc. that I see in these, so it’s clear that writers, directors, cinematographers, and actors are paying more and more attention to that dimension and audiences must be doing so as well, at least on a subconscious level, because these shows are very popular and successful. On the other hand, I see little evidence that most people really pay much attention to the larger ecology.. and I use that word in a very broad sense… of the physical and biological world they live in… more and more of the ‘information’ our culture is producing and consuming is about the intricacies and intimacies of interpersonal communication and little attention is given to the microtomic, bioregional, or planetary context in which all these human ‘dramas’ occur, except to use them as backdrops or ‘locations.’ Documentary photography, on the other hand, with its sometimes emotional detachment, has traditionally provided some balance to that point of view. But there’s a lot here to think about and talk about and thanks to you for raising the subject.

  16. I also like what John Gladdy said about intent versus ability, which is certainly true sometimes and for some people. But I also know a lot of nature, outdoor, and ‘travel’ photographers who choose not to focus on human emotional interaction because they are frankly either frightened by it or don’t have a clue how to approach it and feel far more at home ignoring it.

  17. Personally I believe what made Robert Frank create the Americans as it is now was the jail incident. Without that episode I’m sure the Americans wouldn’t be what we now know. I remember listening to a radio interview with Frank a couple of years ago and you could clearly tell by listening to the elderly gentleman’s voice he was still enraged by the whole experience. The Americans is so much more than just images. There was clearly an artist with something very significant to shout out and good, honest art never wears out.


    Interesting thought, that “those days of mega icons are over”. Imagine a young Swiss photographer coming over today and looking at the States with new eyes — I just came across a soundbite in which Frank says that photographing for “The Americans” he was seeing a country with fresh eyes…that he couldn’t go back and do it again: it wouldn’t be fresh. Coming back to the young Swiss today: he couldn’t produce something as wide-ranging as Frank did because the world has become so “Amercanized” since the 1950s, not to speak of globalization. Our contemporary young Swiss could concentrate on various aspects of the American scene, but even then…say he looked at Las Vegas, or L.A. or guns in America — so much of it has been done, and much of it inspired directly or indirectly by Frank. I am not saying that today there are no new worlds to discover — a talented photographer will always find a subject.

    Not only was Frank looking with fresh eyes, but his approach was new. It was only over time and by giving inspiration to other artists that his book became accepted. The initial reviews like the one in Popular Photography complained about “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness.” Frank himself said, “I wanted to follow my own intuition and do it my way, and not to make any concession – not to make a Life [Magazine] story…those goddamn stories with a beginning and an end.” I like this quote because I’ve been feeling that people talk too much about the “story” in a photo essay or in individual photographs.

    Finally, from a blog article I came across this morning, it also looks like Frank was setting “The Americans” up against the approach of Steichen’s “Family of Man” exhibition which preceded his book by four years. Looking at the sentimentality of the “Family of Man”, it’s not difficult to see how the deeper truth of Frank’s book became something that we still look at and look up to.

    I agree on what you say about Annelisa and hope to see more work from her.

    BTW, I’ve sent you an email on Bangkok and hope it reaches you.

    —Mitch/Chiang Mai

  19. I can’t begin to imagine how traumatic it must be to be trapped in a collapsed building for 3 days… surrounded by the stench of death too….but this essay didn’t speak to me at all.

    The lives of people who have experienced an overwhelming catastrophe seem to fade away behind what appears to me as artistic contrivance.

  20. JOHN and SIDNEY

    I’ve been giving a lot of thought to Clement Greenberg’s idea that every field of Art should respect its medium, and specifically thinking how to differentiate photography from painting. So far I’m concluding that for Western painting prior to the invention of photography, painters would spend a long time on a canvas which would give a representation of a moment, or an instant. Photography on the other hand gives a representation of an interval of time made in that same interval of time. It’s understandable that figures in these paintings lacked spontaneity in execution – after all a model would have to pose for hours.

    Plenty of photographers carried over the compositional techniques of painting in the early days. I’m not sure when the Pictorialists came to be, but they were early adapters of painterly compositional techniques in their photography. There are still plenty of photographers working outside of the spontaneity offered by a camera’s shutter. Then there are the photographers who have studied and mastered the techniques of recording the spontaneity of the scene in front of them, yet still carry-over the frozen, silent faces found in paintings made prior to photography’s invention.

    I can be very easily carried over to a sympathetic sensitivity when viewing a photo-journalistic or documentary essay dealing with natural disaster, war, plague or diaspora. Plenty of this year’s EPF finalists do just that to me. I believe in the notion that “information is power”, that the sharing of information is empowering. That’s probably why I want to see more interaction in essays. It will take my sympathies to a greater plane seeing people in these situations attempting to work out their problems together, rather than standing separately, suffering silently. Whether the photographer is unable to do this is a result of their own emotional distance, or a carry over of painterly tradition is up for debate. I’m certain there’s opportunity for increasing the vocabulary of photography in this area.

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  22. O!!!!!!!

    a person to watch…so much from such a tiny space of time and environment….celestial….how this wasnt chosen as one of the finalists is beyond me…..

    extraordinary….and also a reimagining of the use of multiple exposure in an abundant and substantial way….

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