As so often, it began with a genetic mutation. It is only for around 7,500 years that adult Central Europeans have preserved the enzyme in order to be able to break down milk beyond infancy. Today's dairy farmers began in the early agricultural settlements, and nature gradually became culture and finally what is now called civilization. From then on, cattle farmers were no longer dependent solely on harvest and food supplies, even under the harsh climatic conditions of the less fertile, often cold and snow-covered mountain regions. They and their residents are in the center of Via Lacteaby the Swiss photographer Alfio Tommasini. Especially in the long winter months, when humans and animals live in close symbiosis under one roof, he mainly visited smallholders, but also cattle breeders in the foothills of the Alps and mountain regions, as well as larger milk and insemination laboratories in Switzerland.
Via Lactea brings together tableau-like landscape photographs taken between 2015 and 2019 as well as precise yet intimate portraits of painterly quality, facing the farmers and their livestock. Tommasini's project undertakes a graphic study of the relationship between humans, animals and topography in the context of a rapidly changing and increasingly technologically advanced agriculture and dairy industry. Because all the people and things a city needs to survive lived behind the urban scenes. The other side of the coin are the well-organized and digitized agricultural economies, gigantic warehouses and data centers (Rem Koolhaas). The non-urban areas seem - positively as well as negatively - to be once again places of great transformation. Via Lactea opens a glimpse into a microcosm of this periphery that is by no means folkloric and romanticized, because the insignia of this technological, co-evolutionary upheaval subtly flash up again and again in the image details of clothing, tools and machines.