UPDATE (23.07.08 - 5pm): We contacted the Naples journalist who took the photos. He thinks that the affair has been blown out of proportion. Read his account further down the page.
Two girls of Roma origin drowned at a beach in Naples on Saturday. Photos of their dead bodies, lying a few metres from indifferent sunbathers, revive the controversy over Italian attitudes towards the minority gypsy community.
Midday Saturday and the two cousins, 16-year-old Cristina and 14-year-old Violetta, were selling trinkets on the beach. At 2pm they decided go into the water. But neither knew how to swim and conditions were rough. The pair were swept under by a strong current, and although their cousin and younger sister escaped and ran for help, it arrived too late.
As the photos show, the bodies of the girls were left lying under the sun while holidaymakers continued to relax on the beach, apparently unmoved. Covered by towels, the feet of the girls remained exposed for hours until the police returned to pick up the bodies. The tragedy comes at a sensitive time for the Italian Roma; after Silvio Berlusconi announced plans to fingerprint the entire community.
(thanks to our Observer Alberto Celani for his great help on this post)
Ciro Barbato is a student in Naples.
© Alessandro/ Fotogramma
Alessandro is a photographer from Naples.
There was no need for such a fuss over this. There were two groups on the beach. Indeed there were people who didn't care. But there were also those, mostly parents, who were the ones who called for help, and they stayed near to the girls until they were taken away. I took the photo on a rare moment when they moved away.
I do not think this affair had anything to do with where the girls were from. People did try to help them, just as much as they would have helped a pair of Italian girls."