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Books: Italian Photographer Luca Bracali Documents the Mystery of Easter Island

By Gina Williams   Thursday March 2, 2017


A new book from Italian photographer Luca Bracali
documents  the beauty and mystery of Easter Island
and the restoration of the island’s iconic Moai statues

When the Lorenzo de Medici School in Florence, Italy, won an international competition to send its top restoration experts to Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, Italian photojournalist Luca Bracali was also called into action as the team’s photography expert.

The mission of the multi-year expedition that began in 2012 was to put groundbreaking new technology to use to stop the lichen-caused destruction of the remote South Pacific island’s iconic Moai statues with applications of a special biocide. Internationally known restoration expert professor Lorenzo Casamenti led the team.

Following the expedition and a National Geographic report written and photographed by Bracali, Lorenzo de’ Medici Press recently published his latest book, Rapa Nui: The Genesis of a Restoration Between History, Legends and Mysteries. The book, which includes text (printed in Italian Spanish and English) by Tuscan writer Giuseppe De Ceglie, a former classmate of Bracali, explores the history and beauty of Easter Island and the native Rapa Nui people, as well as the groundbreaking statue restoration effort.




“Bracali’s images show us an earth of primordial beauty,” notes the publisher. “It is incorrect to believe this is simply a restoration of statues, of stone. It is the restoration of immense memory; of history. And this is not merely a cosmetic effort, but a matter of saving the past to guarantee a future.”

The 160-page book is accompanied by a documentary film directed by Luca Bracali and shot by filmmaker Diego Nicoletti. Bracali says he prepared for three years for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to document the restoration project and the island’s fascinating history and disaster-plagued ecology.

“This book is special because there are few such books written about this area,” Bracali says.  “Ours is the only one that not only explores the discovery of the island and the mystery of the Moai, but something never approached before – the expert restoration of the statues.”




Scientists have proved that Rapa Nui was covered by lush, subtropical forests until the 17th century. Now, the island is a symbol of ecological collapse. It is believed that the ancestors of today’s island residents cut down the trees in order to transport the statues and for the building of canoes, houses and other activities. By the time Europeans discovered the island in 1722, not a single tree remained.


An explorer and conservationist, Bracali has traveled to 138 countries in the past 20 years documenting environmental issues such as climate change. He is known for undertaking difficult expeditions and work in remote locations, documenting rarely seen or once-in-a-lifetime events.

His plans now include publishing a book on Norway’s Lofoten Archipelago. He also has a book coming about the flora of Pistioa, Italy, his home city. (Pistioa was  selected as the Capital of Culture for 2017.) He is also finishing a book about the U.S. national parks and has been invited to document the national parks of Canada.

Learn more about Luca Bracali and his work at his website and at Wikipedia.
Rapa Nui is being distributed by Messaggerie. Learn about Gina Williams at her website.

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