Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Palermo Palavar

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

 

In a blog post yesterday, I showed a very quiet image of a priest reading and walking around a cloister. Below is perhaps a more typical image of Palermo and (southern) Italy in general. It’s said that Italians can only speak with their hands and the New York Times has a recent, rather prosaic piece here on that very subject.

The consensus seems to be that somehow, in such crowded places people needed a further way to make themselves heard. Perhaps. Some years ago I stayed at a rather expensive hotel in Naples and they gave me as a gift, a lovely book (see below) about the secret meanings of Italian hand gestures. There are hundreds: some pleasant, some decidedly unpleasant. It occurred to me that in one sense it was a code, a language of the initiated in the way that rhyming slang was to the Victorian Cockney. A very real way to subvert authority (and of course the law) and build an identity that was separate and uncontrollable. Naples like Palermo are exquisite places full of art and beauty but are also brutal and fearful. Norman Lewis in his highly entertaining Naples ’44 recounting his time in the Intelligence Corp in that city remembers constantly being offered women by their families in order to eat. Peter Robb in his exquisite Midnight in Sicily (and later in his Street Fight in Naples) shows a labyrinthine society with bestial corruption at it’s very heart and violence meted out by mafiosi at every level. A society moved by an unofficial nod of the head, parallel governments. Secrets. Robb lived in Southern Italy, the Mezzogiorno for years. He immersed himself in the language and the culture and his writing shows the depth and commitment of that effort.

A photographer wandering the streets is usually a little different. He walks and sees a moment developing in the chaos of colour and movement and steps towards it. He takes two pictures and the image changes. He might have recorded something significant, something trivial but he has little hope of understanding anything on a deeper level than the symbol in the image – a gesture between two (or in this case three) people. The words he hears don’t mean anything – the gestures might be theatre. He might be ignored, or as in this case, sworn at and threatened. The language he is trying to communicate is equally symbolic as the hands of an Italian yet inevitably painted with a thicker, less subtle brush. He just sees the signs the hands make, not necessarily the subtlety of the meaning. He might interpret those signs as meaning something completely different – something as part of a visual culture that he has absorbed. Photography is as valuable but blunter than words. A more democratic code. Perhaps.

By the way, the title of this post comes from yet another language. Another collected word from another country. Palava(r). A word that I used to hear in West Africa all the time. Apparently it is Portuguese in origin. I didn’t know. Non capisco. So many words, so many countries. A mixture, an argument, a conversation. A beautiful mess. Just like Palermo.

 

Italy - Palermo - A man and a woman in a heated conversation in a lane behind the Capo Market

Italy – Palermo – A man and a woman in a heated conversation in a lane behind the Capo Market

 

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The Art of Gestures in Naples

 

The Priest of Palermo

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

 

Italy - Palermo - A priest reads as he walks through the cloisters in the courtyard of the St Augustino church

Italy – Palermo – A priest reads as he walks through the cloisters in the courtyard of the St Augustino church

Kissing in Sicily

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

 

… seemed to be a good deal of kissing on the island recently…

 

Italy - Palermo -  A young couple kiss as they part by horses used to ferry tourists at the Quatro Canti (officially known as Piazza Vigliena) a Baroque square

Italy – Palermo – A young couple kiss as they part by horses used to ferry tourists at the Quatro Canti, a Baroque square

 

Italy - Cefalu - Tourists photograph, chat and kiss on the sea wall

Italy – Cefalu – Tourists photograph, chat and kiss on the sea wall

 

Luz Photo

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

I am delighted to announce that I am now represented in Italy by Luz Photo. Founded by some of my former colleagues from the sadly missed Grazia Neri agency they look after some excellent photographers. I look forward very much to working with them.

You can see my folio page here or click on the image below.

Under a tree in a garden in Italy…

Friday, September 4th, 2009

… is a pretty good place to spend a week doing nothing but eating, drinking and reading. On the rare occasions that I ventured out this is what I saw…

Italy - Umbria - A winding road and a field of sunflowers

Italy - Umbria - A winding road and a field of sunflowers

Italy - Urbino - A tourist videos his little girl running down a path outside the Palazzo Ducale

Italy - Urbino - A tourist videos his little girl running down a path outside the Palazzo Ducale

Italy - Urbino - A man talks on his mobile telephone while leaning against a wall next to his Vespa

Italy - Urbino - A man talks on his mobile telephone whilst leaning against a wall next to his Vespa

Italy - Umbria - A flowerpot overlooks the Umbrian countryside at dusk

Italy - Umbria - A flowerpot overlooks the Umbrian countryside at dusk

Bologna

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

I just returned from a job in Bologna several pounds heavier. It was actually the most enjoyable trip I’ve had in years: not only could I wander endlessly but the people were extraordinarily nice. In five days no one objected to being photographed, everyone was unerringly polite and everyone humoured my laboured and almost non-existant Italian.

I was searching for a way to photograph the city and quite by chance, after a long walk, wandered into a newsagent that sold books and found a panoramic image from the top of somewhere obviously very high. The guy in the shop was convinced it was taken from the top of a famous church but the caption read ‘O Coronato’… Confused, I called my new editor at Grazia Neri, Anna Savini. As luck would have it, Anna is from Bologna and the Coronato is actually a privately owned tower – and her Mum knew the owner. Very handy. Matteo Giovanardi who lives in and owns the tower was charm itself – but I had to climb the tower alone as he was waiting for his daughter to come back from school… I have to say that the tower was a marvel. It was also very high. For someone who isn’t great at heights and had already climbed the The Asinelli Tower, sweating and gripping the frail handrails tightly swearing never to do this kind of thing again, it was a bit of a trial. The view was however, extraordinary. The light, just before sunset, sublime. I remembered why I’d become a photographer. As I heaved myself down, Matteo showed me around his home that is the Prendiparte Tower…

I was terribly fortunate to be allowed to photograph from the Tower: I think Matteo has only granted permission twice – both for books. Anyway, this is what I saw:

Italy - Bologna - Panorama of Bologna ©Stuart Freedman

Italy - Bologna - Panorama of Bologna ©Stuart Freedman


I have to thank Caroline, digital guru extroaordinaire, for stitching together several images (obviously I came prepared – without a panoramic attachment on the tripod…).