Posts Tagged ‘Leica’

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

 

Music on a rainy afternoon

Friday, July 19th, 2013

 

Here’s another image from a recent Conde Nast Traveller story in Sao Tome and Principe. It shows singer Guilherme de Caravlho playing at home in Sao Tome. Outside the heavens had just opened and a rain storm was passing overhead. Behind the curtain his daughter danced to the music.

I’ve written before about music from former Portuguese colonies: the melancholy, the saudade. Here was a perfect moment to illustrate it. I hope that I did his song justice…

 

 

Sao Tome and Principe - Sao Tome - Singer Guilherme de Caravalho plays guitar at home

Sao Tome and Principe – Sao Tome – Singer Guilherme de Caravalho plays guitar at home

All a bit of a punt

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

 

An image from a recent shoot in Cambridge. I don’t work much in the UK – and sometimes I think I hardly know the country – something I’m trying to change…

UK - Cambridge - Punts and passengers glide past The Clare College (founded 1326) on the River Cam past the Garret Hostel bridge, Cambridge, UK

UK – Cambridge – Punts and passengers glide past Clare College (founded 1326) on the River Cam by the Garret Hostel bridge, Cambridge, UK

Crows and washing

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

 

 

India - Kolkata - Crows on the banks of the Hoogly sit by a washing line

India – Kolkata – Crows on the banks of the Hooghly sit by a washing line

The girl at the Mosque

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

A third image from Cairo

 

Egypt - Cairo - A young woman wearing a headscarf in the courtyard of the Ibn Tulun Mosque

Egypt – Cairo – A young woman wearing a headscarf in the courtyard of the Ibn Tulun Mosque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The boy with the facepack

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Amazing what you find walking the streets of Cairo (my new favourite city I think)…

 

 

Egypt - Cairo -

Egypt – Cairo – A young man smokes a shisha pipe outside an ahwa (coffeehouse) whilst wearing a facepack to look his best for his wedding later that evening

 

Football in the City of the Dead

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Wandering in Cairo on assignment…

 

Egypt - Cairo - Boys play football in an alleyway in the Northern Cemetery known as the City of the Dead

Egypt – Cairo – Boys play football in an alleyway in the Northern Cemetery known as the City of the Dead

The light…

Monday, November 7th, 2011

 

 

India - Jaipur - A man walks through the streets of the Old City at dusk

 

I have just finished a lovely four day travel assignment in one of India’s most tourist-heavy cities, Jaipur. Ironically I was tasked to write and photograph about the quiet spots, the quirky and the unusual and I’m pleased to say that there were many. I stayed an extra day and a half in order to edit and write the piece and on the last afternoon, took myself out to shoot on the streets. I always used to do this kind of work on Leica’s and tranny. That process was very freeing but I find it incredibly difficult these days to shoot this kind of work on DSLR’s. Perhaps it’s just me but one looks so much like a photographer that the process becomes a cliche: two big heavy cameras with two big heavy prime lenses. A long way from the classic rangefinder. It is more than that however – purely in terms of seeing, those little cameras allowed you to examine spatial relationships through the viewfinder. You could pre-focus and just walk into the picture. I feel very removed when I try to do these kind of things with my current kit. There’s a sort of rhythm that works on the street and it’s really difficult to do with such a big, noisy machine pressed to your face. I have, over the years in India gone back to my M6 rangefinders as it’s still relatively cheap and easy to process film here.  However, then you have the laborious task of scanning – a process which, after spending the best part of two years feeding my archive (in the form of little plastic squares) through various machines, I’d rather die than attempt again. The irony is of course that I used to be sponsored by Leica (and Kodak for that matter) but who, apart from dentists (meaning rich hobbyists) as Simon Norfolk said a few years ago can afford a couple of M9’s? Or perhaps I’m just not working hard enough…