ROMAN LIGHT ENLIVENS ITALIAN FLOWERS, SHUTTERS AND STUCCO
This week i would like to illustrate how you can create a unique portfolio from your travel snapshots, even two decades after the fact. While it certainly helps if you actually shoot to a theme, this is beyond the attention span of most photographers. This is especially true when we travel to far-flung places for the first and unfortunately , maybe the last time. We are so overwhelmed by sensory overload and the unfamiliarity of our surroundings that it is sometimes pretty remarkable that we can even take different, much less unique images than all of the tourists that have proceeded us. Yet in some ways Instagram has in fact made this a little easier, in that we have mostly seen all these places already, and there is less need to take shots that are overly familiar, even if you yourself have never taken them. We have now come full circle from the days when every shot seemed to be a verification that you had actually been there - now your presence might be the only thing that distinguishes your image.
A PERFECTLY ORDINARY PALAZZO JUST LIKE THE ONE ACROSS THE STREET.
But we must not give in to just pursuing the "money shot" that everyone else has already taken. If you have enough faith in your "eye", the way you usually make sense of the world, then you can just go with the flow and try to take "your shots" no matter where you are. Chances are that you will return with images that are more representative of your take on a very wonderful but unfamiliar environment. Through the wonders of post-processing, you can even discover a theme many years after you originally captured a set of images.
AN ORDINARY HOUSE IN VENICE WITH AN EXTRAORDINARY BALCONY AND SHUTTERS TO DIE FOR.
THIS BALCONY ENNOBLES ANY HUMAN BEING LUCKY ENOUGH TO WALK THROUGH THE DOOR.
Before the turn of the Century (how's that for feeling old?) Fran and I had the privilege to spend three weeks in Italy on the pilgrimage through mostly Rome, Florence, and Venice. Yesterday I spent an hour looking through my images of that trip for the first time in several years; I then selected few dozen prints to scan so that I could see what I could make of them after so long a time. What I discovered was that the images that had an impact, even though I had never before felt that they were "special", were those that concentrated on ordinary sights in these very special cities. While there are images from some "landmarks" I would be hard-pressed to recall the exact sites beyond the placement in each city. This week I would like to show images that focus on what struck me as the "details" of Italian life beyond the great monuments and art that we had come to see.
EXTERIOR STAIR CENTURIES OLD AT A PAPAL PALACE.
WHILE YOU WALK UP THE STAIRS YOU CAN LEARN THE TIME, WAY BEFORE ANYONE WORE A WATCH.
These details show how impressed I was with the craftsmanship that seemed to be an inherent part of Italian life - the feeling that if it was worth doing at all, it was worth doing well. This applied to laying brick as much as creating art, which only seemed to prove that laying brick could be an art. Everyone seemed to be in an unspoken pursuit to "show off" how well they could do something, daring you to try to ignore how much they cared.
AN ORDINARY STRUCTURE WITH AN INCREDIBLE ROOF - WHO SAID ALL OF YOUR ROOF TILES HAD TO BE THE SAME?
Beyond the exhibited craftsmanship was the attention to detail. There didn't seem to be anything unworthy of attempting to be "special", which struck this American weary of catalogs and standard details as absolutely wonderful. This concentration, sometimes bordering on O.C.D, made the anarchic qualities of Italy even more charming if undecipherable.
OKAY, YOU CREATE ONE OF THE MOST INCREDIBLE PIAZZAS IN ITALY. IT COVERS ACRES, SLOPES A FULL STORY FROM ONE END TO ANOTHER, AND CAN HOST A HORSE RACE A FEW TIMES A YEAR. SO WHY WOULDN'T YOU CHOOSE AN ELABORATE BRICK PATTERN WHILE YOU'RE AT IT?
It only helped that most of these details I was seeing for the first time had existed for many hundreds of years. The textures and age of these artifacts were all the more unbelievable in that they were not in some museum but were just part of ordinary life. Even if they had once been an exhibit of wealth and power, after dozens of lifetimes they were just part of the city's daily life, available to anyone with the time to take a look.
THIS STRUCTURE IS SO NOBLE THAT ITS BRICK WILL SUFFICE, NAKED OF THE MARBLE AND STONEWORK THAT WAS PROBABLY ONCE THERE.
In the end this is what struck me as the most important part of what I was seeing. The fact is that most of these details have been around so long that they have been saved and restored and preserved multiple times. They are part of Italy's cultural heritage. Subsequent generations have shown as much pride in these details as the original craftsman did in creating them many hundreds of years ago.
LOOK AT THAT GARDEN RAILING! NOT TO MENTION THE WISTERIA.
I would encourage you to take your own look back through your archives. My theme might be architectural details; yours might be food, landscapes, or faces. All that matters is that I believe you will find that these images are far more meaningful than yet another landmark, even if it takes you years to rediscover them.
CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT SOMEONE ONCE THOUGHT THAT THEIR BALCONY RAILING OBVIOUSLY SHOULD BE HELD UP BY A TORTOISE BASE?