Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Siddhartha with a camera

In a book on photography I recently read, the act of taking pictures is described as ‘pleasure, instinct, and freedom‘. If you asked me, I would add ‘contemplation‘. The beauty of photography is that of taking time, going slow, waiting for the right light, and then waiting a few days for the film to be developed – of course, the latter does not apply to modern cameras and phones. The slow rhythm of photography contradicts the imperatives of modern life.

What is more, it seems to me that there are several connections between yoga and photography. The pursuit of abstraction, the importance of being an observer of something bigger going on around you, and the idea that you can find joy simply by taking the time to look around.

Of course, I know little about photography and I know even less about yoga. Take these scattered notes with a pinch of skepticism.

Scritto così, di getto

Siamo arrivati a Firenze e ci hanno accolto gli amici. Quelli di un tempo e quelli nuovi. Ci siamo seduti in terrazza a mangiare cime di rapa, pecorino e finocchiona. Abbiamo scherzato sul camionista Mario e ci siamo subito trovati con Marco e con Maurizio l’ortolano.

Le strade del centro sono ancora buie e anguste, ma qui e là fanno capolino fiori coloratissimi.

Giallu mi ha subito rimesso in sella e continuo a stupirmi della vastità infinita della campagna a due passi dal centro. Grazie ad Andrew mi sono aggregato a un gruppo ciclistico e con loro sto macinando chilometri nel fine settimana.

Perfino Minda è risorta dopo due anni di abbandono alle soglie della provincia. Nessuno l’ha voluta rubare e allora me la riprendo io.

Nicco’s Fundraising Challenge

This is Nicco and his new slogan is Let’s turn diabetes type 1 into type none!

Nicco was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes three years ago. Now he wants to complete an olympic triathlon whilst fundraising for JDRF. As he says, this gives him motivation, strength, and sense of purpose. On August 8, he will be running the London Triathlon 2021 to fundraise for JDRF UK, a global organisation funding research on treatment and cure of type 1 diabetes.

If you would like to support JDRF in their work and the broader type 1 diabetes community, please give a donation through Nicco’s JustGiving page.

Trento Film Festival

My parents continue to give me good tips. This time, they wrote me to say that the Trento Film Festival has a separate online section.

The Trento Film Festival kicked-off in 1952 thanks to a joint initiative of the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) and the Municipality of Trento. It takes place once a year, at the beginning of May, featuring a multi-faced selection of movies about mountain, nature, the environment, and travel. I attended a couple of times, in 2010 and 2011, and it was an absolute delight.

The main beauty of the festival is the possibility to roam around from one cinema to the other, visit the stands, and talk to the movie makers. But if you are away from Trento, as I am, you can get a digital pass that gives you limited access (till May 17) to a selection of movies that you would not normally find online. Alas, you can only use it if you are in Italy (but you may want to use a vpn, which would allow you to access from all over the world).

The movies we watched and recommend are:

  • Black Ice, following a crew of aspiring ice climbers from the Memphis Rox gym to the frozen wilds of Montana.
  • Haeberli, the story of a house falling apart and his genial inhabitant stuck in his paper jungle in the middle of posh St. Moritz: quintessentially Swiss.
  • Godspeed, Los Polacos, the chronicles of a group of Polish students who, in the 1970s, escape the Iron Curtain through a kayak expedition in South America with very little technical knowledge of how to survive in those environments: the ultimate roadtrip.

All of them have a subtle touch of irony.

Refugees

Jesus and his family, Dante, Camille Pissarro, Karl Marx, Joseph Conrad, Sigmund Freud, Marc Chagall, Vladimir Nabokov, Vladimir Lenin, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anne Frank, Thomas Mann, Albert Eistein, Hanna Arendt, Bertold Brecht, Walter Gropius, Fritz Lang, Piet Mondrian, Henry Kissinger, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Bob Marley, Freddie Mercury, Madeleine Albright, Rigoberta Menchú, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Mona Hatoum, Isabel Allende, Wyclef Jean, Tenzin Gyatso, Edward Snowden.

What are you thinking about?

The photos we take reflect the way we look at the world, which is very subjective.

Give a camera to three persons who are looking at the same landscape. They will take completely different photos, even if they have the same technical skills. The first person may want to capture the grey and threatening clouds on the horizon and take a picture in the style of Pentti Sammallahti. The second person could zoom on the thoughtful pedestrian walking with his dog, a much more humanistic approach of the kind of Susan Meseilas. The third may decide to boost the colours, emphasise the contrast between the green pullover of the pedestrian and the red house on the right, creating a magical atmosphere à la Alex Webb’s. Through a camera we decide what we want to see and how we want to portray it.

Much of this craft disappears with modern phones. Their standard images are often beautiful, but less intimate than those you can take with a normal camera by playing around with the exposition, the zoom, the focus, the width…

La prima cosa

Arrivati a Firenze, quello che subito salta all’occhio è il bianco dei capelli. Siamo circondati da persone anziane. Sarà forse il contrasto con Parigi, dove la popolazione è mediamente molto giovane, tra hipster in bicicletta e famiglie con le borse sotto gli occhi. E sarà anche perché adesso a Firenze non ci sono turisti, che almeno di poco l’età media l’abbassavano. (Un inciso per chi leggerà questo post tra qualche anno e non ricorderà il contesto: siamo ancora nel mezzo di una pandemia mondiale e il governo italiano ha chiuso tutti i negozi. La gente passa gran parte del tempo a casa, il turismo non esiste più e alcune città ne escono completamente trasformate. Le vie del centro sono vuote, silenziose, ed è un privilegio poterle vivere così).

Sia come sia, l’anzianità della popolazione è impressionante. E non si tratta solo di un’impressione: l’Italia è il paese con l’età media più alta d’Europa; in Italia, la Toscana è la terza regione per anzianità (47.3).

Le altre cose che notiamo sono i suoni (tazzine di caffé, autobus scalcagnati, panni sbattuti, pigolio di usignoli, pettirossi, cuculi e cardellini), i vestiti di quei pochi giovani che girano per le strade (vistosi, esagerati, elaborati) e dei tanti anziani (eleganti, ragionati, formali), il giallo delle case e il blu del cielo.

Weekend long reads, April 2021

Rachel Aviv, How Elizabeth Loftus Changed the Meaning of Memory, The New Yorker. James Parker, The relentless Philip Roth, The Atlantic.

My professional self, 2021

Since the beginning of April I have officially returned to the European University Institute. I work as Research Fellow leading the activities of the Migration Policy Centre on research and training with the School of Transnational Governance. So many different institutions in one small place!

CMM-Pandemic

I spent a good amount of time, over the last twelve months, trying to make sense of the different restrictions to human mobility introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Much of this work has been conducted with Andreas Perret, Jelena Dzankic, Timothy Jacob-Owens, Didier Ruedin, Daniele Pezzatini, and Pauline Lecomte.

I already told you about an article I published with some of my co-authored a couple of months ago. Now I would like to introduced the new website that we have created to present some preliminary findings and make our data easily accessible.

Our argument is that Covid-19 travel restrictions have been a global phenomenon, but their impact has varied hugely, depending on an individual’s immigration status, citizenship, employment, and place of residence. It remains to be seen whether, and to what extent, these measures will outlast the pandemic and establish a ‘new normal’ for global mobility.