Lorenzo & his humble friends

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

Category: photography

Anna nella neve

Seminario de Madrid

This is a photo taken in 1960 by Ramón Masatas. Notice the shape of the goalkeeper and the seminarist on the right, the back to the goal, the head turned, almost ready to snap.

When I arrived at the seminary, I was struck by a football match in which the seminarians themselves were playing, despite wearing cassocks. I got behind the lens and watched them play. I asked them if they could stop the game and take some shots at the goalkeeper. They shot 18 or 20 times, until I managed to get this wonderful picture… Was it a goal? Yes, it was a goal, but I didn’t find out until I was able to enlarge the photo to a very large size. I noticed that the ball was behind the priest’s hand. It took me a while to see it. I didn’t find out until 10 or 15 years later.

Pont de Bir-Hakeim

An iconic bridge, which I did not really know until I took the photo below. It crosses the Seine, just steps away from the Tour Eiffel, passing through a small island, the Île aux Cygnes. I sent the photo to Erik, who gave me a few tips on how to improve it. Here is what he said:

A couple of things that comes to my mind. To attract more attention to the silhouettes, it would be best to have just that in the frame. Everything else is a bit of a distraction. In order to get that, you have to have a telelens or crop the picture. Here the blackness of the bridge is the border of your photo, the frame. Alternatively, if you don’t have a telelens, or you really like the bridge to be recognized by the viewer as a bridge, then it is best to show the whole situation. As a viewer I get an understanding of what is going on. And most importantly, some perspective. Because of the foreground, like the tree and the bushes down low. When you only want the silhouettes in frame, there is less need of perspective. Because there is less distraction.

I followed this advice, cropping the picture as suggested. This is the result.

Bluer than velvet was the night

In questo mio squinternato e quarantinato passaggio di fine settembre a Trento ho scattato una foto che gli apprezzatori di David Lynch sapranno sicuramente ricollegare immediatamente alla sequenza iniziale di Blue Velvet.

Nigeria, 1960

A few weeks ago I visited the Polka Gallery in Paris with Arianna. This picture of Marc Riboud stuck with me. The original can be found here.

Marc Riboud - Ball for the Independence of Nigeria - 1966

I tried to reconstruct its story. There is not much information available, other than the title of the picture: Nigeria, 1960. This is when Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom. The Guardian reported on 2 October 1960 that “Nigeria is independent and Lagos is at last en fête“. High-society celebrations took place at Lagos’s new Palace Hotel. It remains unclear how Riboud created this photo: is this a play of mirrors?

Looking for the future

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This picture was taken at around 20:30 on a Wednesday, behind the Sacre Coeur. Arianna, Francesca, Luca, Jimmy and I were drinking wine and eating food on the side of this beautiful road, like hundreds of other people. The lockdown had just been lifted, most bars were closed and people were taking over the streets. A truly beautiful sight. At some point, these three girls walked up the street. They took pictures, exchanged clothes, and then took other pictures. It must have been some kind of photo shooting. I asked Luca to take a photo of them while they were checking the pictures on one of their phones.

Photos of people on the move

For the last few months I have put aside notables photos of people on the move. There are four somehow symmetrical photos that strike me more than all the others. All of them, I realise in insight, have an aura of sacrality: maybe this is why I like them so much. I post them below, in chronological order. It feels strange to look at them in these times of forced immobility.

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Hal Morey. Grand Central Terminal of New York Central Station, 1929. It depicts the sacrality of the places that we use to move around: I had to think of Morey’s picture when reading this article, recently. Here the train station appears like a cathedral. Original here.

Hal Morey - New York Central Station - 1929

Alex Webb. San Ysidro, California, 1979. Mexicans arrested while trying to cross the border to United States. Original.

Alex Webb - San Ysidro 1979.jpg

Sebastião Salgado. Churchgate Station in Mumbai, India, 1979. Original here.

Sebastiao Salgado - Churchgate Station, Mumbai - 1979

John Stanmeyer. Djibouti City, 2013. Migrants in Djibouti searching for cell signals from neighboring Somalia. Original here.

John Stanmeyer - Djibouti City - 2014

 

Roccia solitaria

Vicino a Scex Rouge, Glacier 3000, con Yvan, Jean-Thomas, Maria e Quinn, ultimo fine settimana prima della quarantena (8 marzo). Dietro alla roccia c’è un rifugio, talmente piccolo e nascosto che non riesco più a ritrovarlo nemmeno su Google.

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Auguste-Rosalie Bisson

Auguste-Rosalie Bisson (1826–1900) was a French photographer. In 1860, together with his brother Louis-François, he attempted to take pictures from the summit of Mont Blanc. The expedition failed.

One year later, in 1861, Auguste-Rosalie Bisson went back to the Month Blanc, taking with him 25 porters to carry his equipment. The team reached the 15,781-foot summit on July 25, 1861. It was only during the descent that Bisson set up the tent and cameras, pose the figures in positions emblematic of their climb, and make pictures of the “ascent” (though the team’s tracks are visible on the high snowy slope in the background).

These, and the other photos of Auguste-Rosalie Bisson, are difficult to find. Some of them are exposed at MoMa and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Go and see them, if you have a chance.

Mother with three children

My last night in Nairobi I walked out of the hotel to get a quick meal. I was told not to go out in the dark but my hotel was in the better-off part of town (Westland) and there was no risk. As I left the mall where I had dinner, I saw a group of people sitting in the middle of a cross-road. Upon closer inspection I realised it was a woman with three children. I could not understand why they were standing there but I found it to odd and dangerous. I tried to take some pictures from far out. After a couple of minutes, I decided to approach the group and ask for permission to take a few photos. Walking there, I understood that the street was the only place where the woman would have been safe from rape during the night. The cars were roaring centimeters away from them and the children were exposed to the constant on-and-off of the lights. I spoke to them for a minute or so and I took this photo. It is the only serious picture I felt like having during my week in Nairobi.

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