Father and Son in the Mouth of the Monster (La Defense, Paris)

Paris (France). This is what happens when someone (like me) watches all the eight episodes of “Stranger Things” in two days! As I finished this series, I had to go to Paris for business, and during a pre-dinner photo-walk around La Défense, my attention was captured by this (questionable) installation, which looks like a monstrous spiral. Observing a father with his son passing through it, had triggered my fantasy and gave me the feeling that this horrible creature was going to capture two poor innocent victims, to bring them into the meanderings of the concrete skeleton.

Thankfully, shortly after I had to go to dinner…

Paris. Questo è quello che succede quando uno guarda tutti e otto gli episodi di “Stranger Things” in due giorni! Appena finita la serie, sono dovuto andare a Parigi per lavoro, e durante una passeggiata fotografica attorno a La Défense prima di cena, la mia attenzione è rimasta catturata da questa struttura artistica (di discutibile pregio) che forma una sorta di spirale mostruosa. Il vedere passare attraverso di essa un padre con un figlio, ha scatenato la mia fantasia, dandomi la sensazione che questa creatura mostruosa stesse per catturare due povere vittime innocenti per trascinarle nei meandri di uno scheletro di cemento.

Per fortuna poco dopo sono dovuto andare a cena…

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Milan (Italy). I captured this photograph today during my lunch break. I found the curiosity of this group of children for the fountain of Piazza Castello, something of very poetic. That’s it.

Milano. Scattata oggi in pausa pranzo: ho trovato la curiosità di questo gruppo di bambini per la fontana di Piazza Castello molto poetica. Fine.

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Camondo Stairs in Karakoy, Istanbul

Istanbul (Turkey). The Camondo Stairs (in Turkish: Kamondo Merdivenleri) are located in the Galata neighbourhood and are the result of a public service project donated to the city of Istanbul by the wealthy Jewish family Camondo. The stairs climb up from the Bankalar Caddesi (Avenue of the Banks, close to the Galata Docks n Karakoy District) to a school built by the same family. What makes these stairs very special is their hexagonal shape, which – it is said – was arranged so that if a child would slip while climbing down, the other bevel would prevent her or him from falling. In fact, these stairs were built to help Camondo’s children to reach the school and to cut down the family way to the Bankalar Caddesi.

The Camondo family was a prominent European family of Jewish financiers and philanthropists. After the 1497 Spanish decree (that ordered the expulsion of all Jews who refused conversion to Catholicism) the family settled in Venice where some members became famous by their scholarship as well as by the services they rendered to their adopted country. Following the Austrian takeover of Venice in 1798, members of the family moved to Istanbul where, despite the many restrictions imposed on all minorities, flourished as merchants. In 1802 the Camondo family founded the Isaac Camondo & Cie Bank, inherited by Abraham Salomon after his brother Isaac’s death in 1832. Abraham Salomon prospered greatly, became the prime banker to the Ottoman Empire (until the founding of the Imperial Ottoman Bank in 1863) and financially contributed to the liberation of Venice from the Austrian Empire (for this, the King of Italy Victor Emmanuel II conferred upon him the title of count, with the privilege of transmitting it in perpetuity to the eldest son of the family). He died in Paris in 1873 but, in accordance to his wishes, his remains were returned to Constantinople and were buried in the Jewish cemetery at Hasköy, a neighbourhood on the Golden Horn in Istanbul. This family is now extinct; the last descendants, Béatrice de Camondo with her two children (Fanny and Bertrand) and with her husband Léon Reinach were deported and murdered in Auschwitz from 1943 to 1945 during World War II.

The legendary Henri Cartier Bresson chose these stairs for one of his most famous photo during one of his visits to Istanbul.

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A Bottom-Up Approach

Paris (France). I cannot imagine how many people every day take this photo, probably thousands. However, it’s a very challenging shot, since you must find the exact symmetry point, stand well stable and keep the camera on a perfect horizontal plane.

In my case, it was even a bit more tough, because I was testing using the manual focus lens Nikon 55mm f/1.2 AI. It’s an old Nikon glass (it dates back to 1977, almost like me!) but I found it quite impressive in terms of sharpness and precision. And – no need to say – shooting in manual focus is something different, difficult to explain!

I’m confident this will be one of my favorite lens in my bag! I have some more shots from the same photographic tour, I will post them within the next days!

Ah, maybe you are still wondering what is represented here in this photograph: it’s a bottom-up view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris…

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Milan (Italy). I just had to catch a train, and I was at the Milan train station few minutes ago. I took a couple of shoots of the situation that is on all newspapers in these days, and which is caused by hundreds of migrants that are staying here waiting to leave and to reach their families in other countries abroad. I called these two photographs “Prossima Apertura – Next Opening” because these people have been hosted in some empty shops (which were planned to open soon), but also (it’s a bitter ironic title) because they cannot move due to the closure of European borders.

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Singing a Peace Song (Hiroshima 70th anniversary)

Hiroshima (Japan). Today it’s the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, that destroyed more than two thirds of the city killing 70,000 people instantly, with an unknown final death toll.

I visited Hiroshima exactly five years ago: I arrived there very few days after the 65th year celebrations, and I was honestly surprised by this place, which was the protagonist of one of the most horrible episodes in the world history. I was – as said – surprised because I realised that everything in Hiroshima was talking about “peace”: the most famous landmark is the Peace Memorial (commonly called the Atomic Bomb Dome), which is also part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, memories are conserved at the Peace Memorial Museum, and the Flame of Peace (designed by Kenzo Tange) burns continuously days and nights since it was lit in 1964 and it will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Yes, “peace”. Walking around Hiroshima – one more time – the most common word is “Peace”. I found in it a very strong message for all of us: a message of hope and forgiveness, something that will be inherited by future generations, something that is difficult to imagine normally, and for this reason it is even more special considering – again – the history of Hiroshima.

When during a night walk along the Ota River, I saw this young Japanese girl playing a song with her guitar, with still the word “Peace” echoing into my mind, I immediately stopped and I stood up listening to her. It was one of those moments that make a trip, and still today – when I think about Japan – the first episode that comes to my mind is this one.

I took this photo (and few others more) because I found the entire scene very symbolic: a peace song played in front of the Peace Memorial (which is mirroring itself on the river’s water surface), in the heart of a city which became an example of “pacific pride” for the rest of the world. It was a perfect moment, no need to explain more.

Today, 5 years after that my personal experience (which is still incredibly vivid in my mind and in my heart) and especially 70 years after that tragic day – when the atomic bomb “Little Boy” killed hundreds of thousands of people – I like to think about Hiroshima in this way, and like its citizens I want to share my humble but heart-felt message of hope and peace.

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Testing the Leica M-D (Misunderstanding at Prada Shop, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II)

Milan (Italy). Frankly speaking, although in the post title I wrote “testing”, this was not a proper test.

First of all, because who am I to test a camera? I’m just a “passionate user of photo devices” and I intend cameras as instruments for creating positive feelings – that’s it.

Second point, because there are so many official and unofficial tests on this camera around internet, that mine would be “just another one”. Who cares of it?

Third, and probably most important aspect: what’s the sense of testing a camera that is the essence of pure photography? The sensor? Well, it’s the “usual” 24-megapixel high-resolution CMOS full-frame sensor. The screen? There’s no screen in the Leica M-D. The effects? Please, don’t make me insist…

So, all above considered and to be more precise, this was not a test: this was an experience.

Yes, the correct title should have been “experiencing the new Leica M-D”, concentrating the whole content on my feelings and emotions with this fantastic camera. And probably, the best feeling that explains what is photographing with a Leica M-D, is the same that a swimmer has when she starts swimming from shallow to deep water – does it give the idea? For a large number of photographers, the presence of a screen on the back of the camera (to review the captured images) represents a sort of comfort zone, given by the opportunity of instantaneously check what has been photographed. The new Leica M-D – let me be a bit “hard” – gives a kick to photographers’ backs, saying “ok, if you call yourself a photographer, demonstrate that you are confident enough to survive without the screen!”. On the other side, a photographer must love this kind of challenge – at least, I did!

So, I walked randomly around Milan downtown for more or less one hour. A sort of touristic tour around Piazza Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Piazza dei Mercanti, capturing photos and being exclusively concentrated on what I was doing. No distractions. No feeling a sense of accomplishment, because I had no idea of what I had captured. My eye was only on the street through the viewfinder, not down on the screen zooming-in&out to see the result of my previous clicks, and potentially risking to miss another shot (I guess that film photographers perfectly understand). Yes, this is the true difference of the Leica M-D: with a screen camera, you constantly bear the risk of being distracted by the screen itself (eventually missing a better capture, the next – decisive – moment) and of feeling the sense of accomplishment that a photographer should never feel. With the Leica M-D, photography is a pure action, done straight forwardly to the subject, the scene, the situation.

This is my feeling. And I think I will experience it again, since I’m seriously considering to buy this camera. Yes, because – as clearly stated here in my blog’s manifesto – I buy the cameras I use, and I’m totally free to say what I think.

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