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Leica Q

Monaco and Italy Pavilions at Expo Milano 2015

Milan (Italy). I finally had the opportunity of visiting Expo Milano 2015, the Universal Exhibition hosted in Milan from May 1 to October 31, 2015.

Unfortunately, as expected, the queues were too long and it was impossible to visit more than five or six pavilions in a day. The waiting time to see Brasil, Japan or Italy was more than three hours, and I found it very frustrating.

Therefore, I decided to take some photos: I brought my Leica with me and it was a nice exercise. Some pavilions (Russia and Germany, for example) have a terrace which offers a decent view over the exposition area.

Here are some samples: all my photos of Expo are tagged with “Expo Milan 2015” and can be seen clicking here.

This image has been taken from the terrace at the Russia Pavilion and shows a landscape with Monaco Pavilion, Italy Pavilion and – on the right – the “Albero della Vita” (Tree of Life).

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The Cimitero Monumentale  in Milano

Milan (Italy). The “Cimitero Monumentale” in Milano is an old and very large cemetery in the heart of the city. I went there yesterday for another test session of my new Leica Q camera (which is becoming one of my favorite companion, not only for street photography).

The light was very soft – it was more or less 8 PM – and there was nobody around there (the Cemetery itself was already closed). I took few shots, as usual I tried to find the perfect symmetry keeping the uprightness of lines. This is the result.

The Leica Q is an amazing camera: I’m shooting mostly in manual focus, there’s a thin sense of pleasure in doing it for me, especially with the excellent focus peaking feature. I like to alternate street photography – which is not my most typical sector, but I’m enjoying it more and more – with something of more “traditional” for my eye, like this large view of the building’s facade.

Some more shoots with Leica Q will come in the following days! Stay tuned if you are interested in them, and feel free to write me if you have questions or comments!

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Near Eastern Antiquities: Mesopotamian Art at the Louvre Museum

Paris (France). One more time, I’m finding my source of inspiration in a quote I have read in a book. The title of this book is “The Museum of Innocence”, and the author is the Turkish writer Orhan Pamul: he is very popular, not only in Turkey (perhaps I like his books because they make me think about Istanbul and Turkey).

Orhan Pamuk’s sentence simply says:

“Real museums are places where Time is transformed into Space.”

Now, think about these words for a while. And then, try to remember the last time you have visited a museum.

 

… take your time, if you need …

 

Let me describe the last time I visited a museum: it was some days ago. Well, I should more properly say “some nights” ago, since it was a night visit at Louvre Museum. I was in Paris for business (as usual) and I discovered how much relaxing it can be, dedicating a couple of hours to visit a museum. In this situation, considering how big is the Louvre, it was just a fraction of it, and I opted for the rooms with Mesopotamian Art and Near Eastern Antiquities. With Pamuk’s words in mind, I walked Theron the huge rooms with antiquities from the near east, the ancient Mesopotamia, corresponding today more or less to the south east of Turkey and the whole Iraq. Two regions, especially the latter, a bit problematic (just to use an “euphemism”).

“Time transformed into space” … Walkink between these two fantastic sculptures of “Lamassus”, Assyrian protective deities with human head, birds wings and bulls’ bodies, I felt myself catapulted back some thousands of years ago. It wasn’t the XXI century anymore, as well as I wasn’t anymore at the Louvre museum, in the heart of Paris. I remember the feeling of time becoming irrelevant, since I felt such as I was really “there”, being part of that room, arriving in Dur-Sharrukin or Nineveh, and finding these magnificent sculptures in front of my eyes. And yes, time had been transformed into space.

However, once the situation was “re-contextualized”, here I was back to reality. And reality can be very drammatic sometimes… Unfortunately, the former Dur-Sharrukin is today’s Khorsabad, 15 kilometers northeast of Mosul. That region today is taken in hostage by an absurd bunch of idiot criminals, that consider art as a threat and have – among their absurd missions – the objective of cancelling the past. Why? Let me consider once again Pamuk’s word: if the intention of the so called Daesh (or Isil, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or whatever) is to destroy antiquities and cancelling every form of art on their land, could it be because they want avoiding for the others the experience related to the transformation of time into space?

Definitely, yes. Because living the dimension of time without the one of space, and even more avoiding the transformation of time into space, means being separated (“decontextualized”) from our roots, forgetting hour heritages , symbolically “cancelling the world around ourselves”. In few words, it means living being basically disconnected from everything, and therefore being more vulnerable to the attacks – not only physical, but also “spiritual”, religious – of people who want exclusively to exercise their pressures on others’ minds. Isn’t it terrible?

To conclude, now it becomes clear why the sentence of Orhan Pamuk is extremely important and very, very powerful. I believe It’s a strong antidote against those terrorists that are threatening not only our civilization, but also our heritage: indeed, as long as there is a place on earth where time can still be transformed into space, in that place there will always be hope for understanding who we are, where we come from and – most important – who we do not want to be.

Unfortunately, on 8 March 2015 the ISIL – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, started the demolition of Dur-Sharrukin, according to Kurdish officials: the Iraqi Tourism and Antiquities Ministry launched the related investigation on the same day.

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Villa Manin by Night (Behind The Gate)

Passariano di Codroipo (Italy). My followers probably will notice this photo of Villa Manin, as it is the same view, taken from the same position of this other image captured some weeks ago (but that time it was during the day). I just wanted to “play” with my Leica Q at high ISO (6400) and see how it perform (although I already knew it is great at night). I already wrote some stories about this place (they are in the linked post). For art lovers, in these days – and until the 3rd of April 2016 – Villa Manin will host an important exhibition of Joan Miró.

That’s it. I don’t have too much to say today… I will fly to Paris this afternoon, maybe I will find the time to write something on the plane.

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This Lady Did Not Like Me (Taking Her Photo at f/1.7)

Udine (Italy). I like this kind of situation, and for this reason, I do love my 28 mm summilux, which gives me the freedom of photographing around me (these last three words sound familiar) without caring too much about what people could think.

This is the story behind this photo: everything happened some days ago, when I was having a walk around Udine. It was already dark when I stopped in Piazza San Giacomo – it’s such a lovely place, one of the most popular destinations in town, with very nice cafes and crowded with people that choose this square to meet their friends and chat. The street surrounding the square is all covered with small stones – as many other streets in the old part of Udine – and I liked the effect they can make if I take a photo few centimeters from the ground, focusing half meter from my camera and making all the rest – including people – blurred and out of focus. So I did, shooting more or less 5 or 6 photos, with and without people.

Initially the purpose was photographing the square, therefore my idea was discarding those images with people that were passing in front of my camera and keeping the other(s). But when I downloaded all the photos to start editing them, I was particularly attracted by this one posted here, with the lady dressed with a big fur watching me. Since she’s out of focus, I started imagining what she could think about me: is she looking at me in an intimidating way? Is she simply curious? Does she think I’m crazy? I will never know the answer… (unless she recognizes herself on my blog). 

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Landscape of Istanbul from the Suleymaniye Mosque

Istanbul (Turkey). I’m a bit worried: maybe I’m sick?

Ok, let me serious, since my parents and relatives could read this sentence and get scared… I’m joking of course! And I’m perfectly healthy – I have some kilos to loose though, perhaps I spend too much time blogging my photos and I do not run enough. Anyway, the point is that out of 8 posts in January (including this one), 7 (some 90%) are about Istanbul! So, the conclusion is only one: I’m sick of Istanbul, meaning that I’m totally crazy for this city and I’m loosing control in photo-blogging about its places, landscapes and situations… This is my problem, and I do not want to find a cure 🙂

Probably the two snowfalls that hit the city this January are responsible for my situation, but I found that everything – including places where I have been several times before – when covered with snow was irresistibly beautiful!

This one posted here, for example. I have seen this landscape of Istanbul from Suleymaniye Mosque an uncountable number of times: I love these small domes of the former “preparatory school” (in Turkish, mülazim) gently degrading down toward the sea; and I could stay hours watching the Galata Tower dominating the Golden Horn (Haliç) and the Karakoy peninsula. But the scene is covered by the snow, it’s completely different – not to mention the fact that all around is silence (but – I’m sorry – photography cannot represent noises yet).

The weather forecasts bulletin says it’s going to snow again: I recommend all photographers to prepare their cameras and lenses, and to include the Suleymaniye Mosque in their photo-tour around Istanbul…

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The Mercato Metropolitano in Milan

Milan (Italy). The Mercato Metropolitano is a new – and I think pretty successful – experiment in the vibrant landscape of Milano. It was opened some months ago, just before the summer season, but I think it will be closed soon because it’s largely open air – so do not wait too much if you have not been there yet.

I went to the Mercato Metropolitano some weeks ago and I liked it. It’s the the place to go if you want to eat some nice street food, with many regional cookeries in a very informal environment – as a “metropolitan market” can be. To be honest, I was expecting something more similar to the Mercato Centrale (Florence) or the Mercado do Ribeira (Lisbon), where the daily market in the evening is transformed into a large restaurant. But the concept – in terms of food quality and offer – is quite close to them.

The Mercato Metropolitano is close to Porta Genova: there is one metro line (the Green one) and several trams to / from there. It’s also a nice place to take some photos (as of course I did, with my Leica Q).

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France Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015

Milan (Italy). I finally had the opportunity of visiting Expo Milano 2015, the Universal Exhibition hosted in Milan from May 1 to October 31, 2015.

Unfortunately, as expected, the queues were too long and it was impossible to visit more than five or six pavilions in a day. The waiting time to see Brasil, Japan or Italy was more than three hours, and I found it very frustrating.

Therefore, I decided to take some photos: I brought my Leica with me and it was a nice exercise. Some pavilions (Russia and Germany, for example) have a terrace which offers a decent view over the exposition area.

Here are some samples: all my photos of Expo are tagged with “Expo Milan 2015” and can be seen clicking here.

The image here has been taken inside the France pavilion (one of the few ones I could see) and shows one of the Country’s characteristics: its wide production of seeds and agricultural products.

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The Rear Window (10 Corso Como)

Milan (Italy). This is a photo of 10 Corso Como courtyard facade, and it is a typical residential architecture typology in Milan. I went there last Saturday because I wanted to visit the 2016 World Press Photo Exhibition at the Galleria Carla Sozzani.

I’m not a very big fan of 10 Corso Como Cafe, and I normally does not visit the shop – it’s definitely not my style. But I do love the bookshop, probably one of the best place in Milan where to find interesting books and magazines about art, photography, architecture and design. And, of course, I love the many exhibitions hosted here.

As said, the reason of my Saturday visit was the 2016 World Press Photo Exhibition. The World Press Photo today is one of the most prestigious contest in the field of photo journalism and reportage, and the current Syrian war – with its dramatic migrants crisis – inspired several photographers this year. I must admit that I was shocked by some images, they literally opened my eyes on this tragedy, and during my visit I thought frequently about the huge responsibility that photo reporters had in the course of history – and still have (probably even more than in the past) nowadays.

From the beginning of photojournalism, facts became stories thanks to photographers, which frequently put their lives at risk to give everyone the possibility of being informed and develop her own consciousness. “We see, we understand. We see more, we understand more”: I think it’s true, although manipulation is always just behind the corner…

One of my favorite book – “Slightly about Of Focus” by Robert Capa – has probably changed my way to interpret, live and enjoy photography. It’s a fantastic book – an autobiography – talking about Capa’s experiences on assignment for Collier’s magazine with the Allied Forces following (and photographing) the World War II. He’s generally recognized as “the century’s greatest battlefield photographer” (this definition was created by John G. Morris, Magnum Photos’ first executive editor), but the book shows also his life of human being, with his failures, difficulties and – of course – fears.

For this reason, visiting the World Press Photo’s Exhibition, I tried to put myself not only in the position of the subject, as it normally happens; but also in the position of “the one behind the camera”, trying to get – for each shot – the feeling of the author in that exact moment. Was s/he conscious that s/he was capturing history? Was s/he aware that – by definition – he was telling the truth (in a world in which truth is more and more a chimera?). And – most important – was s/he feeling the great responsibility embedded in that action?

Obviously, I could not answer to all those questions and I left the exhibition with a knot in my stomach. Leaving 10 Corso Como, when I took my camera to capture this image published here, I understood how easy is life for photographers like me…

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Apricots From Damascus (SALT Galata Istanbul)

Istanbul (Turkey). Days ago, I visited the SALT Galata Gallery in Karakoy, Istanbul. There was the exhibition “Apricots from Damascus”, an interesting project focused on a group of refugees who rely on their creative and intellectual abilities in the fields of art, writing, and music, to survive in Istanbul. It must be considered that since 2011 Turkey (of course including Istanbul) has become the destination of migrants who left Syria due to the Civil War.

The Turkish translation of “Apricots from Damascus” is “Şam’da Kayısı”, which is also part of an idiomatic expression meaning “It does not get any better than this” (the complete sentence is “Bundan iyisi, Şam’da kayısı”). Furthermore, in countries such as Argentina, Chile, and Peru, the word for “apricot” is “damasco”, which could indicate that, to the Spanish settlers of Argentina, the fruit was associated with Damascus in Syria.

I could stay hours writing here my thoughts about the terrible situation in Syria and the immigrants’ conditions. And most probably, I even would not say anything of interesting, being all of us used to the stream of images coming from this cruel war. I just want to remark this exhibition, and how arts can be part – if not of the pacification process – at least of the refugees’ survival.

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