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Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH

The Altar and the Mihrab of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Istanbul (Turkey). This is probably the most “symbolic” and characteristic part of Hagia Sophia, which was built as an orthodox basilica, then converted into a mosque and today is a very popular museum in Istanbul.

But why this corner is so symbolic? The answer is simple but – in my opinion – extremely logic: it shows at the same time the apse (where there was the Hagia Sophia Basilica’s altar) and the mosque’s mihrab, the semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the “qibla”, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying. The mihrab was added when Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque in 1453, after the conquest of Istanbul with Mohammed II.

Visiting Hagia Sophia is like hopping on a time machine: there are so many testaments of the building’s history, that the visitor bears the risk that being mesmerised by the wonderful mosaics and the magnificence of the interior, will not notice them. When I accompany someone at Hagia Sophia, this is the first place where I go: here there is the essence of a place that is unique not only for its beauty, but also for its history.

 

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Fuorisalone 2016 (Milan Design Week) – A Cascade of Light at Superstudio Più

Milan (Italy). In these days, Milan seems “the place to be” – and not only for architecture lovers, trendy designers and unmissable hipsters. For sure, like every year around this period, the city attracts an incredible amount of people coming here to discover the latest tendencies in the sectors of furniture, lighting, decoration and home appliances.

I cannot miss the opportunity of keeping my eye (and my camera) on this interesting world of course, and I like to share what I’m seeing here in my photoblog (isn’t it its purposes?). What’s really impressive, for those people living here all the year, is assisting to a true and deep change in the city’s spirit: let me try to better express myself. Although I consider Milan as probably the most living, enjoyable, innovative and “sparkling” city in Italy (for sure, one of the best life quality), during the so called “design week” the “routine” goes through an authentic transformation, which means pulling out a completely new soul made not only of parties, events, vernissage, opening ceremonies and installations (these things are pretty normal – let me say) but made of a sense of general “discovery”. Yes, during the Fuorisalone’s week, Milan’s people (re)discover their city made of hidden courtyards, beautiful buildings (some of them exceptionally open to public), street decorations and so on. In other words, it looks like a sort of “inspirational wave” floods the city’s districts (not only the fashionable Brera or 5 Vie, but also Lambrate, Tortona etc.) to demonstrate that the urban environment can react to the daily routine, and transform the ordinary into something of extraordinary.

Of course there are critics: why it can’t be all the year? Why the next week – once the design events will be over – Milan will return to hide its beauty? I’m not in a position to answer; but as long as I see that this creative magma is still boiling under the city’s asphalt, the enthusiasm’s eruption of the design week is very, very welcome!

Among the things that I love most when photographing around the Fuorisalone, there’s observing kids watching these design objects: they often look like hypnotized, completely mesmerized and bewitched by all these lights, forms and materials. Although I guess they are completely new to design, I like imagining that they find in these objects something close to a fairyland, and I must confess that – me too – I’m totally captured by situations like the one photographed here. Could it be a reminiscence of my happy childhood? For sure, I think that few things like design, need to be observed with clean eyes and pure spirit, free from any prejudice and theory. It’s my personal view, but at least it makes me walk for hours from one pavilion to another photographing the installations without feeling the tiredness!

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Garibaldi Station (Back to Milan)

Milan (Italy). Here we are… holidays are over (you will see some photos taken during my summer vacations here soon, don’t worry!) and I’m back to Milan.

Maybe you noticed a low activity on my blog during the last three weeks: only three posts… it’s a shame! I will do my best to remedy 🙂 For the time being, let’s warm up with a new – albeit taken some weeks ago, in July – photo of Milan. It’s the new skyline with the Porta Garibaldi train station, taken from the bridge of Via Farini at sunset. Here, you can see some of the newest architectures characterizing Milan: from the “Bosco Verticale” to the “Unicredit Tower” and the new “Lombardy Tower”. If you are interested to know something more about the new skyline of Milan, you can read this post here.

So, nice to see you here again! It will be a very intense year, with many new posts to be shared!

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Pamukkale, the Ancient City of Hierapolis

Pamukkale (Turkey). I found some minutes to take this photo during a hectic business trip, in turn happened in a hectic period of personal issues. For this reason, perhaps it’s not my most accurate shots, but I like it for what it represents to me: some minutes of pure freedom, doing one of the things I love the most. Photographing!

To be honest, the Theater of Hierapolis – the ancient city adjacent to Pamukkale, in the Denizli province – has been in my “to do” list for a long time, but for many reasons I could not visit it before. That’s why, despite the tight schedule of a business trip in the area, I tried not to miss this opportunity. I climbed the hill where the theater is located almost running, and still panting I captured this image from the top of its tribunes. There was nobody around, it was truly magic.

Then I walked down to see the famous hot spring pools, but I think you won’t see any photo of them – not exactly what you can see on flyers and other promotional materials.


Pamukkale (Turchia). Ho trovato il tempo di scattare questa foto durante un intenso viaggio di lavoro, a sua volta capitato durante un intenso periodo di cose personali. Per questo motivo non è probabilmente il mio scatto più accurato, ma mi piace per quello che rappresenta: alcuni minuti di vera libertà in cui ho fatto una delle cose che amo maggiormente. Fotografare!

Ad essere sinceri, il Teatro di Ierapoli – l’antica città vicina a Pamukkale, nella provincia di Denizli – è stato nella mia lista di cose da vedere per parecchio tempo, ma per diverse ragioni non sono riuscito a visitarlo prima. Per questo, nonostante il fitto programma di un viaggio di lavoro nella zona, ho cercato di non mancare questa opportunità. Mi sono arrampicato su per la collina dove c’è il teatro praticamente correndo, e ho scattato questa foto dalle tribune del teatro quando ancora ansimavo. Non c’era nessuno attorno a me, era veramente magico.

Successivamente ho camminato giù verso le celebri piscine termali, ma non penso che vedrete alcuna loro foto, dal momento che non sono esattamente come nei volantini e nelle varie pubblicità.

 

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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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Two Statues Are Talking About Milan

Milan (Italy). I already took a similar photo some months ago (this one) but the weather was not as nice as it was yesterday evening on the Duomo Terraces, one of my favorite location for shooting landscape photographs of Milan.

Watching these two statues makes me think about their possible conversation:

Left (L): “Look! The new Milan is over there!”

Right (R): “Yes, I see it… unbelievable how fast is its growth”

(L): “Until some years ago there was nothing there. Look now, isn’t it a wonderful skyline?”

(R): “Oh yes, it’s really beautiful”

(L): “From left to right, you start with the Garibaldi Towers: 25 floors and 100 meters high, they are energetically independent thanks to solar panels and a sophisticated insulating materials”

(R): “Wow! And the next one?”

(L): “The next one, at the right of Garibaldi Towers, is the Unicredit Tower complex”

(R): “Oh yes, I recognise it”

(L): “What you probably don’t know is that the towers were designed by the starchitect Cesar Pelli: he designed important buildings around the world, such as the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the One Canada Square in Canary Wharf (London) and the second tallest skyscraper in Spain, the 250 metres tall Torre de Cristal in Madrid”

(R): “I see… the next one is famous! Isn’t it the Bosco Verticale?”

(L): “Oh yes! It’s a famous building… It even won the International Highrise Award, a prestigious international competition. The two buildings have 730 trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 perennials and groundcover on its facades, the equivalent of that found in a one hectare woodlot.”

(R): “Great example of architectural sustainability! Ok, I like this lesson: let’s go on!”

(L): “Sure! The next tall building is the 143 meters high Solaria Tower. It is currently the tallest residential building in Italy. I can’t imagine the view from its top…”

(R): “It must be breathtaking…”

(L): “Indeed! Proceeding to the next one, here we are to the Lombardy Building (Palazzo Lombardia), designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. For the period between its completion and the Unicredit Tower opening it was the tallest building in Italy. Furthermore, it won the 2012 Best Tall Building Europe prize from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.”

(R): “It seems that most of these skyscrapers were awarded with some prestigious prizes… People in Milan should be aware of it!”

(L): “I’m not sure they are… But let’s come to the Diamond Tower, the tallest steel building in Italy. The Diamond Tower is characterised by an irregular geometry, and the perimeter columns are inclined compared to the vertical. Its layout has been developed to maximise the amount of sunlight passing through the building and to allow a view on the city, and the Diamond Tower has been awarded with the LEED GOLD certification, one of the highest ranking recognised by the Green Building Council.”

(R): “Another award!”

(L): “Yes… you are right. Last but not least, the Pirelli Tower. Although this building still today looks very modern, it dates back to 1950s and was designed by two among the greatest architects of the Italian history: Giò Ponti and Pier Luigi Nervi. It even seems that the Pirelli Tower inspired the design of the Pan Am Building (now MetLife Building) in New York It’s not an award, but…”

(R): “Oh yes, it’s amazing!”

(L): “And, at the right of the Pirelli Tower, there is the Breda Tower, built in 1959 and recently restored.”

(R): “Great! Thank you very much for this interesting lesson! I really did not know about how amazing and rich of information a skyline can be… This landscape won’t ever be the same from now on”

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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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The Old Bridge of Pontremoli by Night

Pontremoli (Italy). Another photo of Pontremoli, and another photo with my new Leica Q camera. Last Saturday I went out for a night photo-walk with the double aim of photographing Pontremoli with few people around, but also to test this camera with low light conditions and therefore at high ISO values.

This is the result… The photo shows the very old bridge “Ponte della Crësa”, which initially was built with wood (1300s) and it was reinforced – as it is today – during the 15th century. In the background, the “Campanone” (Bell Tower) and the Cathedral’s Dome.

What else can I say? The Leica Q performs excellently at full aperture (f/1.7) and high ISO. A great “travel companion” for my next destinations!

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Afternoon at the Museo del Novecento

Milan (Italy). After a rainy Saturday in Florence, I think I deserved a wonderful sunny Monday (April 25th is bank holiday in Italy) in Milan! I spent some hours between Palazzo Reale and the Museo del Novecento: the first one is currently hosting a very interesting exhibition about Umberto Boccioni, an Italian painter and sculptor, known for being a main actor of the Futurism movement (his works are exhibited at several prestigious museums including the MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum in New York); the second one, among some works from Boccioni himself, includes works (paintings and sculptures) made by artists from the XX Century such as De Chirico, Modigliani, Kandinskij, Klee and many others.

It was not my first time at the Museo del Novecento, but this is such a beautiful place that it is worth more than one single visit. And not only for its paintings and sculptures, but also for the building interior design, with a spiral staircase which brings the visitors from the ticket booth to the museum entrance, and for its arrangement on several floors, ending at the top of the building where a wonderful windowed room offers an unique landscape over the Cathedral’s Square.

Of course, once arrived here I captured many photos, including some without anyone (I went there late afternoon, when the museum was going to close). But at the end I selected this one because the presence of some people doing different things (chatting, photographing or simply watching the fantastic landscape) makes it more “alive”, more realistic, more dynamic. As usual, I found my “comfort zone” trying to find the room symmetry, exalted by the geometric weft of the windows’ frame. Out of the window, the Milan Cathedral and the arch of the Vittorio Emanuele’s Gallery – with an intense blue sky in the background.

As said, I found in this scene – with its light and colors – an opportunity for people, architecture and landscape photography at the same time and the perfect (and well-deserved) compensation after a rainy weekend in Florence!

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