Metro Station

Landscape from the Golden Horn (Haliç) Metro Station in Istanbul

Istanbul (Turkey). Although its position – which is not very efficient, being in the middle of the bridge crossing the Golden Horn – the Haliç Metro Station is an amazing observatory for capturing great photos of the Sultanahmet skyline.

The bridge crosses the Haliç fiord between the Galata Bridge and the Ataturk Bridge, just in correspondence of the Suleymaniye Mosque (here in the background). The metro line is the one going between Yenikapi and Taksim (proceeding to Levent and Haciosman).

My favorite moment of course is at sunset, when the sun goes down toward Eyup and the beginning of the Golden Horn: the water surface looks like covered with a layer of gold, and the Sulymaniye Mosque gets colored first with orange tones, and then becomes pinkish.

When the Haliç Bridge was built, there was a tough debate among politics, experts and citizens, mainly because its shape (it is a cable-stayed bridge) and its dimensions were compromising the landscape of Sultanahmet historical area, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The risk was in fact the possible consequent cancellation from the UNESCO list, a big shame for such an important place. It was the typical and tough trade off for cities – like Istanbul – between the preservation of the cultural imprinting and the efficiency required by the urban development. As far as I know, the situation is now stable and – according to UNESCO website – Sultanahmet is not at risk of cancellation.

However, it must be said that in the last years, Istanbul improved significantly its public transportation networks. The city is huge, and it is not easy to move from a point to another given the traffic at every time of the day and the night. The metro is expanding its lines and stations, is clean and efficient. And most important, is safe.

So, for those who are going to visit Istanbul, I recommend to include a walk on this bridge in the “to-do” list, bringing a sturdy tripod to mount the camera after the sunset.

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At The Moscow Metro Station

Moscow (Russia). One of the Moscow “must see” is the network of its amazing metro stations. One normally thinks about a metro station simply as a transit place, where to catch or to get off from a train to move from a part of the city to another. Well, in Moscow it’s not exactly like this – at least, not only…

In fact, some metro stations in Moscow look like sumptuous underground buildings, completely decorated with mosaics, statues, chandeliers and frescoes. Once there, you are really motivated to stay and to enjoy the beauty of architectures and decorations. And of course every photographer should include these places for very intensive street photography sessions!

Before travelling to Moscow, as I usually do every time I’m preparing a trip, I spent some time on internet to learn something about the city and to select the best locations for photography. It’s a very exciting exercise, which somehow anticipates the flavor of the incoming trip; but it’s also very useful to optimize the available time – especially when the trip is squeezed in a weekend – as it was my case in Moscow. Of course, the result of my research anticipated me that most of the top ranking places were the metro stations; but when I then opened the proposed images, almost each of them was showing the stations completely without people, and exclusively focused on the artistic, decorative and architectural part. Therefore my “pre-impression” on Moscow metro stations was basically about wonderful locations, but – let me say – without soul, without stories, without daily lives: something closer to a theater scenic design than to a place where every day millions of people cross their life and stories.

Once there, I totally changed my mind: the most impressive thing was given by the mass of people, some of them walking in every direction, some others waiting on a bench. There was a world there underground, and I was so attracted by its inhabitants with their unknown stories, habits, lives. You could think that it’s the same in every metro station in the world: theoretically it’s true, but practically it isn’t. The context, given by the fantastic interiors, was somehow able to transform those de-facto public place into a theater, people into actors, lives into plots. It’s difficult to explain, unfortunately.

Of course, I could not resist too, and in every station I took also some “panoramic” photos; but at the end I selected this one here as one of my favorite, because it is able to give me the sense of life typical of those places. The lesson learnt is pretty clear…

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RER B at Drancy (from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Paris)

Paris (France). I have been using the RER B between the Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Paris downtown for some years. Every time I try to find a window seat because I like watching the city’s “banlieu” (the periphery), how it progressively changes getting closer to the heart of Paris, how people live and work in those neighborhoods, so different from the city I’m approaching. It gets easily something like a movie, being the window a large screen…

Sometimes through the window I like to shoot some photos: just random captures of stations and people – if any – waiting for their train, talking each other, playing with their phones or listening to some music. There isn’t a specific idea behind this action of photographing something which is totally decontextualized (does this word exist?) from my usual style. Or maybe the reason is exactly this: trying to describe the unknown, eventually working with my fantasy to build a story behind each situation.

The result is a set of just random shoots of what I see, linked each other only by the fact that they have been captures on the RER B from Paris, Aeroporte Charles de Gaulle and Paris Chatelet des Halles.

Here I was stopped at Drancy station, for example. I like people the architecture of the station, with its geometries, and the man climbing the ladder to leave this place. Everyone is free to find her own story behind this situation. I already have mine…

I will consider shooting some more photos in the future.


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Toledo Metro Station in Naples

Naples (Italy). Here I’m back again with another photograph from a recent weekend in Naples. This city surprised me a lot, its beauty was far beyond my expectations and it was such a pleasure photographing around it! I will come back to Naples as soon as possible, one weekend only was really too short!

The photo posted here represents the Toledo Metro Station: I wanted to visit it – and I was lucky, it was very few minutes on foot from my hotel! – because it has been recognized by the Daily Telegraph as the most impressive underground railway station in Europe. Also the popular website “Bored Panda” has ranked it at the number one in the list of the 15 most beautiful metro stations in the world.

But beyond rankings and lists, which are quite tough to fill out, it is worth to underline that the Toledo Metro Station is not the only one deserving a visit, being part of a larger project called “Stazioni dell’Arte” (Art Stations), developed with the involvement of many artists and architects such as Gae Aulenti and Alessandro Mendini.

I personally found the concept of “Art Stations” something of very interesting, both culturally and socially: the idea that a metro station – which is normally dark, dirty and distractedly used by people to move from a point to another – can on the other side become a place of interest by itself, is not common nor banal. And it demonstrates how things can be done in a beautiful way without en excessive extra-cost.

It was the first time in my life I had bought a metro ticket just to see the station and not to catch a train, but – let me say – I cannot complain at all for this!

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