Dinner at the White Rabbit (with one of the Seven Sisters) in Moscow

Moscow (Russia). Time ago I was walking around Istanbul, shooting photos with a big tele lens during a Sunday afternoon: it was winter, and it was snowy. After two or three hours walking around and photographing along the Bosphorus (I love Istanbul under the snow, it’s even more magic than it is normally) I was freezing and I needed to have a break to warm my hands and my feet a bit. I headed to the closest place to have a hot tea – I won’t disclosure the name of the place – but because they noticed the large lens, they immediately thought I was a paparazzo… And since the place I had chosen for my break was apparently popular among local so-called V.I.P people (actors, actresses, singers and football players), they stopped me at the entrance. It took a bit to convince the staff that I was just taking photos of the city, and that I was so disconnected from any gossip about Istanbul V.I.P., that I even had no idea of who was to be photographed. The situation was, let me say, quite surreal; and it was just because I finally met a friend that guaranteed for me, that I did not u-turn to go to another place…

This story opened my mind to a very common question: do dimensions count? In other words: why, if I have a big camera with a long lens, therefore I’m a professional photographer and, on the contrary, if I travel with a small camera, I’m no more than a tourist? The answer can be found in the wrong association “big means expensive that means professional”. No need to say that reality is different. But if on one side this can be a threat (I mean, if I have a big camera with me, then I’m a professional photographer and I’m limited with my activities), on the other side it can be an opportunity: there are some cameras that perform amazingly and are not bigger than a point-and-shoot system. Few people, probably only photographers with a good experience, can recognize them… I’m deeply in love with the Ricoh GR, it is an amazing camera and it stays in my business suit pocket, as a smartphone. It’s not a coincidence that almost every book about street photography clearly recommends small and black cameras, just to not be noticed and be more free. It’s a nonsense, but it’s apparently true.

I had a confirmation some days ago, when I was at the White Rabbit in Moscow: a very popular and exclusive restaurant, where – again, apparently – local V.I.P. meet for a drink and some nice food, enjoying a great view thanks to its transparent dome. I could not resist, and I took my Leica Q (small camera with a short lens, and completely black – except for the traditional red frontal dot with Leica logo) “dressing” the typical behavior of a tourist. Because it was dark, I put the camera on a stable surface and I took this photo with a long exposure time. Nobody noticed me: I was transparent and free to move around the restaurant taking photos as many others were doing with their camera phones. But the Leica Q is not exactly a camera phone, and the wide 28 mm is so “generous”, that it did not include only the view of one of the Seven Sisters of Moscow (the massive building). So, now the question is: do you really need a big camera and a large lens to be a paparazzo?

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At the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow

Moscow (Russia). Now that I created the new tag “Moscow”, I should feed it with more and more posts from my recent short-but-intense weekend there. Here there is a photo literally “captured” inside the Cathedral of the Annunciation, a wonderful Orthodox Church located inside the Kremlin and characterized by stunning but elegant paintings on the walls and on the ceiling.

To take this image I used the iPhone app for Leica Q – which works perfectly – so after connecting the camera with the phone, I was able to remotely control it, finding all the camera settings and adjustments directly in the phone’s screen. I think this is a great feature for street photographers (both authentic ones and wannabes like me) because it gives complete freedom to shot in some restricted environments, as well as to get closer to people without being noticed or without pointing the camera at their face. Considering that in these days people do not like being photographed – and some overreact – this feature and this app may save my life…

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Watching the Moskva River

Moscow (Russia). Although my trip to Moscow was limited to the very short timeframe of a weekend, I’m still editing and blogging photos about it: this confirm that the amazing capital of Russia has so much not only to see, but also to “live”…

What does it mean?

Whenever I travel, I try to understand the place where I am in two different ways: one is through my eyes, watching everything around me. The other one is through my soul, imagining how it can be living there. In this respect, photography is the perfect “tool”. In fact, if through my lens I can use my third eye to watch everything around me, editing my photos (especially some days later I captured them) is a way to – let me say – contemplate a place in a much deeper way, re-living the experience of being there with a more reflessive and intimate spirit.

Interestingly, it can happens that I would not live in amazing cities simply because they have stimulated only my eyes and not my soul. Or – sometimes – I’m perfectly comfortable in (and I find much more inspiring) places objectively less “glittering” or popular, but with a true soul.

I was thinking about this when I was photographing this large barge transporting sand along the Moskva River. It was a Saturday morning, it was cold – as it can be in Moscow in November – and the wind blowing along the river was causing me some pain to my fingers. However, I felt something of magic in that moment: simply, I understood that I was falling in love with Moscow…

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The Cathedral of Saint Basil and the Kremlin at the Red Square in Moscow

Moscow (Russia). It’s such a long time since my last post! I’m so busy in this period that I barely find the time to check my blog statistics and to answer to some messages… I’m working hardly in these weeks, and this my photoblog – although I love it – necessarily comes after my regular job (regular = the job for which I’m paid). Furthermore, the recent horrible events in Beirut, in Paris, in Mali etc. were so tragic, that during those days it was too hard for me finding the motivation to write something reasonable…

Therefore, this post “celebrates” the end of a 10-days period of silence; but it is also the post that embeds a new tag: “Moscow”! And it’s always special when I create a new tag, because it’s like putting a new flag on earth, something that excites me a lot!

Although my stay in Moscow was very short – just a weekend – I took many photos around the city. This one, the wide landscape of the Red Square by night, with the Cathedral of Saint Basil and the Kremlin, has been taken from the bridge crossing the Moskva river very few minutes after my arrival: I remember that I was so excited to start walking and photographing around Moscow, that I wasn’t feeling the cold wind at all, and even the snow – that was starting to fall – couldn’t stop me. I liked this view because, in the same frame, there are two of the most iconic landmarks of Moscow, with the “temporal power” (represented by the Kremlin) in a sort of opposition to the “spiritual power” (the Saint Basil’s Cathedral).

One technical note: I brought with me only the Leica Q camera, and to be honest I did not miss – except maybe for a couple of situations – all my other lenses. Maybe it’s the beginning of a new era? Should I start looking and exploring the world with a 28 mm focal length? Let’s see…

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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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Moscow International Business Center

Moscow (Russia). Last night I was going through some old photos taken almost one year ago during a trip to Moscow, and I found this image posted here. It’s not one of my favorite, since it has been taken in a tough situation: I was without a tripod in a low light environment and it was extremely cold (I remember it was going to snow!). One of the things that makes me particularly nervous, it is the fact that I photographed this complex of skyscrapers from their feet and in complete darkness (not the best observatory point and situation to enhance this type of skyline and its architectures) and that I had to cut the latest two floors of the “Naberezhnaya Tower”.

However, while I was watching it, I thought that it was still able to give an idea about what I wanted to show: the new raising city of Moscow. This is the Moscow International Business Center (known also as Moscow IBC or Moscow City), one of the most interesting areas under development in the world, with investments for 12 billions of dollars, 300,000 people working and living here, and 6 skyscrapers above 300 meters of height (including the 374 m Federation Tower, at that time still under construction).

But the most interesting skyscraper – and I must admit it stands out in the skyline not only for its shape, but also for its enlightenment – is the Evolution Tower (right, 255 m high), in which each floor is 3 degrees rotated versus the previous one, for a total rotation of 135 degrees: a sort of huge DNA chain, to symbolize the relationships among human beings, families and generations, designed by Tony Kettle and Karen Forbes and already become a landmark of the new Moscow.

Mosca. Ieri sera stavo riguardando alcune vecchie foto di un viaggio fatto a Mosca circa un anno fa, e ho ritrovato questa immagine. Non è tra le mie preferite, dal momento che è stata scattata in condizioni non ottimali: poca luce, senza treppiede, ma soprattutto con un gran freddo (ricordo che stava per nevicare!). Una delle cose che maggiormente mi infastidisce è l’aver fotografato il complesso di grattacieli così da sotto e al buio, e l’aver dovuto tagliare gli ultimi due piani della “Naberezhnaya Tower”.

Però, riguardandola, ho pensato che riesce ugualmente a dare un’idea di ciò che volevo far vedere, della nuova Mosca che sta nascendo. Si tratta del Moscow International Business Center (conosciuto anche come Moscow IBC o come Moscow City), una delle aree di sviluppo immobiliare più interessanti del mondo, con 12 miliardi di dollari di investimenti, 300,000 persone che ci vivono o ci lavorano, e con ben 6 grattacieli che superano i 300 metri di altezza (tra cui la Federation Tower, all’epoca ancora in costruzione e alta 374 m).

Ma il grattacielo sicuramente più interessante – e che devo ammettere spicca non solo per la forma, ma anche per la sua illuminazione – è la Evolution Tower (a destra, 255 metri) in cui ogni piano viene ruotato di 3 gradi rispetto al precedente, per una rotazione totale di 135 gradi: una sorta di grande DNA che simboleggia i rapporti tra individui, famiglie e generazioni, pensato dagli architetti Tony Kettle e Karen Forbes e diventato uno dei simboli della nuova Mosca.

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