Seven Sisters

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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