Singing a Peace Song (Hiroshima 70th anniversary)

Hiroshima (Japan). Today it’s the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, that destroyed more than two thirds of the city killing 70,000 people instantly, with an unknown final death toll.

I visited Hiroshima exactly five years ago: I arrived there very few days after the 65th year celebrations, and I was honestly surprised by this place, which was the protagonist of one of the most horrible episodes in the world history. I was – as said – surprised because I realised that everything in Hiroshima was talking about “peace”: the most famous landmark is the Peace Memorial (commonly called the Atomic Bomb Dome), which is also part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, memories are conserved at the Peace Memorial Museum, and the Flame of Peace (designed by Kenzo Tange) burns continuously days and nights since it was lit in 1964 and it will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Yes, “peace”. Walking around Hiroshima – one more time – the most common word is “Peace”. I found in it a very strong message for all of us: a message of hope and forgiveness, something that will be inherited by future generations, something that is difficult to imagine normally, and for this reason it is even more special considering – again – the history of Hiroshima.

When during a night walk along the Ota River, I saw this young Japanese girl playing a song with her guitar, with still the word “Peace” echoing into my mind, I immediately stopped and I stood up listening to her. It was one of those moments that make a trip, and still today – when I think about Japan – the first episode that comes to my mind is this one.

I took this photo (and few others more) because I found the entire scene very symbolic: a peace song played in front of the Peace Memorial (which is mirroring itself on the river’s water surface), in the heart of a city which became an example of “pacific pride” for the rest of the world. It was a perfect moment, no need to explain more.

Today, 5 years after that my personal experience (which is still incredibly vivid in my mind and in my heart) and especially 70 years after that tragic day – when the atomic bomb “Little Boy” killed hundreds of thousands of people – I like to think about Hiroshima in this way, and like its citizens I want to share my humble but heart-felt message of hope and peace.

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Ortisei Chill Out

Ortisei (Italy). Walking on the mountains and, at the same time, photographing is something that I really love. The landscape that some places – like for example the Dolomites, in Italy – offer is something of unique. And if on your way you gonna meet nice cows relaxing on a soft green grass, the scene is complete!

Days ago I was enjoying a walk at the feet of Sasso Lungo mountain (or “Langkofel”), one of the most beautiful of the Dolomites group in Gardena Valley (which are included in the UNESCO list, by the way). In front of me there was the Sella Group, another wonderful peak. I was not alone…

Lying down on the meadow, chillin’ out in front of that spectacular landscape, there was a large group of cows. They were eating fresh grass, relaxing, watching people like me (apparently smiling at my camera) and completing that wonderful scene. I could not resist of course, and I captured this image thinking that it was perfectly giving the idea of peace, tranquility, silence and calm that I usually have in mind when I think about mountains and – more specifically – Dolomites.

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The Central Courtyard at the Palacio da Bolsa in Porto

Porto (Portugal). Yesterday I posted a photo of a nice courtyard in Milan; here today I’m posting the same subject – but this time it is from my recent trip to Porto, the second city of Portugal and one of the most beautiful one.

This sumptuous and elegant neoclassic building is the old Palacio da Bolsa (in English, the Stock Exchange Palace). It’s not used for its original scope anymore: for example, the courtyard photographed here in the past was the negotiations room, and the ceiling is decorated with the emblem of the countries with which Portugal was having commercial relationships.

However, today the Palacio da Bolsa it is still used for the meetings of the local commercial association.and for some special events. During the day, the Palacio da Bolsa opens its doors to visitors, and it is possible to walk along its corridors, as well as to visit its rooms, following a 45 minutes guided tour. I particularly appreciated the fact that during the tour I could shoot photos, and this one is one of my favorite from that visit.

The Palacio da Bolsa is located in the Infante D. Henrique Square in the historical center of Porto, and is designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

To capture this image I used a Leica Q camera: I think its 28 mm lens is very versatile and is very suitable for architecture photography (with a touch of creativity).

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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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The Selimiye Mosque (From a Sunflower Field)

Edirne (Turkey). I captured this image many years ago – it was summer 2011. I was in Edirne, in the North of Turkey, to attend a famous wrestling competition named “Kirkpinar”, and I took the opportunity to have a tour around the city. Few days before, the Selimiye Mosque – one of the most famous places of Edirne – had been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and I could not miss the opportunity to visit it. But my favourite image – beyond some photos of the marvellous mosque’s interiors – is this one, almost taken by chance on the way back home, in which the majestic building with its minarets are in the distance.

As said, I remember I was on the way to Istanbul when I noticed this beautiful sunflower field. It was late afternoon and the day was going to end, all the more so I had already put my cameras and objectives in the bag (at those times I used to travel with a large bag full of things; not as today, using only one camera and two fixed lenses – but this is another story). Immediately, I asked the driver to stop, and I got off the car to take this photo. To be precise, I waked several meters through the field to be part of them. And even though I was tired for the tough day, I could remain there the whole evening: minute after minute the light was getting better and better, soft, warm as only some summer sunsets can be. On the way to Istanbul, re-watching the photos, I thought that the beauty of some moments does not come only from capturing an image, but also from all the things that accompany it: the chance of noticing this landscape, the decision of asking the driver to stop, the fight against the tiredness of unpacking everything and starting again to take photos, the desire of going into the field to find a better composition…

Photographing – as I always say – is not just putting a pressure on a button. Photographing is watching, thinking, desiring, telling a story, imagining, moving (and being moved). Watching a photograph some years later and re-having in mind those feelings is not something ordinary, and even saying that photography is the freeze-frame of a memory does not give justice to this amazing art. Photographing is opening our heart to the world around ourselves, this is photography. And for this reason to take photos two eyes come before a camera. Two eyes, a heart and a big desire of exploring the world.

Edirne (Turchia). Ho fatto questa foto tanti anni fa – era l’estate del 2011. Ero andato a Edirne, nel nord della Turchia, a vedere una famosa manifestazione di lotta che si chiama “Kirkpinar”, e con l’occasione mi sono fatto un giro per la città. Pochi giorni prima, la Moschea di Selimiye – uno dei luoghi più famosi di Edirne – era stata inserita nella lista dei siti UNESCO (World Heritage List) e non potevo perdermi l’occasione di visitarla. Ma l’immagine che preferisco – oltre ad alcune che esaltano i meravigliosi interni decorati della moschea – è questa, scattata quasi per caso sulla via del ritorno, in cui si vede l’imponente edificio con i suoi minareti in lontananza.

Come detto, ricordo che ero appena ripartito per tornare a Istanbul, quando ho notato questo bellissimo campo di girasoli. Era tardo pomeriggio e la giornata volgeva al termine, tanto che avevo già messo via l’attrezzatura (all’epoca viaggiavo con uno zaino pieno di roba, non come adesso che faccio tutto con un corpo e un paio di lenti – ma questa è un’altra storia). Immediatamente ho chiesto all’autista di fermarsi, e sono sceso dalla macchina per scattare questa foto. A dire il vero, mi sono incamminato diversi metri dentro al campo di girasoli, per poter essere un tutt’uno con loro. Nonostante fossi stanco dalla giornata impegnativa, sarei potuto stare tutta la sera in quel campo: ogni minuto che passava la luce diventava sempre più bella, morbida, calda come solo certi tramonti estivi sanno essere. Sulla strada per Istanbul, riguardando le foto, pensavo che la bellezza di certi momenti non viene solo dal fare una fotografia, ma da tutto quello che la accompagna: il caso di aver notato questo panorama, l’aver deciso di chiedere all’autista di fermarsi, l’aver combattuto la stanchezza di rimettermi a fotografare nonostante avessi già riposto tutta l’attrezzatura, la voglia di addentrarmi nel campo di girasoli per cercare uno scatto migliore…

Fotografare – lo dico spesso – non è soltanto una semplice pressione su un bottone. Fotografare è vedere, pensare, desiderare, raccontare, immaginare, emozionare (ed emozionarsi). Riguardare una foto a distanza di anni e riavere in mente quelle sensazioni non è un qualcosa di banale, e anche dire che la fotografia è il fermo immagine di un ricordo non rende giustizia a questa arte meravigliosa. Fotografare è aprire il cuore al mondo che ci circonda, ecco che cos’è veramente. Ed è per questo che per fotografare servono due occhi prima ancora che una macchina fotografica. Due occhi, un cuore e tanta voglia di vedere il mondo.

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The Amazing Landscape of Safranbolu

Safranbolu (Turkey). Let’s be honest: whenever someone mentions Turkey, I’m quite sure people first think about Istanbul. Very few persons consider that – beyond my beloved Istanbul – there’s a big Country with an incredible heritage witnessed by an incredible number of hidden gems. Don’t you believe it? It means that you do not know Turkey or – even worse – that you do not trust me!

I have always considered myself as a very lucky person; and one of the reasons behind this consciousness is definitely my job: oh yes, my job gives me the possibility to travel very frequently and across different places – not always very nice, though. However, my job has been giving me the possibility of travelling around Turkey for many years, and when I say “around Turkey” it really means “around Turkey”, including the famous South East – before the current local instabilities made those provinces inaccessible. Unfortunately, when I used to travel around Diyarbakır, Şırnak, Van and the whole South East of Turkey, I had not discovered my passion for photography yet. And I’m still kicking myself for this, because I have seen so many wonderful places, which are memories in my mind, my soul, my heart; but not in my hard disk…

Anyhow, sorry for the digression. I was saying that I’m a frequent traveler, and sometimes my lucky star guides me till I find myself staying in very special locations: here is the sense of luckiness that I was mentioning before. And to better express the concept, meet Safranbolu!

Safranbolu can be considered, for all intents and purposes, a pearl in the heart of Anatolia and – no wonder – it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. I believe that Safranbolu deserves a long, calm, meditating visit (it’s around three hours far by car from Istanbul, not so much) of more than just a day. There are very nice hotels, and the city must be visited not only by day, but also (especially) by night, with its characteristic houses illuminated and welcoming people. Especially if you are coming from the chaotic Istanbul, you will be amazed by the feeling of “the village”, while getting lost around the old city’s streets and watching the landscape from the hills around.

And once back to Istanbul, when someone will ask you about Turkey, you will finally talk not only about Istanbul…

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Opera Station along the Budapest Metro 1 Line

Budapest (Hungary). The Budapest Metro 1 line is one of the things to see in town: this line is known in Budapest simply as “the Underground” and it is the second oldest underground railway in the world (London is the first one, while Istanbul “Galata – Tunel” funicular contends the second place) being in operation since 1896. Several stations along the Budapest Metro 1 line are worth a visit considering their architectures and design; for this reason the UNESCO included the line in the World Heritage Sites List in 2002. The Budapest Metro 1 line runs below Andrassy Avenue and touches many Budapest’s landmarks: it can be the “underground” version of popular hop-on hop-off buses.

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