Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Steam & Steel

This is the last post of October 2012. The counter reports 22. And it looks quite impressive to me. I've never managed to be so constant in posting as I've been in recent times. On the other end it is a challenge: a record to be passed, along with the number of visitors I've had so far. I must confess that it is pleasant: it gives you the impression that there are some people out there, looking constantly at your work. Good.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Leader's retreat

Villa Adriana, Tivoli: the so called Maritime Theater, one of the most interesting building of the old roman Emperor'd Villa. It is reportedly the place where this philosopher Empire Leader used to retreat himeself apart from the crowd that used to follow him till to this complex that he built with the aim to spend some time away from Rome. This small "island", indeed, was connected by a removable bridge that his servants used to lift where he entered it.

Unfortunately, I cannot afford to have my own island were to easily ... isolate (sorry for the pun) myself from the ordinary things. When I need to unplug I rely on my ability to stretch my wake time over human sustainable limits, on the time "wasted" while commuting to work or traveling across Europe and, not to forget, on my family patience. Photography is one of my other "islands", riding my bike is yet another one. I spent two hours under heavy freezing rain, today, just to switch myself off for a while and regenerate some kind of batteries. I wonder if this is all worth.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The rest of the heroes

The picture below is from Villa Adriana, a UNESCO World Heritage site standing close to my youth town, Tivoli. I won't spend many words, here, to describe what this nearly two thousands years old villa means to me, as well as to the whole World. If I was some kind of an enlightened mind coming from another planet, though, I would put this place in the top-ten list of the sites to visit on planet Earth before going back home. I've been lucky enough to be grown few hundreds of meters away from there and still I think I haven't seen most of the thousands things to discover, after several walks through what remains of Adrian Emperor's retreat. Yet, it's not about the artistical meaning that I'm lingering upon, now. Rather, it's some kind of analogysm that I feel between the greeks' heroes statues surrounding the Canopus and myself.

Now, I think I'd better explain what I mean with my last words above, without crossing a limit: it is something relative to my current professional status.
I've been - or simply I felt I was - some kind of a princeps, a specialist in my role as digital design team leader for a while. Five years are quite a long time in the modern professional world. After such a time frame anyone would aim to make a change, to walk out of its "comfort zone" and try something else. So I did after an even longer time: I dared to step up and apply for a manager's position, to compete with my previous promoters, to point a finger and tell what I didn't like of the previous management behaviour and ... having dared to fly, I fell.
There's nothing better that a good walk in a forgotten place to restore ourselves and make order in our thoughts. Villa Adriana is not really a forgotten place. Yet there are days when the only people walking in are closed in their own worlds and the Villa looks like being yours.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Heavy weather

Strange clouds over our head. The sky looks like a brain. Or is it maybe the under-view of a soft sea turmoil up above?

Klippan on ebook

On my way to get started with a new PhotoBook, while I was upgrading Blurb's editing tool, BookSmart, I realized it is possible now to turn, push-button, every uploaded book into an electronic version and make it available off the shelf. So, needless to write, I pushed the button and there it is!

Additionally, once made this step I learned it was possible to submit the e-book to Apple iTunes. So there it is again on a different shelf:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tivoli - VII

Still another picture from last summer raid in the old town where I spent my youth. The boy sitting in a spot of light filtering through the high windows of the town's main church (Il Duomo) is my son. He's just nine and he's getting every day more curious about the mistery laying behind religions, all those people crowding these public places, the ceremonies, the icons and their meaning. I'm not the right person to explain him all these things. I'm a scientist and my explanations would be biased. So I decided not to tell him anything. He'll attend a course in the next years and will be free to make his choices.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Vivian Maier

Autoritratto, giugno 1953
Self Portrait: Vivian Maier, 1953

Part of the huge recently discovered work from "nanny" Vivian Maier's (1926 - 2009) is on display in Brescia, at "Galleria dell'Incisione" till November 15. Click on the picture above to get access to some of her images or read about her life. A daily source of inspiration for everyone of us.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Frau "Solida" visions

''It took me more than a while to recover the lost tracks of such a mysterious - and lately disappeared - old German camera, Frau Franka, the "Solida". I had taken my rolls to a couple of photo-shops in town, as being a digital born pictures maker I don't have much experience with either and wanted to experiment different ways to get to the final digital scans. Yesterday I received a call from one of the two, saying that the roll was waiting for me and that they weren't able to make the scans: the impressions were overlapped and no one in the lab was able to take decisions about were to crop.''

He silently smiles at me and, casting an eye on the big watch hanging on the wall, adds: ''Looks like none was able to say whether this overlap was an artistic decision of mine or ... a terrible mistake! Someone from the lab had written *overlapping frames* on the envelop.'', this time he laughs, rapidly shaking his shoulders.

''So I came back home with a yellow plastic box in my hands and and made my way to my kids' room to attempt some scans by myself using my purposely cheap and unprofessional gear. The results are there ... let's drop it.'' Handing me a print, he nods to the tea pot still smoking on the table and asks: ''Milk or lemon?'' I look at a print of an roman temple standing in bright sunshine and say: ''Just a bit of sugar, thanks.''

- The 591 Italian reporter

Antica Osteria "Al Tempio di Ercole"

Summer 2008

A look inside

A look outside

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Back in time

Tivoli, Tempio di Vesta

I've written some days ago that I sent out to lab two 120mm rolls exposed last August using an old german camera, Franka (see here the weblog dedicate to its World tour), from Solida Record, that we 591ers are passing each other, making it roam around the world. Having no experience and very little memory of the "analog photography" era, I left one roll to each of the photoshops close to my house and crossed my fingers.

I was really doubtful, if not really hopeless, about the results of my first analog shooting after fifteen years. Along with the Solida Record, that day I had taken my pocket Canon Powershot, with which I took care to digitally pre-shoot and analyse the context before wasting a film frame. I remember I realized very soon how challenging the alleys of a medieval town could be in a sunny August morning. Light is stark, vivid, so vertical and umpredictable. Shadows alternate with patches of bright light that make nearly impossible to distinguish the texture of the ancient buildings walls. I write this to say that my hope to get some good pictures out of those rolls was really low. Yet, reality turned out to be even more critical and cruel.

I was told that it would have taken at least a couple of weeks before having the developed negatives back. So I patiently waited till this afternoon. What I actually wasn't aware of was the price of this game. I heard from one of the shop owners I talked to that scanning one photogram would have costed one Euro, ending up to a significant - and not always sustainable - total cost. So I decided not to have the scan made by the shops and make an attempt with my limited gears. Before going forward with my story it's worth reinforcing my previous feeling that the cost of films development seems to be nowever nearly uncontrolled: one shop charged we with 2.30€, whereas the second one asked for 7.70€. This confirms my theory that, as the analog photography is no longer the core business of photoshops, its cost is set without any reason, where the service is still provided. It makes no longer difference. Competition is made on the digital layer.

So I took the developed films and rushed my home. Almost all frames were overlapping with the neighbour, meaning that I didn't consider some important factors, yet most of the exposed frames were clean and aparently in good shade, with fine (negative) details. I made my scans and went looking into them with Photoshop.

Oh my! What a bad surprise. What a blow! All the pictures are looking tremendously blemished, burned out and out of focus. This seems to be in contrast with the delails I can see through the negatives. So I thought it could be a problem of my scanner, which is mainly meant for copying traditional documents. I can't say which will be the recovery action, nevertheless I can't deny that I feel somehow satisfied of the resulting images. The bad exposures, helped by a films scan made with an improper tool, and the soft-focusing effect added by a scanner that was not made for pictures, give the picture a strange look, as if they were shot 150 years ago.
I have to leverage on this and be not ashamed of criticisms. I will present as many pictures as I can out of those taken with the Franka. Some of the preventive shots made with the digital camera have already been posted here and on 591. If you had the time, give them a look: you'd find out how much difference betwen the two processes is.

So, before closing and leaving you to my pictures, my question is always the same: is that effort worth being spent? Should we consider having a parallel analog track, instead of pursuing day after day the digital evolution?

Summer 2008

A look down in the valley below

A look up on the hill

Friday, October 12, 2012

Backnang, Summer 2008

Thinking back to what I spoke about with my friend Ulf, when I was in Stockholm three weeks ago, I decided to walk around this idle time of mine by looking into the pictures I took in recent years. So I took the hard-disk where I keep my old photograph safely (?) stored, this evening and blindly, without thinking, I pointed at one year and, once there, to one of many subfolders. By chance I picked up a couple of rolls shot when I was in Backnang, few kms away from Stuttgart, in Summer 2008.
Looking at them I wonder now how could happen that I didn't find the time to process none of all the pictures I took in that (photographically speaking) lucky and happy period of my life. I can just write it was after all a nice place to stay in the best time of the year with enough time at my disposal and very little colleagues' interference. For such I should not be so surprised having found a real mine of great stuff to work upon now on.

A look from the bridge

A look from my bed

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

No more prints?

There seems to be no more room for film photographers today. At least not for those who cannot afford to have a personal lab where to stay put in a dim light for hours, developing and printing negatives. I've had the opportunity to use an old German camera from the 50's last summer and took some 120mm rolls while walking through Milan and Tivoli. Then, having sent Franka to the 591 Blog member next in the queue (see more about Franka Journey on its dedicated blog), I decided to test different labs by giving one roll per photo shop available in town (Saronno). I figured out it would have taken some time in order to have them developed and scanned (as I couldn't imagine what would be the results, I decided it was better giving a look to the negatives, before). To my surprise I discovered it actually takes more than two weeks to have the digital scans back.
This happens as none of these shops is anymore able to make their own B&W film processing. In one case only I was told that I would have been different if I had used color films.
In the past time I've used several times B&W films that could be processed with the same machinery commonly used for color films. The results, indeed, where not really exciting - for what I remember mainly for contrast and a little but disturbing color drift - but I can't tell today if it was due to my little experience or to the physical medium limitations. I'd better make new attempts and see if the years have changed the way I shoot.
Well, more surprisingly I learned that scanning the negatives will cost something like one euro per frame. That in the end will constitute a considerable amount of money, provided that I won't have the printed copies in my hands yet. So, I started thinking about how the latest technology changes have modified the way we consume pictures today. In the last  fifteen years the easiness of taking and storing pictures has dramatically grown, whereas the printing services offer has only slightly improved. As a matter of fact our PCs are filled up with images that we never will be able to see printed. If we're lucky and far-sighted they will be recorded and ordered in a smart way on a backed-up hard-disk for ... just better days. ... yep.
I'd better stop myself here. The stone is thrown.

Friday, October 5, 2012


There and back again

I proposed myself not to wait too much before writing a second photo-book, after my first experience. I thought one year before putting the hands back to a page-maker tool would have been necessary, after all. As a matter of fact, if I started now with good pace I would not be able to have a printed copy in my hands before two or three months, that is two years after I received Klippan. Considering how easy is editing a book today, two years are a quite a long time. I could have carried on this work before, of course. To my justification I can mention having spent a lot of time abroad, which also gave me the opportunity to widen the number of samples I'll be able to consider into my next effort.

Now I feel it's about time to move on. I have made a good hard-disks clean up and tiding up work in the last three weekends that will allow me to move on a unique database of picture and select my preferred without wasting time and memory. It's a matter of IT  self-hygiene: something our parents couldn't figure out with they shoes-boxes filled up with negatives. So, what remains now it the hard task: taking a final decision about a theme to get stick to, devising a good editorial strategy, selecting and organizing the content, processing the still virgin pictures and so on.

I thought a good theme could, again, be based on my travels. The latest cost reduction programs that telecom companies like mine are waging to safely pass through these years of crisis are strongly affecting the old habits to travel and meet whenever possible. In their help the latest technology offers good reasons to minimize expensive travels. From my point of view, unfortunately, this is starting to limit my presence out of office and thus my chances to explore new grounds and meet new faces. On the other hand this is driving me to critically review my recent work and start with the second photo-book of my life.

I thought it could be entitled "There and back again", just like Tolkien's bestseller. Being a personal work, I don't think anyone will blame me for using it. In the end it's going to be the visual chronicle of seven years spent travelling abroad, to North. Yes, of course! "To North and back again", this could be another good option.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Landmarks - III

Maybe it's better putting down two lines to explain these pictures. Ulf, AKA Mr Urbano, 591 founder, asked us to start a new advertising campaign by printing 591 logo and sticking it  wherever possible (and allowed, of course ...). So I made my print and gave two samples to my kids. They inevitably found the best use of these stripes of paper: something that I could only barely imagine. I'm wondering who's the real creative ...

Monday, October 1, 2012


What remains of the hot days

The herbs of my little roof-garden prepares for the cold season. The memory of the just gone glorious summer still flutters through the leaves that survived the storms of the last days. Do they ever wonder if it was all worth?