Impermanence ...

These days, I am more aware of the impermanence of things.  

I develop routines, find a place to live, have particular friends but always aware that these things are not forever. 

Mr One went traveling for a couple of months and when he returned, he had grown and changed so many of his habits and routines.  

I arrived in Italy and moved into the apartment I had been returning to since 2008 but then I had to leave.  And I love where I live now, so much more but I had to let go and trust that things would be okay, even though it seemed impossible. 

Winter was cold and I was  ill but now it's summer, and it's so hot, and I'm loving that.  It hasn't dropped below 23 celsius for weeks, not even at night but we have these occasional storms and so, unlike much of Italy, we're not experiencing drought.  I love Genova's Fiordland-like deluges.  I leave the windows open and listen to the rain crashing down.

I had a few weeks of wandering alone here in the city. Of days without shape or appointments. I was unmoored from life, quite completely.  There was nothing and no one to hold me but I knew, that too would pass. And so, I very quietly, enjoyed that time of photography, writing and wandering.

I have found places, here in Genova, where the music is good.  And musicians who are some of the kindest, most amusing, people I know.  Spending time with them is so much fun.  I hope to post video here soon.  But that's a long story for later ...

And today, a woman told me she liked my writing, and that meant the world to me.  Grazie mille for your kindness.

It's very difficult to take my work seriously.  I'm a photographer who writes.  It feels more like a kind of rebellion in this world where value is measured via income and social position ... this desire to seek out, and try to capture, beauty.  

So it's another strange space I inhabit.  I'm not anything respectable, like an accountant or a doctor.  I don't work in an office or a shop.  I only make art ... 

But I love my life.  And sometimes, when I go wandering, I turn at the right time and photograph a small boy gently touching a chandelier that is for sale in an antiques market, here in Italy.  And that makes everything perfectly okay.

That First Time ...

I once had a day surgery.  And at the pre-surgery meeting, with the anesthesiologist, he talked to me about how many painkillers I had to take before going in ... he called it a 'loading dose'.

Being me, I may have quietly refused to take that many painkillers.

He convinced me, eventually.

I survived. 

But these days, 'loading dose' has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  It applies to my espresso-intake these mornings.  They are part of my preparation for writing ... mmmhmmm.

I walk in the city, my camera and I, senses often overwhelmed by all that I see and experience. I stop for one espresso, en route.  It seems to help on the hills . This might be my imagination ...    Then, close to home, I find that second coffee and voila, I am ready to write.

I knew I was doing it, at some level, but today I remembered how the loading dose thing worked and thought, yes.  That's what I'm doing.

Unrelated but something else that happened today.  When I moved from Belgium, to Portsmouth, to Farnham, to London, to Oxshott to Genova ... somehow, I managed to hold on to my relatively large collection of journals.  

Today I went back to the journal where I had recorded my first visit to Genova - 17 October, 2008.  It was fascinating (for me anyway) to read over those first impressions.

I had made notes about famous locals, like Fabrizio De Andre, Gilberto Govi, Giuseppe Mazzini and Bruno Lauzi.  Interviewed and photographed a few of the business people I was meeting in those early days ...  at Trattoria Da Maria, Romeo Viganotti and the bakery on Via Ravecca.

But most tellingly ... I had done a family portrait session, for friends of a Brussels-based Genovese friend, and I had written of the shoot location ... 'Seeing the sea brought tears to my eyes.  It's beautiful here.  So beautiful!  It's like the best of everything I've known so far - New Zealand, Istanbul, Salamanca, Antwerp.  

Genova seems to combine everything, in the best possible way.

And then, my first entry, in that journal I had bought to begin in this beautiful city, not knowing I would be living here 8 years later ... Via Ravecca, Porta Soprana, Piazza De Ferarri, Piazza San Matteo. 

All these names are weaving themselves into the fabric of my life ... here in this Genovese world.

And now, here I am, living inside ... a part of the tapestry I so admired.

A recent photograph, for family and friends who haven't seen anything of me in a while  :-)  Taken in one of the truly ancient ruins, here in Genova.

Photo credit.  M. Civiero.

Days Like This ...

Last weekend, I was up in the hills behind Genova, to hear Nickel & Dime perform in a small village.  

It was brilliant.  Firstly, because Tato, Ivo and Massi are truly lovely guys.  I enjoy their music. And then their wives are fun too.  So I felt extraordinarily fortunate to spend time with them, there on the edge of their world. 

But to take photographs as I pleased, to sit down to a really hearty Italian dinner with a huge group of people, and stay for the music ... that was the magic.

I think I'm a photographer more than anything else.  There's nothing that makes me happier than having my camera in my hand, just watching, and listening, and taking photographs.  Getting to know people, slowly ... hoping they'll trust me to only attempt to capture the very best of them.

The music was great, as always.  There is a video coming but not from the night.  It was too noisy to record anything beautiful.  And, so far, these guys only have this up up on Youtube. 

Ivo and Luca made a  video I previously posted here - Late Night, Weather Dancers.  But I can't share the sound of Nickel & Dime, or not yet.  

It was a good day, in a beautiful place, with excellent people. 

Just that.

That Desire to Talk to People, When Traveling

Alain De Botton wrote the following post, over on Facebook, and I had to share it here. 

Share it because it touches on my goal, to offer travelers a behind-the-scenes experience, while attending one of the photography workshops  I organise, here in Italy.  

My goal ... is all about opening doors and introducing people to one another.  Closing the distance between the tourist and the locals.

I fell in love with Genova back in 2008.  I've been returning ever since, and finally moved here in the summer of 2016.  No regrets, just an ever-deepening passion for the city.  

And I have this ever-growing list of favourite bars, restaurants, and secret places that are off the tracks beaten by tourists.

But here's Alain ... 


The tourist industry has been spectacularly successful at opening up foreign countries and introducing us to their most important and worthwhile attractions.
Except for one extraordinary omission: the people. By some unseen, undiscussed but all-powerful rule, tourism tends to separate us from the inhabitants of the countries we’ve come to visit. They remain shadowy, occasional figures: the guy by the pool, the taxi-driver from the airport, the nice lady who took us on the trip through the forest. But the real focus is always elsewhere, on the culture and the monuments, the natural spectacles and the food.
This is a source of serious sadness. Most of the places we want to travel to are associated with a distinctive way of being: an implicit personality. In New York, it might be confidence and modernity; in Amsterdam, the dignity of daily life; in Melbourne, a welcome directness and warmth. It’s a range of human virtues that draw us to places, but we’re normally only permitted to encounter these via their external, cultural expressions. We don’t really want to shop or see pictures; we want to talk.
Yet we remain - painfully - outsiders. We pass a big family celebration at a long table on a cafe terrace. Someone is singing a song everyone knows the words to. We scan the properties for sale in the windows of estate agents. We observe people after work catching trains and buses home to areas we know nothing of. We’re continually noticing interesting faces, styles of clothing, the gestures friends use when they greet one another. In the evening, we hear the sounds of a party filtering down from a brightly-lit third floor flat. We may have explored every painting this country made in the eighteenth century and become experts at the late medieval style of its temples, but we’re only scratching the surface of its being. The genius loci - the spirit of the place - is eluding us. We want to know what it would be like - if only for a few days - to join in and belong; and to try out for ourselves the nicest aspects of the attitudes and point of view of the people who live here. 
In the travel industry of the future, we’ll regard booking a local friend as no different from booking a hotel room or a flight: just another essential, normal part of organising a successful trip. 
Until then, we must develop our skills at courageously going up to strangers and sharing a thought on the weather or the state of local politics. Or else we must remain in our shy lonely cocoon, but can at least grow able to interpret our melancholy feelings as symptoms of an industry-wide failure, not a personal curse.

Photography ... Drawing with Light

I took this photograph and, when I looked at it in Photoshop, there was nothing I needed to do to it.

It made me think about the etymology of the word photography ... 
'It was created from the Greek roots φωτός (phōtos), genitive of φῶς (phōs), "light" and γραφή (graphé) "representation by means of lines" or "drawing", together meaning "drawing with light".

I am learning to read the light here.  To know where to go at what hour.  And if I get right, then the ordinary becomes extraordinary ... by virtue of the light.