Family Portrait, Portofino

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After a bit of a break from portrait photography, I had a family session up on the top of the hill at Portofino.  My friend Leah has an agriturismo, under construction, up there in that beautiful place.

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I had the loveliest time with this beautiful family.  There was much laughter and sunshine, some Prosecco too.

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And so much love between the 4 of them.

It felt like an extraordinary privilege, both to photograph the family, and to work up at Leah's place.

Grazie mille to all involved  :-)

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 LONGING TO TALK TO STRANGERS ABROAD

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.

'Finding Home in Solitude' ... Alex

This interview, where Alex talks of 'finding home in solitude', there at the end ... that's what I'm doing these days.

It's an interesting process, after years of having this constant dialogue in my head ... 'What does this person need from me?'  

'How can I help them?'  there is this new process where I'm learning to consider what I want.

2 husbands ... and I lived 2 lives that were shaped, so completely, around their lives.

2 divorces ... and I lost everything, twice, including countries.

I am living in interesting times.  My book is begun, the professional photography has been put to bed for the moment.  

And perhaps ... this interview, with Alex, will give you a sense of the solitude.  The gift, and the difficulty, of learning to be alone.

A Little Bit of La Dolce Vita, in Genova, Italy

I am learning that there's not much sweeter than spending time with good people in the quiet of the late evening ... talking while drinking a lovely red wine and sharing delicious food.

I'm learning the delights of Genova, that city small enough to bump into old friends, and new, most days I go out.

I already knew that I loved when someone chats to me on a bus.  There we were, two strangers ... her with her electronic Italian to English dictionary.  Me with my book.  We chatted, in English but with her introducing me to some new words.  We parted in the city but I think we will meet up again.  She extended a very kind invitation.

And so, of course, I attempted to describe my yesterday over on Facebook:  'I love Genova :-) I was heading for my favourite cafe when a woman called out to me. I couldn't remember who she was but she knew me ... It turned out that we'd never met, we have mutual friends on Facebook and she recognised me. But there was more than that, she was with another woman I had quietly wanted to meet for years ... and they invited me to join them, there at the cafe, with their lovely friend from the States. It was really really lovely and ... it turns out we're all friends with Silvia :-)

Temple replied in my comments section, with her take on our meeting: I was the woman who called out: saw a lanky blue-eyed blonde whose face I recognized from here sloping across a famous piazza and just said, You're Di Mackey aren't you? She was a bit startled to say the least, but it was indeed her and the rest is as recounted. Plus we 3 Yanks gave her a lesson in US political science she isn't likely to forget for a long time. Namaste, Di, great meeting you!

It was a truly good day because I met them, and because before meeting them, that woman traveling on the same bus into the city, had started chatting with me. 

And then I got to spend a couple of hours with Mau, cameras in hand I went city-wandering with that globe-trotting friend, last seen in 2014.  A big blister on the sole of my foot limited us some ... but the gelato, it helped in the 36 celsius heat.

Silvia invited me out to dinner last night.  She wanted to introduce me to the restaurant called Maniman.  It was divine and, as is always the case when I spend time with SIlvia, there was much laughter but balanced with more than a few serious moments.  She's a wise woman.

And then we ended up down in the city, living the paragraph that opens this post.  We started with an espresso but with a delicious red wine and good food soon followed.  Il Genovese remains my favourite restaurant here in the city.  It's a place you must eat when you come here. 

And then, as if all that wasn't enough ... I got a ride home on the back of motorbike because it was 2am by the time we had done with stories I'm still laughing over when I recall them.  I can't recount them here. but I laugh every time that I think of them. 

And I feel extremely fortunate to have had all of that in one day, and so very sad about the earthquake that happened, here in Italy yesterday.  We were far from it and I knew nothing until my sister emailed me, wondering if I was okay.

It's heartbreaking to realise how many have been lost in those small villages.  I think we just need to enjoy every single day, and as many moments as is possible because we just never know.  We never do.

Buongiorno from Genova, Italy, where I find photographs like this one, out there in the caruggi.

 

 

Alex...

I was talking with a wise woman the other night.  Her wisdom quietly blew my mind, as she's only 18 however she's way ahead of where I was at that age.  Ahead of so many, of any age, I suspect.

Her history of achievement is quietly spectacular too, both outdoors and academically.  She's waiting now ... to see which university is for her, based on her results.  Physics and maths are her thing.  But so are days out with friends, laughter, and Pokemon Go.  She's startlingly well-balanced and confident. 

I hesitate to write this but this combination seems like a rare gift in these days.  Her parents, her family ... they played a huge role, I'm sure but nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to how we show up in the world.

Alex and I sat up talking after everyone else had gone to their beds and, much to my surprise, I was gently taken to task for under-valuing my photography.

Although she never said these words, I came away with the idea I should simply get over any doubts that I had then get on with it.  Get on with pursuing my passion for photography, as opposed to pacing up and down on the edge of the pier, wanting to swim but trying to make everything perfect before I leap in. 

Just sell what I do, and talk of what I believe photography is meant to be.  And ohmygoodness, had I heard the story of my life so far??!

But for me, here on the inside of my life, I know all the other stuff.  There's always the pre-leap phase.  And there have been so many times in my life, so far, where I've felt myself back on that pier that heads out into the lake ... pacing.  Wanting to, needing to, jump but so very nervous.

Can I swim well enough?  Sure, but should I wear a life jacket just in case I get into difficulties in the water?  But wait, why not have a small boat in the water, ready to pull me out?  A small boat ... why not a bigger boat, or a cruise ship.  Why not wait, save up and buy a cruise ship and then simply dive into the ship's pool then? 100% success guaranteed ... once I have enough money to buy that big old cruise ship.  

And on it goes, while I remain there on the pier, ready but not committing.

So, to Alex, I write a huge and heartfelt thank you.  You gifted me your idea of me, in that beautifully direct and intelligent way that you have.  Never lose it, never apologise for it.  You're just kind of perfect as you are.

Wishing every success in the years ahead!!  I'm so looking forward to seeing what you do with your life.