Reflections ... from that city I love

This stay in the city has involved quite some rain.  Just as New Zealand seems to be waiting for summer to actually arrive, Genova is waiting for the rain to stop falling. 

I flew in after some serious flooding had happened here in the city but the rain hadn't quite stopped  ... and so it was that I discovered the only boots that I brought with me had holes in them. 

But who does that!  One pair of shoes in Italy?!  I can hear my cousin, Julie's, disbelief from here  :-)

However having to replace those boots on my last full day here in the city ... that is going to make it all okay.  And no one will see that my feet have become webbed, like a duck's. 

There is nothing like owning a good pair of boots made here in Italy.

The very serious shoe-shop owner actually laughed when my lovely friend, Barbara, asked him if he might keep the plastic bags I was wearing over my socks, inside my boots (as a basic water-proofing measure) a secret ... as I was attempting to appear elegant while here in Italy.

Mmmhmmm, but then again, if all was simple in my life perhaps it would bore me.

The day ended with more laughter, as Alessandra, Barbara and I discussed 'but which wine?!' while accidentally blocking the wine aisle in COOP.   Oh yes, that was us.

And so, proof from this exquisite but watery city I have spent these last two weeks wandering ... another reflection.  I do love finding them here.

Long Ago And Far-Away...

Long ago and far-away I fell in love with a reflected world.  I was a child traveling State Highway 1, heading south on the flood-free, passing Henley.  Destination Invercargill and Nana's house.

There were swamp-lands next to the highway and a creek that offered the most stunningly clear reflections I've ever seen.

I used to imagine another world, an upside-down world, there in the creek as we passed by in those days when I was a kid in the back seat, dreaming my kid-dreams.

Genova has made me fall in love with reflections all over again.  I love when there is just enough rain to make puddles here on the cobblestones.

Today there was just enough rain to give me a glimpse of that other world. 

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp

Here's another view of Antwerp's city cathedral - Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal.

I discovered it reflected in a puddle out on Groenplaats one day.  And loved it.  And quite possibly looked insane as I stalked the puddle edges, searching for the best angle to capture the reflection at ... but I was compelled to.

Harbour Reflections, Genova

It was 15 celsius out there as I wandered just now.  I usually settle down and work into the night and so there's a need for a good walk before starting.

And there are a million photo opportunities here in this ancient city called Genova.  You only need to look, anywhere.  The detail is incredible.  Layers of history on single buildings.  I think I could spend a lifetime here and still find something new everyday.

Anyway, it was reflections this afternoon.

Rain and Reflections, Genova

It's raining today in Genova but even the rain creates rather exquisite photographic opportunities.

When there's rain here the puddles that form on the tiled sidewalks create beautiful reflections.  It seems like another world down at my feet.

I have been wandering, delighted to find that Caffè degli Specchi has reopened in my absence. I stopped in for an espresso.  Wandering on, I caught up with Francesca and bought pasta while there. 

It's wet and it's little cold here in the city but still beautiful. 

On Loving Genova ...

I arrived in Genova yesterday, ran my errands, and returned to the apartment just as the heavens opened. And I've been told there is more due tomorrow but today ... today is superb. 

The sky is the deepest blue. It was already 9 celsius when I headed out in search of my first espresso at 10am.  It's so very good to be back. 

I slept 11 hours last night.  6 hours is normal for me.  I need to  go outside again, just to be out in it all.  I wanted to download a series of puddle reflection photographs I just took.  See ... La Superba still is really.


Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again. The world calls them its singers, poets, and story-tellers but they are just people who have not forgotten.

L.M. Montgomery.

Since autumn began I've been attempting to fit my book in around family commitments and being a housewife.  It doesn't really work.  I remember those days back when I left for the office.  I recall the feeling of relief, of being in that safe space defined by clear boundaries marked 'work'.  That place where the threshold was rarely crossed by 'family'.

There was a degree of separation found there.  A door more-or-less closed on the reality that is home life and all  of those things that happen there ... from poo-filled nappies and sleepless nights, to sick cats and people you have powerful emotional ties to.

Work was always a place where I existed at another level.  Where, more often that not, objectivity was a state of being more simply found.  And I was paid for my presence, my hours, my labour.

Working from home, around a family life I rarely decribe here, oh my ... it's a topic I almost never touch.  But there is no degree of seperation.  I use the bathroom here amd I realise that I am also the cleaning lady and dammit, I haven't cleaned the bathroom lately.  I go downstairs for lunch and realise I'm the baker and that a new loaf needs to go in for breakfast tomorrow.  I make a coffee and see the dishes need washed and dried and put away.  I take a shower, need a towel and voila, I realise there are 3 loads of laundry there in the queue.  And what's for dinner tonight ...?

And really, I just want to hunker down in that seperate space called 'the office', and work for my money, and be objective but it's so unrealistic.  I was trained from a very young age that I needed to be responsible ... as the eldest sister, as a good little girl from Mosgiel. 

Gifting myself permission ... no, gifting myself the luxury of writing all day, it's something I am battling with at every level.  This last week has been impossible.  There are moments where I can do my writing work but as it is only the'possibility of income' ... can I even call it work?  Don't so many, as in those who know 'money doesn't grow on trees', view it as a luxury?  This writing lark. 

When you read of money and trees, did you find yourself adopting the deep voice of your father or some other remembered voice of authority?  I think only men have said that to me.  They get so mad with me and my lack of gratitude.  It's only the housework and the family.  You have it so easy

But I'm wondering ... 'really?' 

Anyway, I'll work it out and meanwhile, the image below.  My childish self loves the notion that there are the possibility of other worlds in puddles.

A Small Slice of Genova, Italy

For me, the fountain in Piazza De Ferrari represents the true heart of the city.  Then again, I am a foreigner and I may have that wrong but anyway ... I've taken a few hundred photographs of that fountain since first visiting in 2008.  Slicing it up, as I slice up everything. Examining it in different lights, falling in love with the fall of the water one day, then a reflection another day.

On this day the fountain was still and I was able to get close, wanting both the text and reflection of Palazzo Ducale.

Genova ... it's a city I could spend the rest of my life photographing.  I never expected to find one place that would capture my interest in this way but it has.  The more you explore Genova, the closer you go, the more there is. 

Then again, if I was more than 2,000 years in the making then I might be fairly complicated and interesting too.

Autumn Scenes in Antwerp, Belgium

It's a grey and miserable autumn day here in the city and that was me, out the door and on the tram, on school run by 7.30am.  To complicate things, Wednesdays and Thursdays Miss 9 's school closes at midday so I get an hour or two at home before I'm back out and across the city to pick her up. 

Who knows why I imagined I could handle my red umbrella and my camera but I did.  I created a couple of montages - photographs taken as I wandered across Antwerp city.  A tram from the suburbs to the city centre, then a walk that wends its way through cobble-stoned backstreets and ancient buildings ...

4.30pm, it's still raining and we're losing the light fast.  It's not even winter yet.  But anyway, my adopted city ...

There's the tree-lined street ... that I don't live in.  The tram tracks curving off into the distance.  And the beautiful park I live near.  The one that often has a 'beautiful mist' softening the scenes there.  'Beautiful mist' because, pretty as it is, it is actually the horrendous pollution created by one of Europe's busiest highways just next-door there.

The next montage was made up of images I found in the city.  Antwerp is a city of painters.  Rubens also lived here and there are statues all over the place. 

Reflections, taken on the street I call the street of the antique shops.  I loved the soldiers and the wine glasses... I tried to capture them while including the street scene too.  It made what might have been a miserable day almost fun.

On Preferring Genova ...

A shameful admission ... perhaps, but I didn't fall in love with Verona. I don't know what I expected.  I may have accidentally watched Letters To Juliet once and you might say, that serves you right, Di

It was a very pretty movie set in an Italian summer.  Meanwhile I was there in September on an overcast day and I couldn't help noticing how much they had tidied things up for the movie.  And I think I was disappointed.

I really like Genova.  I like the extremes of Genova.  And it doesn't pretend to be anything it's not.  The gritty is there, right next to the pretty, in that northern Italian city located on the edge of the Ligurian Sea.

Trieste didn't seem to be pretending, not at all, during the few hours spent there.  And the local restaurant we found served food that I'm still dreaming about.  I love Rome but not like Genova.  Rome is simply something else.  Magnificent.

Acqui Terme has fabulous food and wine.  And the people were lovely but still, I preferred Genova.

Venice ... rainy, overcast, crowded.  I don't know, it didn't capture me but perhaps I need to go back there in summer, or spring.  On a sunny day anyway.  And Cinque Terre ... I'm still muttering about the crowds I found there.

Naples, that was something something else!  It was like nowhere I've ever been before.  Not like Istanbul, nor Cairo.  Not Singapore.  Naples was just its ownself.  I loved it but I imagine it's obvious by now ... not like I love Genova.

I write all of this in a bemused state of mind.  I need to pop in and visit Florence one day, and maybe drive through this Tuscan countryside everyone raves about.  Even if it only confirms what I suspect ... that Genova has everything, and more, of what I prefer.

Maybe Italy is like a pick-a-path story.  Maybe you simply find what you love best there and stay loyal to it.  I don't know but that's how it is for me.

An Afternoon at the Antwerp Zoo

In my photography, there are themes that recur, images that I don't realise I'm chasing ...

Reflections would fall into that category.

Today was a sunny autumn day here in Antwerp.  Miss 9 and I wandered off to the zoo.  School holidays.   And I had to smile as we worked on a miniature photography workshop while exploring the zoo together. 

Her joy, as she worked out shutter speed and focus, was lovely.  She really got it. 

Anyway, she was given a zoo map when she paid for her ticket.  Oh my, there were some conversations where I suggested her map-reading skills were dodgy.  She laughed and, of course, we ended up at that funky slide over in the playground ... 

Not so dodgy it seems, perhaps we were simply on different missions.

Eventually I was able to arrive at the giraffe enclosure.  It's one of my favourite places there in the zoo but what I had forgotten was that there is a water course that runs round the edge of their space.  I don't know what it is about the water but it reflects exquisitely.

The image that follows ... Antwerp's blue sky reflected with the stripes and paint on the giraffe house.  Miss 9 and I could have stayed there all afternoon but for the fact we were cold and getting hungry.

Dank u wel for a lovely day, little Miss 9.

And now ...

Chance encounters change lives.  Close friends, passing acquaintances and even characters who emerge from old books often leave footprints across my heart.  By opening mysterious doors, the influence of others has inadvertently altered the direction of my life.

Colin Monteath, extracted from Under A Sheltering Sky.

And now ... I am beginning work on a long-talked about book.  Years of ideas have reached a point where I must begin working with them.

When I walk on beaches, I pick up shells ... I'm a sometimes collector.  Stones too, when I wander along the edges of rivers and lakes.  Since I was small.

My photography, I think, emerges out of that same desire to collect, to handle, to pore over later.  But to collect, without ever stopping to enjoy, that seems somehow sad.

So here I am, commiting to this book, for months ... at least a year I think.  That is something I haven't excelled in.  I have so many ideas, so many passions, project ideas.  And I try to follow them all. 

These last two months have been months of insanely beautiful chaos and whimsical impulses ... of action.  People. Places.

But I must have been maturing somehow ... like a wine (I hope, avoiding the old and smelly maturation process we call rotting).  I feel ready to attempt to breathe life into a multi-layered story, using the words and images I have been collecting, to create a portrait of a place I love.

In my people portraits the intention is always about capturing a soul ... something of the true essence of a person.  Now to lift that impulse, that desire, and fit it over a city, over a region, and tell how place can capture a heart.

There will be a photography exhibition in December, here at home I am hoping.  A party.  And there are plans for limited edition print runs, postcards ... but woven so very closely into this book project that I think it will all work.  There will be a series of photography workshop beginning in Spring 2014, and I will leave my door open for one-on-one workshops too but mostly, I'll be here at the desk and working on images and ideas collected since 2008.

And so, here I am, announcing it ... the intention.  Now to work.