Beauty, even in the shadows.
I’ve been watching, my camera always close-by, the scenes of Italy in crisis and people living in lockdown. Like most people, I normally gravitate to happy scenes, bright colors, images of hope. But, my dearly-departed artist mom (and soulmate) taught me early of the importance of art’s “voice” to capture the gamut of the human experience.
I’ve felt boxed-in by Covid-19 so many times. I’ve hungered for days of unfettered freedom. But, then again, I ask myself, “Will I forget all this when the sun metaphorically comes out again?” This crisis, whose end and management seem questionable, has woken up in me all sorts of personal reflections and appreciations. I’ve been steered back into looking at what is most important to me. That is invaluable, and I don’t want to forget this important wake-up call. I want these photos to serve as reminders.
When will we emerge from our isolation?
The featured image in this post, for me, underscores this very question. Italy in crisis (and the rest of the world) has left us residing in a space of half-shadow, literally and metaphorically.
A sense of being boxed in.
That’s what the above image represents for me. We live so differently these days. Simple trips out of the house aren’t so simple, nor are they stress-free. Where’s my mask? Did I sanitize it since last use? My gloves, where are they? Is everyone else staying far enough away from me? These are all new confinements (wisely so), thanks to Covid-19.
A renewed appreciation of the masters of reportage.
As I endeavor to capture scenes of Italy in crisis I refer back to revered reportage artists. Particularly, I think of Henri Cartier Bresson, his keen eye, and his intuition for capturing a moment loaded with meaning.
“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson
In his book, The Decisive Moment, Cartier Bresson elaborates on an approach to photography that produced emotionally potent results.
My photography efforts pale in relation to greats like him. Dorothea Lange is another photographer who captured some of the most iconic images of rural poverty during the Great Depression.
“Lange’s photographs influenced the development of documentary photography and humanized the consequences of the Great Depression.” – Wikipedia
Other greats, worthy of your perusal if reportage appeals to you include Vivian Maier, an unassuming woman and nanny who captured powerful street photography on the down-low. She was never known or published during her lifetime. A chance discovery of her negatives and undeveloped film at a garage sale have led us to the treasures she created. Then there is Walker Evans, who like Dorothea Lange, captured powerful images of the Great Depression. His goal as a photographer “was to make pictures that are “literate, authoritative, transcendent.”—Wikipedia.
I’ve included further resources on these inspiring photographers at the end of this post.
Italy in crisis yields interminable time camped on our balconies.
Before Covid-19 slapped us sideways, balconies, the majority of which are small in nature, were barely used. Maybe for watering plants and smoking an occasional cigarette but not much more. Now, especially in the city center, even the tiniest balconies are hot commodities. I see people wedging themselves into the tight spaces to drink in whatever sun they can. Scenes like the one above will stand out most when I remember Italy in crisis.
We pass the time however we can. Cellphones and tablets continue to hold sway over people’s attentions.
How will Phase 3 change Italy in crisis?
This will be interesting to see (starting May 18), and I’ll have my camera ready. I suspect that I’ll see balcony time cut back at least 50% since there is so much pent up hunger for swimming in spaciousness. I guess much of how this evolves will depend on how well people behave and what kind of confidence they have interacting with others. I, for one, hope we walk and work up to a slow jog before dashing back to life as we knew it.
I’ll have my camera in hand, and probably I’ll be capturing future scenes of Italy in crisis from a street-level perspective for a change.
If you haven’t already seen my first photo essay of Italy in crisis, be sure to see it here.
Hi Jed, been receiving you newsletter for sometime and wanted to let you know always a wealth of culture and information … love reading it … stay safe and well…. Kevin
Ciao, Kevin. I’m so glad you’re finding the blog post useful. When I started it over five years ago I had no idea that it would grow like it has. I’m passionate about Italy, so it’s a joy! Thanks for writing. Jed
I met you during my trip to Italy in October. You helped Lisa, Lynn, and I navigate the train to Venice.
It is so good to see your face. Stay safe my friend
Pam, you have so made my day! I remember well our short time together. I was so happy to be in the company of such radiant souls on our train ride. We’re good, staying safe and not going too stir crazy. I’m about to finish a large oil painting and I’m ready to start another. We’re supposed to have more freedom of movement starting next week, but I’m still laying low for a few more weeks, just to be safe! I hope you are doing well. Please let me know if you you head this way again. Again, thanks for reaching out! Un grande abraccio! Jed
Thank you for sending out your thoughtful posts. Always interesting & now give us a window on life in Italy during the pandemic. Please stay safe!
You’re so welcome, Sheri. These very different times will have more stories to tell. Let’s hope we all rise to our best selves! You stay safe too! Jed
Great post Jed. My post today is similar…but more focused on our contentment with our lockdown. It is all so strange…remain vigilant! Even in Phase 3.
Thanks, Nancy. We’ve been pretty content as well, tackling so many creative projects with a focus not usually possible with other distractions. Fortunately, we’re not too restless! You better believe we’ll be super vigilant in Phase 3. With several countries now having “pop-ups” of new hot spots, I’m not venturing too far until more is understood.! Stay safe! Jed
Great shots and thoughts Jed. Your resources are spot on for 4 amazing photographers that captured history in their images. Stay well!
Grazie! I never tire of looking through eyes that could recognize the moment or see it about to happen. I can’t wait to head out to a less crowded Venice soon. Stay safe! Jed