Italian Faces Etched with Emotion

I love faces.

And Italian faces are endlessly fascinating to me. Being married to an Italian has taught me firsthand that the passion that is so integral to the culture rarely hides behind a poker face. Hands fly and faces have countless ways of expressing mood and sentiment.

In the States, I grew up in the South. Be polite. Don’t make other people uncomfortable. Keep your feelings (other than joy, happiness, and peace) at bay. That was the pervasive conditioning. Talk about growing up with a leash on one’s emotions!

As a photographer and artist, I’m drawn to portraiture that captures the telltale signs of emotion. Placid, expressionless faces hold no appeal to me from an artistic point of view. There’s no “juice” to inspire capturing an image, whether in a photo or with my paintbrush.

My press pass at La Giostra Cavalleresca di Sulmona gave me plenty of new inspiration.

Boy, did I hit paydirt.

Having been an enthusiastic participant in dressing up in costume for so many years for Halloween, I can appreciate how donning a costume and temporarily assuming another personality can coax more emotion out of people. Are costumes a way for us to give hidden emotions some air time?

Italian faces

On the Lookout – © 2018 Jed Smith

With Italians, I love the innate passion and intensity that’s seems enhanced when they’re in costume.

Maybe they’re born actors. Maybe they take such reenactments of their heritage with great seriousness and endeavor to give their all to this theater of grand spectacle.


Italian face

Finery – © 2018 Jed Smith

A Gamut of emotions

Italian faces deliver them. In this particular event, which included a procession of people dressed in Medieval costumes, I exhausted my trigger finger trying to capture these remarkable people. I can’t tell you how many moments I missed, but hey, isn’t that always the photographer’s dilemma? I can’t complain, because I certainly didn’t come home empty-handed. I

One thing that I did seem to witness, was more solemnity in the men’s faces. Take for instance the following image:

Italian faces

Solemnity – © 2018 Jed Smith

In fact, I’m questioning whether “solemnity” is the right word. I also see anguish in this man’s face. Has someone died? Is he marching to a loathsome fate?


Italian faces

Bowed Head – © 2018 Jed Smith

The above image is one of the few serious female faces I captured.


Italian faces

Furrowed Brow – © 2018 Jed Smith

And, in the sea of Italian faces was a knight (see below). I followed him up the Corso and into the piazza. Not once did he break a smile or step out of character.


Italian faces

The March – © 2018 Jed Smith

And, I end this photo essay on an up note with this bright face and enigmatic smile.


Italian faces

Bright Eyes – © 2018 Jed Smith

I purposely rendered these images in black and white in order to keep the focus on the Italian faces and their emotions. The event was so colorful that I didn’t want that element to overpower the faces. If you want to experience the liveliness and color of La Giostra Cavalleresca di Sulmona, I encourage you to read my previous post and see the video!

By |2019-01-17T22:52:38+01:00October 16th, 2018|Abruzzo, Black & White, Events & Festivals|10 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Nancy October 16, 2018 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    I wanted to comment on a face but found myself captivated by them all…for different reasons. Lovely work Jed.

    • Jed October 16, 2018 at 8:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Nancy. They all seem to tell a different story, don’t they! I’ll be in Umbria in a few weeks. I hope to see you guys while I’m there!

  2. Jennifer October 16, 2018 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    Goose bumps. Every photo sent goose bumps down my legs. Even more than the expressions on the faces, the texture is so powerful. Thank you my very talented friend.
    Love, Jennifer

    • Jed October 16, 2018 at 5:31 pm - Reply

      I love that these photos, these people, were able to elicit such a visceral reaction from you, Jennifer. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words! Come back!

  3. Kevin October 16, 2018 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    This is so interesting Jed. During our recent trip I noticed this “solemnity” during a “celebration” in Lucca. I wondered so many of the same things and came to the conclusion that the celebration was indeed a matter of pride mixed with religious devotion. The most confusing thing is to watch events where there is no religious element….and the people are still very solemn….like your event in Sulmona. The photos are beautiful and inspiring and pay great homage to the people of Sulmona. I hope they get to see them!

    • Jed October 16, 2018 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      Hi, Kevin. I notice that I’m hyper-aware of facial expressions when in “photo assignment” mode. And, with my penchant for deep emotion in portraiture, I feel so honored to capture moments like these. I’ve often referred to them as “psychological landscapes.” And, what amazed me is how these people did anything but shrink away from me. In some instances, they “stepped” more fully onto the stage and masterfully played their parts. Quite an experience all the way around. I’m sure Novelia will help spread the word in Sulmona! Jed

  4. Kit October 16, 2018 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    Beautiful Jed. Sending love to you. xo

    • Jed October 16, 2018 at 5:24 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Kit. I always love hearing from you. Lots of love right back at you! Jed

  5. Christina October 16, 2018 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Wow! No words to describe the beauty you captured. You are such a talented artist. Thank you for sharing so we can experience in the aesthetic senses you create in your photos.

    • Jed October 16, 2018 at 4:37 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Christina, for your enthusiasm! I will keep at it. Hoping to have more soon! Jed

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