Reaching for my camera and reportage…
In the often overwhelming heaviness of Italy’s coronavirus crisis, it has been far too easy for me to shut down. You know, like a deer in headlights, feeling progressively more helpless as the tidal wave of bad news washes over me. But, why should I step away from chronicling even this with my photography? Art is meant to reflect the full gamut of the human experience, from dark to light.
Living in a time like none other.
With the pain of staggering coronavirus deaths and new cases, I convince myself that I will never forget what we’re going through. But, then again, I know myself, and I know human nature. When we can feel reasonably safe again we’ll probably run for the comfort of the familiar and anchor ourselves in the conditioned lives that we know so well. Anything but having to make peace with that scary place called the unknown. Just so you know, as I write this I’m preaching to myself. I’m admonishing myself to NOT forget and instead to look for how this pandemic can snap me out of any measure of sleepwalking through life. And, lastly, I’m looking at this as an opportunity to reflect on what truly makes my soul sing, and what helps it find rest. It’s probably not in all the busyness of coming and going.
Scenes of solitude.
I unpacked my camera gear and parked myself at the large bank of windows on our fourth-floor flat in the city center of Treviso. As I waited for people to enter a profoundly empty set, I realized how so many of us are having to make sense of prolonged isolation during Italy’s coronavirus crisis and strictly-enforced home lockdown.
I chose this post’s feature image above for its many-layered messages. An Italian woman, fashionably attired (some things just can’t be relaxed!) walks past a newsstand devoid of customers. A barren tree’s long dark shadow stretches across the ground behind her. A message board displaying the daily headlines says that local deaths have exceeded one hundred. But, there’s a glimmer of hope: a subhead touts that new infections are dropping (“in calo”).
We swim in isolation like never before.
The above intersection outside our window is normally abuzz with people and traffic, well past midnight and well before the first light of day. It feels like forever that life has made this dramatic turn. I have to remind myself that it was just three weeks ago when, just on the other side of this street, at least a dozen people were congregating and having drinks at a small bar. This was just before the government had to flex its muscles and put out stronger stay-at-home edicts. And, only now do we cautiously hope the extreme measures are paying off.
People who are hunkered down with family members or partners at least have a small measure of social interaction. But, even so, only one family member is supposed to be outside of the house at any given time and only for absolutely essential tasks.
The vigilance of police is on display.
I see the frequent rounds of police and carabinieri. They’re quick to stop and ask people to state a legitimate reason for being out. A specific legal self-declaration (which a person better be able to back up) is required for people who are not clearly walking a dog or coming or going to the grocery store or pharmacy.
Fines are hefty, from a few hundred euro to a few thousand, plus jail time and a criminal record if the infraction is clear and intentional. For my American friends who haven’t experienced what might be called a temporary “police state,” this is what it takes to get Italy’s coronavirus crisis under control. Read the NYT article about how the Italian government had to stiffen up their measures, eliminating things like outdoor exercise. Still, people have been “furbo” (crafty) in trying to dodge the restrictions. Think fake dog on stiff leashes, for example.
A splash of color amidst Italy’s coronavirus crisis.
This woman has donned her gloves and her mask, and she is heading to the grocery store just meters ahead. She passes long-shuttered businesses on a lonely trek. But, even in such a somber scene, her coat is adorned with brilliantly-colored buttons. I see it is a reminder to not forget the elements that make us smile, even in the face of tragedy.
And, finally, a companion at my window…
Yes, grappa. Nardini is considered by many to be one of Italy’s best. Amazon.it delivered it. Yes, they deliver alcohol, Grazie Dio!
Lest you think that Jed has been boozing it up in his window while taking photos of the somber scenes outside, rest assured I limit myself to a solitary shot after lunch or dinner. Besides, a little digestivo can help oil the wheels of creativity every so slightly. These days I need all the help I can get!