One might wonder what I am doing in this picture. The short answer is that this picture was taken by a paparazzi by the name of Vincenzo at a fashion show in Brescia, Italy. I certainly look like I belong here but there is more to the story than this.
Recently, I was invited to exhibit my photographs at a photography gallery in Brescia, Italy. Naturally, not wishing to pass up a chance to visit Italy, Sharon and I decided to go there to attend the opening. The gallery was owned by Enrica and Renato who showed themselves to be very gracious hosts. Our original plan was to show up at the opening and then spend a few days traveling around Lombardy and Piedmont exploring the countryside. However, our hosts were so hospitable, we ended up hanging out in Brescia getting to know them and spending time with them.
Enrica was a bit more busy with her work so it was Renato who we saw the most of during the first few days. He was an architect who specialized in renovations but he spent his evenings usually in our company showing us around and introducing us to his friends. One day he asked if we would like to attend an “opening” of a store on the outskirts of Brescia. He said the place was owned by a friend of his and that he had done the renovations. There was to be a grand opening and perhaps Sharon and I would like to go with him.
“Bien sure” I replied (our only common language was French)
The next day while drinking wine at a bar he let out a bit more information about the event which was to be held the following evening. He said that the store was specializing in exclusive ladies and men’s clothes by the top fashion designers from Milan. He casually said it was not really his scene but perhaps we might find it interesting.
“There should only be about two or three thousand people attending” he calmly mentioned.
The following night I committed one of the most colossal professional blunders of my photographic career. I decided not to bring my camera!
For the previous three days, I always had the thing hanging around my neck. I had been taking pictures of Enrica, Renato their kids, the waiters, the bartenders, people in the street- everybody who walked and talked Italian. I was a regular Marc Focus. (He was the photographer in “Putney Swope” who was always showing up with three Nikons around his neck, showing his book to the ad guys, and going through the motion of glibly flipping the pages while rattling off in a monotone voice —
“I did this for Hertz, I did this for Revlon, I did this for …”)
So that night, wanting to be on my best behaviour, I stupidly thought I would not embarrass my hosts and decided to leave my camera at the hotel.
The moment I passed through security and entered the party, I realized that I had made a very serious mistake. This “little” party was something I had seen only in Fellini movies. There were searchlights penetrating the Italian night, there were models dressed in Valentino, Dolce & Gabana, Gucci, Pucci, Armani, Versace, gowns parading in front of paparazzi’s with flashes going pop pop as the scene was illuminated with only their flashes and the searchlights zig zagging through the night. There was music blasting from loudspeakers hidden in the trees, there were guests dressed to their eyeballs in expensive clothing, there was drink, there was food, there was as they say in the hood, lots of bling. And oh yes, everybody had a camera. We entered down a runway, through a gauntlet of paparazzi photographers with their flashes going pop pop and all the time, I was saying to myself over and over, “you schmuck, you fucking schmuck” as we entered the building. The “store” was beautiful. It had been and old warehouse that Renato had transformed into a super modern glitzy showroom with fitting rooms. display cases a bar, a terrace so shoppers could relax and sip coffee while spending their thousands on clothes that they probably would only wear three times.
The party was actually outside in back on the ‘lawn” This lawn easily could contain the 3000 guests. There was a stage with two models in Betty Boop costumes lipsyncing old hollywood love songs from the forties. There were two giant screens on which they were projecting scenes from Italian and American cinema. There was champagne, there was food- good food, there was a light show, there were the spotlights of course, and last of all there were the paparazzi with their flashes going pop pop.
Every now and then, I fuck up big time as a photographer. Its part of the game and it doesn’t really bother me anymore once I compose myself and get my super ego off my back. And so after about a half hour of cursing, biting my knuckles, knocking myself, stomping my foot, slapping the side of my head, I decided to do the only thing that ever works for me in these situations— drink. The wine was good, the food was great and they had a fascination with American music from the forties and fifties so I just went with it and enjoyed the evening.
After a couple of hours, Renato come over and said he was getting bored and we should go. (I said it wasn’t really his scene) On the way out, I spotted one of the paparazzi’s doing his thing with his flash going pop pop. It was Vincenzo who by pure chance I recognized because he was at my opening a few nights before. He came over and shook my hand and asked how things were going I told him about my leaving my camera at the hotel and in one of my rare “moments of clarity” asked if he could take my picture with some of the models and Vincezo replied “Si, no problem” and shouted something to the models in Italian. The only words I understood were “Una Importante photographe Americano” and in no time at all there were these five dolls surrounding me while he took the picture.
Grazie Renato e Vincenzo