Last week I took a solitary walk along the Seine in Paris. It is one of my favorite walks and as usual, there is always something going on. I looked over the wall and saw two people in deep lover-mode conversation. It was classic peeping on my part.
A few years back Sharon and I were in Rome and while wandering through the Piazza Navonna, we stumbled on this scene. At first we couldn’t figure out what was going on but eventually after doing her stretches, the lady and her partner laid out a 60×60 foot parameter with some rope, put down a boom box and started doing a Tango. They were great!
The Piazza Navonna is one of my favorite places. In spite of third rate restaurants, with the waiters dragging people off the streets, it stilll is an interesting place because of the entertainment. My favorite is an old guy who does a finger puppet show. He reminds me of Charlie Chaplin (hey have the same blank stare) as he does his slow preparation, setting up his little stage, putting the costumes on his fingers and starting up his boom box. As the music plays, he gingerly moves his fingers around and does a tango—the man on the index and forefinger of his right hand and the woman on the index and forefinger of his left. His finale is a Michael Jackson number including a two-finger moonwalk. The first time I saw him I left $5 in his hat because he was so good. He thanked me. The second time was a year later and he came up to me and said it was nice to see me again. I don’t know If he really recognized me or not but I never saw him do that to anyone else. He was so professional and probably did quite well for a street performer at that location. Unfortunately I have never been able to get a nice photograph of him—at least not one of my standards. I have plenty of pretty tourist shots but none that I would ever publish or exhibit—except in my new magazine “Voyeur”.
We are both alike in some ways. We both depend on being in the street for our creative juices
One of the things I like about digital is the ease in which one can find, classify, and edit photos. Compared to contact sheets, this is a no brainer. Take this image for example. I took it last February and never gave it a second glance. At that time the background was very distracting, which made the photograph very boring. Two weeks ago while scrolling through my images in Adobe Lightroom, I noticed it again. I liked the pattern on her dress together with the shape of her right hip.This time I thought it might be better in black and white. It looked ok but what really bothered me was the background so I darkened it. With the background darker, it now looks good in color. It never pays to discard an image. I keep finding old one that excite me all the time.
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
Sharon and I went out for a quick stroll just before some friends from Burlington were due to arrive. As usual my camera was around my neck and as we walked through a church parking lot to the intracoastal waterway this small dog with a studded collar ran up to Sharon. She was soon followed by Marla who was very fit, friendly and chatty. We talked about her dog Mickey and she mentioned they were due to have their pictures taken by a photographer friend later and I asked he if I could take a few and she was kind enough to oblige. I ended up taking more shots of her alone and she asked me if she would ever see any of them so I said to visit this blog and it would be up this afternoon.
This one is for you Marla.