Discovering that all the local trees have sprouted their leaves and blooming with flowers since we entered the lockdown in early March, I took a walk along the towpaths of the River Wey about 15 minutes away.
On a small private island, there is a public park with many mature trees, some are in full bloom, like this one, a hawthorn. Simply magical, shady and fragrant.
Earth Day 2020 today, calls for Climate Action. Clean air is a major factor to healthy living. During the current pandemic, many industrial centres across the world – China, India – have seen a dramatic improvement if air quality and a reduction in CO2 emissions. In the UK there are current research into the causative effects of London’s highly polluted air and the number of serious COVID-19 patients. The city of Milan in Lombardy, the most polluted and affected region in Italy, has announced an ambitious plan to rededicate 35kms of city centre roads to cycle and pedestrian use this summer.
I hope for a cleaner and healthier post-pandemic world, which could begin with forest regeneration and less reliant on fossil fuels.
I had the pleasure of acquiring not one, but two photography books from Italian photographer Bruno Cattani last November at the Photolux Festival in Lucca. So much has happened since my rained soaked weekend in the beautiful walled city of Lucca where Puccini was born, and I was recently reminded gently by the gentleman, Mr Cattani, if I could give him my views on his books.
With the current lockdown in the UK due to the pandemic, and with ample ‘lounging-around’ moments throughout the days (weeks and even months ahead…) I finally got to look at, and into – the photographs in these publications.
Not often, I find myself so intrigued in fine-art photography – especially in book form, since most of my recent acquisitions were documentary works (see Road to recovery : Noriko Takasugi & Catalina Nucera). Documentary works inform and illustrate stories told by their authors – of distant lands, events and peoples, their struggles, their celebrations and their encounters.
Eros, 2018 and Memorie, 2014 do not do that. However, they evoke feelings and emotions, sometimes repressed and locked away in one’s mind.
Eros is a collection of detailed black and white studies of marble figures. In Europe, these decorate the internals of churches, in public spaces and museums in all their splendour, magnificence and artistry, as common as can be. However, Bruno’s pictures capture the sensuality and erotism in their depiction of the often accentuated female and male forms made more pronounced by detailed lighting, texture and composition, which is his signature style in this series. Ambiguous representation of marble or flesh? Figurative depiction or human skin? Abstraction or true form. Seeing beyond what is present in the shapes and shadows. The human body fascinates me, all the same.
Some of these thoughts will surely cross a viewer’s mind, as they did with me. Translucence is the emotive phrase I am thinking. Of mind, body and spirit, where clarity and opaqueness meld into each other.
Sometimes, we encounter an image, a sound or smell that triggers our hidden memories and they become as clear as the present day. Looking at some of the photographs in Memorie did just that for me. Even as I have not lived in or visited the city of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, as the collection in this book depicts, it acts like a proxy trigger to similar places and experiences I have experienced in my years living in Europe.
That’s why I love this book so much as the scenes, some mundane and private only to the author, allows the viewer an insight to the personal encounters and memories of the photographer and at the same time gives me an opportunity to rediscover my past experiences too. More than feelings.
Contact the photographer for more information here :
Dug out old photographs from storage and decided to hang some on the landing wall, and discovered this picture I took back in 2001 when I visited Vietnam for the first time. I still could recall the moment, we were on the way back to Noi Bai airport in a taxi and the weather was grey and wet. We passed by miles and miles of rice fields and swampy land, and the highway was practically empty. Huge billboards were spaced out evenly along the road advertising face creams and cigarettes, but this one in the picture was bare. The image shows four locals on their bicycles pedalling alongside the hard shoulder of the highway, in their typical conical hats, possibly going to the local market. I really liked the mood and moment of this picture, hence I printed it right away when I got home.
Road to Noi Bai,Vietnam 2001, 40cm x 50cm hand printed, vintage print, edition 10
In 2019, I acquired two photography books directly from the photographers, which I seldom do nowadays due simply to the lack of shelve space. Each book is produced in different parts of the world : the first in Japan, exquisitely self printed and hand bound, with special paper and a gold and black patterned hard cover, with only 66 copies produced. The photographer, Noriko Takasugi has titled her object as ‘Fukushima Samurai, The Story of Identity’ and has painstakingly assembled over 100 of her photographs together to commemorate the ancient traditions of the modern samurai following the radiation-hit region of Fukushima Prefecture in 2011, more specifically, in Minamisoma City.
The second acquisition was at Lucca, Italy, where I was reviewing portfolios at the Photolux Festival. Catalina Isabel Nucera is an accomplished photographer and aide worker who spent many years in the Belarus city of Kirov, less than 100 kms from Chernobyl. She has produced a book titled The Village, which has a fluorescent pink screen-printed cover and a collection of found images and her photographs of Soviet-era estates, interiors, and public spaces of Kirov, interspersed with local families living there and found vintage photographs school children, playgrounds and factory workers.
Both books hold a unique shared perspective – that is, the compelling visual references by the photographers to record and document, and hence to archive, the post-destruction and recovery aspects following similar disasters, 25 years apart, nuclear fallouts that completely wiped out the populations of these cities through evacuation and radiation illness.
It is interesting for me to compare their approaches and note the differences in the processes and portrayal of the recoveries in two very different regions of the world, between two different cultural backgrounds and practices. Noriko’s contemporary portraits of modern samurais posing in front of their cherished landscapes in full costumes, shows determination and stoicism, is typical of the Japanese persona. Catalina’s less formal style, often sharply observed and casually composed is less, but nevertheless affords the viewer a realistic glimpse of what life was really like in a typical city in the 80s in the Soviet Union.