October 2019, Colonna della Madonna dello Stellario, Lucca, Italy
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 :
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.
For more information :
Noriko Takasugi – Fukushima Samurai
Catalina Isabel Nucera – The Village
We stayed at a lovely B&B run by Lorenza Paris in Trento for 3 days. Every morning at 9:00 am sharp, she will bring over breakfast on a wooden tray. 3 types of cheeses, ham slices, scrambled eggs, crusty bread rolls, Nutella spread, jam, butter, orange juice, and coffee.
On the 4th day of our roadtrip , we took a detour north from Tuscany to the city of Trento in the Trentino Alto Adige region, a 4 hour drive, to visit Saveria, a friend’s mother. Saveria laid the perfect lunch for us in her apartment where she lives alone – lasagne, beef carpaccio, cheese, sauerkraut, tiramisu – all homemade of course.
We were joined by Saveria’s daughter Simonetta and her twin girls – Lalita and Nilam, 14 who are great athletes in track and field.
Fiera Antiquaria, Arezzo, Tuscany
It’s that time of the year for weddings, and where better to stage a lavish ceremony than in some of the world renown towns and cities of Sorrento, Positano and Ravello along the stunning Amalfi Coast. Here are just a few pictures of happy couples encountered in the few days I have been here.
Back again on the Amalfi coast after a week’s visit in 2007. This time we are staying in Praiano, about 10 kms outside touristy Amalfi town. Not yet at the height of the summer season but it is already full of visitors and prices are astronomically high compared to other coastal resorts. More later…
After much deliberation and planning, and several requests recently, I have decided to plan another Explorenation World Travel Photography and Workshop in 2019 to celebrate its 10th anniversary!
Our first ever tour was in April 2009, just over ten years ago where we visited Sarawak in northern Borneo, which was quickly followed by city trips to Paris, Bordeaux, Venice (for the Carnavale!) and Tuscany as well as longer photo tours to Cuba, Rajasthan, and Istanbul.
Return to Tuscany Photo Tour
In May 2019, I’ll be collaborating with travel and lifestyle photographer and filmmaker Daniela Cesarei who is based in Tuscany for a week-long photography tour of the beautiful and historical countryside, as well as sample some of the local cuisine with visits to vineyards and markets and much more. We shall be based in the medieval hill town of Montepulciano, immersed in the land of the nobile red wine.
Tour Fee – [Go to Preliminary Itinerary]
This includes local organisation and transport, daily photo instruction and review sessions, planned visits to markets, vineyards and sampling of dishes by a local chef.
Not included : personal travel to Montepulciano, accommodation, entries to museums, tips or meals not stated, insurance etc
Steven Lee & Daniela Cesarei
Format of Tour
We believe that travel photography should first and foremost be enjoyable, but also challenging and what better place than the beautiful landscapes and towns of Tuscany to inspire you to make unique images with a group of like-minded photographers. The tour is catered to photographers and enthusiasts of all levels – whether you are just starting out in photography, or a seasoned traveler needing to polish up your visual and creative skills with some guidance. Photography instruction and set daily projects will be available as a guide for each participant to focus on, with regular evening reviews of the photographs taken in the day. We believe in informal gatherings that will form the basis of constructive feedback of each other’s works, through group participation.
25 May to 1st June, 2019
Minimum 8, Maximum 12
A range of hotels and private accommodation will be suggested. More details to come.
Closest arriving International Airports are Rome, Florence, Pisa and Perugia.
Distances from airports:
Perugia – Sant’Egidio (km 75)
Firenze – Amerigo Vespucci (km 130)
Roma – Leonardo da Vinci (km 200)
Railway station on the main line Chiusi / Chianciano Terme
Two exits on the A1 “Autostrada del Sole” motorway Val di Chiana and Chiusi / Chianciano Terme
To register your interest in this Return to Tuscany tour, or just want to ask a question, please contact either :
Gallery of random photographs from past Explorenation tours by participants and facilitators.
Past Tours posts
See Istanbul photos
See Cuba tour photos
Featured image © Daniela Cesarei
Steven is the founder director of Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards and ran Explorenation World Travel Photography Tours with fellow photographer Andy Craggs from 2009 to 2013. Steven also started the Exposure+ Photo Mentoring program with fellow photographers in Malaysia, and is a regular portfolio reviewer at international photo festivals.
Daniela is an established photographer specialising in travel and lifestyle, who lives in Tuscany. She is also an accomplished film-maker.