“A ray of light is enough to stop time in Rome/And to give the ancient alleys a touch of eternity./The houses are clad in shadows and in sunlight,/And the gardens watch over the memory of the most ancient stones.”
I am laying on the Belle Époque blue couch in our living room in Kerlerec St., New Orleans in this 150 years old house, whith his wooden railings and outdoors balcony that give it a touch of 1800’s French Bordello and I am turning the pages of maybe one of the best and more accurate photographic representation of my home country:”The Italians” by Bruno Barbey.
I was a little skeptical when Chris told me he wanted to bring all these “teaching books” with him to show me from paper what “real good composition” looked like and what photographers one must “emulate and copy” for a while until one develops his/her own style.
Well, he (Chris) was absolutely right. The teaching does not only apply to the shadowing a photographer on turf and mimicking all of his moves while he approaches the subject matter in the right light, with the right attitude and capturing from his interactions with his “inspirational muses” where is he going to want you to position the flesh. To be the best photographer one can be, there is the necessity to STUDY those $50 plus photo books so cumbersome to carry all the way from North Carolina to Louisiana because those photos on paper speak to you more than any image on the computer.
Looking at Barbey’s “The Italians” I hear my Rome. I feel the soft sun hitting at 4pm after the siesta, I smell the freshly baked rosette. I can hear the kids screaming for their soccer team’s victory and I can imagine further what they would do to celebrate. His photography combined with small, but poignant poems, hit your right in the heart allowing your to feel involved into the shot and not only sit there as an extraneous visitor.
The lives of the people this world-renowned Magnum photographer revealed to the viewer, also invite his/her participation to the whole scene. On page 111, for example there is a family of 5 riding aways on what looks like an old Vespa 150. You can’t, but look at the photo and smile. There is not feeling worried for the kids on the scooter as a cold visitor in a museum would do on his/her first glance at the photos. There is only joy transmitted from this photo because the main subject, the papa is turning his head smiling to the camera with this big, happy face, knowing his family is ok and this is enough to give us all a chance to breathe and share his contentment with that same lightness of heart.
Same goes for the kid dreaming on the hood of an abandoned car in a Roman cul de sac on page 59. Whatever he is thinking you can see it all in this desolate, but almost godly looking photo where the sun rays seems to hit just the right spot on the car where the kid is sitting day dreaming of sealing the southern seas. Even if you have never met the kid or never had such a desire as a child, you can feel the fire building inside of you reminiscing of all your childhood dreams.
So, in the end ( I could analyze every single photo in this book and give you a reason or two on why Barbey has an eye for my country), book win over the devilish Internet 1-0.
Lesson #2 to come shortly…