Now that the semester is over, I have to say it was really fun to teach both photography and Italian this year. Although formally the classes didn’t have anything in common, it was striking how much they were connected intellectually and as an experience.
For their final project, my students of Italian received the option to discuss a few classic photographs of Italy. As I was working on the assignment to decide what to include in it, so that they would learn both about Italian culture and art, I realized what a huge part of Italian photography is actually photos of Italy, in Italy, by non-Italians.
See this, for example:
Ruth Orkin. An American Girl in Italy, 1951
By Giorgio Zaccaria. A circus artist, ca. 1880, silver bromide print
I just have to write about the Photographic Archive of Milan, not only in aid to those who may need to do research there, but also because it is such a great metaphor for Italy in general. Located in one of the wings of the magnificent Sforza Castle, a brief walk from the Duomo, it is really a pleasure to wander around its vast cobblestone yard before venturing inside.
But, the first surprise: it’s open only in the morning. And materials are available by prior appointment. You need to go in person first and explore the card catalog, arranged by subject matter. Said catalog is only partially digitized and can be found online along with all other public photography collections in Lombardy. Then you can place an order for what your heart desires. However, the staff is so extremely Italianly nice that they offered, in case I needed it in the future, to do any research for me and even send me scans of the images.
Anyway, your patience and skill in navigating the system will be richly rewarded. Continue reading
If the first day of the year is auspicious about the rest of it, I’ll be watching photography-related movies all throughout 2013. But I bet you could’ve guessed that even if I didn’t watch a couple of them on January 1 🙂
One of them was the mesmerizing – in a quiet, subtle way – Brazilian film Found Memories (Julia Murat, 2011). Just like eavesdropping on a conversation and slowly realizing it’s about you, I realized this story could be about me: raking through a past with a camera lens and trying to bring it back to life, when the camera can only capture what’s here and now. Full of metaphors and lightly paced, it’s delightful to watch and ponder on the interweaving connection between photography and life. Continue reading
My grandfather in 1940. Photograph by Kiro of Smardan
This is a portrait of my grandfather, taken while he was doing his military service in 1940 Bulgaria (not part of the Axis yet). I discovered it last summer while perusing the stack of family photos at my parents’ house.
And it was one of the delights of my summer. I saw, in this picture, something in him I had not known but was so excited to discover it. I saw how he felt in that particular moment of his life and some truths he never told me; things I would’ve discussed with him if only he were around today. This picture gave me back a great piece of my own personal puzzle that I didn’t know existed but am so glad I found.
So, what could I do with this treasure? I plundered it from my parents’ collection without telling them, or my sister. My only justification was that it was just temporary and I would scan it and print it in large format and give them copies. Continue reading