Category Archives: travel

Italy in photographs

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



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The Photographic Archive of Milan, Sforza Castle


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

“Pictures fade when you caress them”. Found Memories (2011)

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

Blips of summer: nostalgia on black & white film

A visual confession of what makes me nostalgic: black and white images from the summer of 2012.

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The Old School Residence, international art residency in Gorna Lipnitsa, Bulgaria

Summer is my village time. I try, as much as I can, to connect to a piece of Bulgarian culture that’s slowly fading away. And this summer, this was the invitation to participate in the The Old School Residence international art residency, which takes place each August in the village of Gorna Lipnitsa in Bulgaria.

The residency may be called “The Old School”, but it has nothing to do with a conservative style in art. Rather, it gets its name from the building where it’s hosted, the former schoolhouse of Gorna Lipnitsa (pictured above). By using the tools of contemporary art, the organizers say it aims to connect to village culture by exploring a theme related to the village. This year’s theme focuses on legends about the end of the world while understood as a new beginning: “The end as a beginning: Gorna Lipnitsa and the beginning of the world”. Continue reading

Summer in Black & White

Images from this summer. I included only those that don’t have a sibling in the color series. Click on each thumbnail to view larger image. Ilford film, Pentax 35mm. ©Ellie Ivanova.

Holga Envy: the Hobo large format camera

Dominique and I in a Holga comparison.

While roaming the Tuscan countryside this summer, we happened upon the gallery of a French photographer living in Italy, Dominique Bollanger. While we admired his silver and large platinum prints and joked the old jokes about my Holga whimsicality compared to his high precision contact prints, he whipped out a wooden 8″x10″ box and told us, “This is my Holga”. We didn’t believe him, of course. We thought it was just another Holga joke.

Turned out, it really was his “Holga”, the same camera he used to capture the iconic Italian landscapes and then make beautiful contact prints straight out of it, with no intermediate enlargements. And if you imagine the pain of carrying around a heavy wooden box up and down the idyllic hills, you get my initial reaction. A 4″x5″ large format is inconvenient enough – now 8″x10″ would be a torture. Right? Continue reading