Bologna, and the M10

Bologna la Rossa. I had last set foot there 30-odd years ago, a lifetime. I went back to spend a weekend at a workshop on photobook making organized by SpazioLabò and led by Eva-Maria Kuntz of Ceiba Editions and Mayumi Suzuki who came on purpose from Japan (her "Restoration Will" exibition will run at SL for two months, go check it out; poignantly, it opened on the very 7th anniversary of the Tohoku quake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011). But the workshop deserves a separate post. Back to Bologna...


What a pleasant re-discovery. Laid back, young (with the oldest operating University in Europe, founded in 1088), epicurean, with a magnificent downtown area with arcades-lined streets and, yes, plenty of red mortar and bricks to give it its nickname (well, red also stands or rather stood for communist; but those days are waning).

It's difficult to start photographing an unfamiliar city straight away, before its character and rhythms start making a deeper impression on you and you can start projecting yourself in your surroundings, make them a little bit yours. On day one, it's mostly about superficial impressions, not quite postcards maybe but certainly not deep. It's a kind of frustrating regression to reptilian-brain reactions, going back to the way one may have photographed at the very beginning; it takes a few hours to shake the eyes back into seeing the way they do now, and even then of course it all remains a bit of an academic exercise, very distant, formal and composition- rather than emotion-driven; impossible to capture the soul of a place so soon.

All of that red was demanding attention, so here it is, a brief experiment in color photography again. Perhaps I've been watching too many Joel Meyerowitz images, recently, he's made me thirsty for color. Maybe this is an experiment, maybe this is the start of something. I've been shooting BW exclusively for the past six-years-plus. Maybe I need a challenge to raise my game...

Oh, for those who care about gear: I had brought my Leica M9 with me, with the good old, pre-Asph, Summicron 35mm to stay light and flexible. Some of these images, however, have been shot with a Leica M10 borrowed for a couple of hours from the Bologna Leica Store (courtesy of my friend Luca Bottazzi  — grazie, Luca). No way to make comparisons as I did not use the two cameras on the same subjects at the same time of day. I did not push the M10 sensor beyond 800 ISO, where they say it leaves the M9's CCD in the dust; it sure feels crisper, and a tad colder, but not in a way that a reasonable amount of post-processing cannot cure. Operationally, a total pleasure of a tool. Thinner, a 'real M' as it is promised to be. Not as quiet as I thought, but a totally different, less metallic shutter & rewind noise. Beautiful viewfinder indeed. And a more immediate useability of exposure compensation, a big weakness in the M9 in my opinion. Great camera...


Darkness falls

I've not posted anything on this blog for a month, and I should not leave these pages languish too long, even if I am almost completely immersed in a different project: making sense of the images I brought back from Japan in December, with the help and encouragement of some of my good friends near and afar around the world (you know who you are...).

Still, even if I have not been writing here, I have not let too many days go by without giving a workout to my eyes and my lenses. For the moment, darkness still falls early, and the weather adds its own coat of non-light. The city tries to fight back, and I love this struggle that's playing out in the streets. One evening some ten days ago, my camera badly wanted to turn vertical at every chance; I let her do her thing...

A Spanish Interlude – 2

One of the unexpected bonuses of choosing Carmona as home base was the fact that we had a 45 minute bus ride to reach Sevilla every day. Inconvenient, on the surface of it, but a precious window into real life outside of the touristy bustle of Sevilla itself. Along the way, the bus would stop at motorway junctions to pick up and let off passengers in what looked like the middle of nowhere (especially in pitch-dark nighttime).

And the middle of nowhere is often great to fix in the frame of the viewfinder. Life, suspended.

At the far end of the bus ride lay Sevilla. I had last been there a scary 30+ number of years ago. I remembered (or had the impression of remembering, or remembered the impression of) a maze of quiet little streets and quaint corners. The streets are still there, and the quaint corners too. What has changed, is the complete surrender of the city, at least in its downtown historic center, to the tourist trade. Not quite at Venice levels, because the locals still seemed to be "using" their own city as if we visitors were not there, but it was difficult to find a spot which was not tourist-oriented.

Or actually, it was not that difficult. As usual, one just needs to get out of the downtown area and turn that extra corner. No more English menus and you are home. Passing the bridge over the Guadalquivir and entering the old potters' neighborhood of Triana was an even safer bet. It's great when city streets are really an open-air living room for everyone to share. A glass of beer always helps, too.