Across the Atlantic Ocean but in reverse… Beyond the words of essayist Paul Gilroy and artist Johny Pitts, the Black Lives Matter movement shouts <STOP Police Violence… STOP Racism>. In Milan as in Minneapolis. Black and white frames that leave the beauty of the melting pot in my mind… Time ago Italian the band Almamegretta sang “Athena was black”… Today it’s right to remember our common history so as not to make mistakes again. (All shots taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 + Zuiko 17mm f21.8 + Zuiko 75mm f1.8)
From the bistros to the streets, what the Parisians let you see is just a part of their everyday life. It’s a mind game – an “allowed theft” of moments and forbidden frames – that starts in the mind of the photographer. Paris as a hallway in a high-school: relate to a few schoolmates and ignore the rest of the world inside. Little Leica C Typ 112 is the perfect “invisible mate” to explore a reality which is apparently flat. High contrast black and white is the patois language allowing you to quickly understand and live the different situations around you. Everything that is happening in front of you can open the curtains of reality. A coffee with a friend; an ecological rally; perfect architectures and reflections; street art sketches; passers-by ad commuters. Even where the dark explodes, a blink of light survives for the photographer. Paris is… what the Parisians let you see, between the shadows and the lights.
Memories and faces cut the darkness of the darkest Past. Men and women whisper the sad chronicle of a bombing. Milanese civil society once again remembers the citizens who were slaughtered by extreme-right violence. In Piazza Fontana people loudly condemn fascism. The public speakers speak. The flags flap. Eyes fire up. Another December 12 adds new memories to the heart of the city.
Sun, Steel and Sky, a new photo project realized with my fellows Keith Goldstein, Peter Barton and Steve Coleman. ENJOY!
Occasionally I decide to go out with an old 35mm camera… This happens now and then. I don’t have a wish to feel like Cartier Bresson, you see?
Maybe it’s because of Paris itself that I took out my Yashica GSN Electro 35 and went down in the streets of the Marais.
One hour was enough: the old Yashica GSN weighs a lot, but its autofocus was fast enough to capture the different souls of the neighborhood. 35mm “language” is different, perhaps today few understand its aesthetics… (a Rollei RPX400 roll film loaded in camera).
A real village, built at the Châtelet, in the center of Paris.
It is a real village – I wouldn’t call it simply an encampment – fully equipped to facilitate the permanence of the Extinction Rebellion people.
There are tents, small yurtas, improvised but well-tended gardens, spaces dedicated to debates; toilets, meeting points, a medical center and even a cellar; and a gratuiterie where warm clothes are available in case of a cold night.
The slogans are as varied and colorful as the new residents of Châtelet. Some “hardcore” mottoes; and more reasoned ones. The main goal is printed on the banner that crosses the rue de Rivoli at the corner of Boulevard Sébastopol where the crowd is. “CHANGE OF PRIORITY.” Accordingly, the symbol of the movement is a stylized hourglass.
The prefecture has banned the rally scheduled for the morning. It doesn’t matter. The rebels soon reorganize, call a meeting right under the banner.
There is no shadow of the gilet jaunes here: just some hasty tags on a bus shelter. Gilets orange are what the people of the order service are wearing, and peaceful protesters are on stage.
After adjusting the amplification system, a skinny and whiskered blond young man takes the microphone and starts a rap with ecological rhymes for the crowd that is beginning to gather.
His militant lyrics reach beyond the Fontaine du Châtelet to the Pont au Change, which is blocked at the end of the Quai de l’Horloge by the offshoots of the Extinction Rebellion village.
While two young men are intent on cleaning the stone parapet of the old bridge, smudged by tags, a gilet orange shows an alternative way to the Île de la Cité to an Asian tourist in fluent English. Two dogs play nearby following in the footsteps of passers-by while their masters kneel on the pavement creating new tatzebaos.
Persons who are just curious mingle with activists. Someone asks questions. Someone else takes pictures. Here and there you can see the discreet presence of reporters ready to collect impressions and news on the events of the day.
In rue de Rivoli a lady in a raincoat is bent over the asphalt intent on leaving a mark of her militant participation: “REBEL FOR LIFE.” On a window “ANIMAL REBELLION – INSURRECTION – STOP FARMING/LIVESTOCK AND FISHING.” To partially shade an igloo tent decorated with a red and black ladybug-style motif another banner announces: “HERE WE CULTIVATE.” Less than ten meters away, a field with timid plants sprouting out of the humid dark soil.
The attention returns to the rue de Rivoli where the young rapper calls another person to the center of the scene.
A girl announces the name of Carola Rackete.
The brave German captain of the rescue boat Sea Watch 3 timidly emerges from the crowd with her long dreads. She smiles as she advances with a firm step. The signs of the judicial events of the summer – linked to the rescue of migrants in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea – left memories on her young face. Her eyes reveal the ideals in which she believes and for which she fights.
She greets everybody and announces that she will make her speech in French, apologizing for her pronunciation, holding a smartphone with the text of her speech.
Carola speaks for about ten minutes: she tells about her commitment to the environmental cause – she spent time at the North Pole studying the effects of pollution on ice – and underlines how the phenomenon of migration has always been linked to environment and climate changes. Saving people at sea is simply the logical consequence of her environmental activism.
Someone is preparing a question.
I take some pictures.
I take one frame in particular.
At the back of my mind a painting preserved in the Louvre Museum, just a few hundred meters from where we stand.
A fraction of a second before the CLIC and everything is done!
Carola Rackete magically enters in a black-and-white version of Le Radeau de la Méduse (1818-19) by Théodore Géricault – the painting depicting a tragedy at sea which at the time had a great international impact.
Or maybe I just imagined seeing one of Lucas Cranach’s Madonnas…Painting and photography… Past and present.
Looking at the black writing on the side gate of the Théâtre de Ville, which is all wrapped up for restoration, it would seem that the future also looks back to the past: “1871 VIVA THE COMMUNE!”
Perfectly complementary to the “OUR DESIRES PROVIDE DISORDER” graffiti which I had come across a few hours earlier near the Pompidou Center.
Different Lights. Dark suns reflections as wet streets blink in the night. Maybe my photography sounds as magenta color pornography. Tonight – in my 40 minute photo safari – I don’t care about sharpness but I indulge an ephemeral desire to see and feel my different lights.
Since the first large graffiti appeared on the walls of Philadelphia in the mid-Sixties as territorial warnings by the local gangs – see Jack Stewart’s Graffiti Kings. New York City Mass Transit Art of the 1970s (NY: Abrams, 2009) – street art has had a double “social” meaning: the first is the author’s; the second is the meaning that passers-by give to what they see.
As with a song – in particular topical/protest songs – the skill of passers-by in appropriating street works becomes the core of the street’s independent art system: the feeling that the artwork arouses stays on the wall in a lasting way and can also condition the author and influence works to come.
The dual nature of the street work – whether a painting, a graffiti, a stencil, etc. – places the photographer/observer in a condition of knowing both sides of the coin.
Observing a street artwork in a neighborhood instead of another makes a huge difference. Knowing a street artist and seeing him at work in the street helps even more to understand how in the last three decades an independent/underground art became the center of attention for collectors and art galleries all around the world.
The series of black and white frames (taken with mirrorless cameras Fuji X100 and FujiFilm X30 and without the use of additional lights) were recorded in two moments: during the night, while artist Osmo Kalev created his work; and the day after when the work, whose title is RIOT, was already being lived by passers-by and curious people in the neighborhood – stickers and tags add new perspective to the work.
A long and happy night with the Alpini celebrating the 92th Adunata nazionale dell’Associazione nazionali alpini (Ana) in Milan. Don’t care about blur, fun is always on the move! (FujiFilm X30)