It’s been three months since my visit to Florence, Italy, where I spent a month last summer attending a black & white film photography course from Studio Art Centers International. I shot non-stop on the streets of Florence using my film Zeiss-Ikon and digital Leica M-E for the whole of July. Florence was unusually cool for summer except for a few days when it was baking hot. The city looked even better than the last time I visited a couple of years ago.
In this past three months I haven’t touched my camera with the intention of actively seeking a photograph. This has never happened to me before, since I started taking pictures almost six years ago. I do not carry my camera every time I go out as I used to before. The feeling is not just restricted to photography. This distinct lack of interest pervades to almost everything I do. I do not feel the enthusiasm to dissect a menu and compile a meal to enjoy when I go out with friends and family. In fact I have reduced the number of times I go out with family and have altogether stopped going out with friends.
It feels like a giant void has been created inside me, by the people of Florence.
Call it the curse of Florence!
I continued with my experiments in printing Cyanotypes. Discovered that adding a bit of lemon juice (citric acid) to water in the first wash deepens in colors and increases the contrast.
The crossing, India, 2013
I tried printing on different papers and am yet to decide on a final paper to focus most of my work. I get a feeling that smooth watercolor paper that will not lose fibers while washing should work well.
I never realized that Cyanotypes can display delicate tones very well. This print was exposed in the evening sun. I also didn’t use lemon juice in the first wash.
Visiting Bottega Antonio Manta in Montevarchi, Italy was, for me, a defining experience. Antonio and his small team hand-crafts Platino/Palladio prints for some of the leading photographers and museums. I instantly fell in love with the idea of hand-crafted images. In a way it is taking back photography to its roots, where every practitioner can manifest his or her own personal style. As soon as I was back in Doha, I started researching about hand-printed images.
I spent the weekend creating a Cyanotype image and the result is posted here. I did a few more runs using different papers but the first image seems to be the best yet! There are too many variables to control – mainly sunlight intensity, exposure times and emulsion thickness.
I am now planning to build a UV contact print frame and continue the experiments under a more controlled environment.
Celestial Reflections, Somewhere between Firenze & Frankfurt, 2014
The month-long visit to Firenze (Florence, Italy) finally came to an end on the 1st of August. After a quich hotel change and lack of sleep to make a last-minute trip around the city and packing, I barely had two hours of sleep before leaving to the airport at 4:00 AM. Thankfully I had two of my friends in tow, one in fact traveling in the same plane. I usually enjoy plane travel, but not the early morning ones that make no allocation for sleep.
Lufthansa was really bad that it reduced the baggage allowance to a puny 23kilos! I had to buy some extra allowance just to get my project work and other photography things through. After getting on the plane, I didn’t bother for the takeoff and quickly went to nap mode. The connecting flight to Frankfurt was a mere 90 minutes. Just after take-off I awoke and took a look through the window. What I saw took my breath away and along with it the sleep.
The perfect ealy morning light was illuminating the amazing landscape of northern Italy and southern Germany (one of this is true). I have never been more excited about taking pictures through the plane window.
Celestial River, Somewhere between Firenze and Frankfurt, 2014
The short trip proved to be one of the most visually amazing journeys I ever had. I was in a good mood to take a short trip to Frankfurt in the intervening three hours I had before my next flight. The Maine festival was in full flow and nobody was found in the Romer Square. I guess it was the effect of the previous long night. The stroll across the Main over the old bridge was almost solitary and amazing.
The flight from Frankfurt to Doha was very good because Lufthansa made an attempt to cater the passengers well. Decent food and attentive crew makes one unforgettable flight. Back to work tomorrow after two days to get over the Firenze hangover!
Went for a walk around the usual circuit with the aim of taking pictures. Why is everyone’s face looking so sad today? I guess the people are okay. It’s just that I am seeing everyone as being sad because there are just two days left of my program and on the third day I would leave. It would be great to see family back in Qatar, but Florence that has charmed me for the past month will be away, far away. And so would be Romeo, Elisa, Walter, Jake, Anna and all the new friends. Ciao Firenze. I’ll come back.
Made a field trip to Pisa. This is my first visit to Pisa and the place lived up to its billing as one of the seven wonders of the world. Some of the sculptures seemed to preempt the Renaissance style to me. Giovanni Pisano may be one of the most underappreciated pre-renaissance artist. The relief work on the pulpit of the Pisa cathedral seem to have a similar style of the great baptistery doors of Florence.
Can’t wait to get one of this picture off of my list.
Back to Florence in the evening and Piazza San Giovanni was packed with action.
On the way to the Opera di Firenze.