Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts

18 September 2016

Pre-wedding photo selection

Main activity of today is selecting our pre-wedding photos for including in our albums. These will be beautiful productions with large prints on sturdy photographic paper and glass covers.

Again, while I have a genuinely good time choosing pictures, most other couples seem to take this task so seriously that it looks like it is more stressful than fun for them. Especially for the women, who it seems are hardly ever satisfied with the way they appear in the photos.

The men are unsurprisingly much more accommodating and after four hours I am quite ready to leave. I am also hungry. But I understand this is a very important milestone in our wedding and the photos will stay with us forever, and so it must be done right. I leave it to my wife to choose most of the photos. She is very keen and has a better eye than I do at picking the best.

In the evening we are exhausted, and a well deserved massage in the Pullman hotel spa ( 1h30 for CNY 880) concludes the day. The room is luxuriously appointed, with wooden panels and soft lightings. Mellow music in the background completes the scene while we undress and take our position on the two parallel beds. The two masseuses arrive after a few minutes and begin a heavenly session of oily massage that is perfect, not too hard not too soft on the body, just right.

20 September 2013

Book review: Diving Indonesia's Bird's Head Seascape (2011), by Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock, *****


Home to more than 1600 fish species and three-fourths of the world's known corals, the Bird's Head Seascape, the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, is one of the world's premier dive destinations. This book is a comprehensive guide to 200+ sites where divers can observe this wondrous gathering of whale sharks, manta rays, secretive octopus and never before-seen fish. Detailed information on endemic marine life, the regions cultures, suggestions for land adventures and travel tips make this an indispensable guide for anyone traveling to this enchanted destination.


This is essentially a comprehensive review of the region's dive sites, with lots of detailed data for each, such as depth, coordinates and suggested lenses for photographers. There is also a variety of info sheets on what to do and not to to, conservation, responsible tourism and life on land. Several of the many photograph are outstanding.

This is more a book to prepare a trip (there are many dive areas dovered and one has to choose) or to bring back memories afterwards. I would not necessarily recommend taking it along as it is rather heavy and, once a choice of boat is made, it is rather difficult to have any say in where the cruise leader will go anyway. Unless you have your own boat, GPS coordinates will be of little use.

12 June 2013

Film review: Flags of our Fathers (2006) by Clint Eastwood, ****

testo italiano di seguito


The film is about a photograph by James Rosenthal, one of the most famous war pictures of all times. Thematically ambitious and emotionally complex, Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers is an intimate epic with much to say about war and the nature of heroism in America. Based on the non-fiction bestseller by James Bradley (with Ron Powers), and adapted by Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis (Jarhead screenwriter William Broyles Jr. wrote an earlier draft that was abandoned when Eastwood signed on to direct), this isn't so much a conventional war movie as it is a thought-provoking meditation on our collective need for heroes, even at the expense of those we deem heroic.

In telling the story of the six men (five Marines, one Navy medic) who raised the American flag of victory on the battle-ravaged Japanese island of Iwo Jima on February 23rd, 1945, Eastwood takes us deep into the horror of war (in painstakingly authentic Iwo Jima battle scenes) while emphasizing how three of the surviving flag-raisers (played by Adam Beach, Ryan Phillippe, and Jesse Bradford) became reluctant celebrities – and resentful pawns in a wartime publicity campaign – after their flag-raising was immortalized by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal in the most famous photograph in military history.


A typically Eastwood approach. He takes a highly unusual point of view to reveal the lesser known aspects of a very well known subject matter, in this case the flag raising photograph of the battle of Iwo Jima. Of the six men, three were killed in action a few days later. This is not a film meant to show bravery, though there is plenty of it. It is a cynical film to show how the American war propaganda machine manipulated the three survivors of the flag raising to ... raise money for war bonds. We learn how the flag itself was a coveted object of contention among politicians and military leaders. And how in the end those who were less interested in the iconic photograph were the people in it. They were there to do a job, and being in a photograph was not part of it.

Pretty amazing CGI. For example, technicians artificially reproduce the Pacific theather as a background for the rugged terrain in Iceland where the film was actually shot! You can see it's not real, but it's pretty close to look real.

Watch this film together with "Letters from Iwo Jima", also by Clint Eastwood, that tells the story of the battle from a Japanese point of view. I will review this most interesting film soon in this blog.

Region free BD

Buy the book here


Approccio tipicamente Eastwoodiano. Clint affronta l'argomento da un punto di vista molto inusuale per rivelare gli aspetti più nascosti di una vicenda ultranota, in questo caso la celebre foto della bandiera di Iwo Jima. Dei sei uomini nella foto, tre sono morti in combattimento nei giorni successivi. La macchina della propaganda bellica americana ha manipolato gli altri tre allo scopo di raccogliere fondi per finanziare il prosieguo della guerra. (Siamo a Febbraio 1945 ed il Giappone non ha ancora nessuna intenzione di arrendersi.)

Alla fine si capisce come i sei personaggi nella foto erano i meno interessati alla foto stessa: erano a Iwo per uno scopo ben preciso, e posare in una fotografia non rientrava nei loro compiti.

Buoni effetti speciali: i tecnici hanno ricreato lo sfondo dello sbarco e lo hanno inserito dietro le montagne islandesi dove si sono svolte le riprese. Sembra quasi vero.

Consiglio di vedere questo film con "Lettere da Iwo Jima", sempre di Clint Eastwood, che racconta come quella drammatica battaglia fu vissuta dai giapponesi.

BD in italiano

Compra il libro in italiano qui

10 April 2013

Recensione: Magnitudo Emilia (2013) di Annalisa Vandelli e Luigi Ottani, ****


Magnitudo Emilia esprime la grandezza di un'Emilia colpita al cuore da un sisma che ha fatto tremare anche lo sguardo delle persone sulle cose, mutandolo per sempre.

La giornalista e scrittrice Annalisa Vandelli, insieme al fotoreporter Luigi Ottani, si sono posti una domanda che è allo stesso tempo una sfida: come si racconta la devastazione della propria terra e della propria gente? Gli autori rispondono così: "Questo libro vorrebbe essere un microfono della terra, dell'urlo straziante che ha interrotto le nostre abitudini. Così abbiamo lasciato che il racconto si raccontasse da sé, senza porci limiti nella ricerca e seguendo piste imprevedibili. Abbiamo lasciato che un incontro tirasse l'altro, come pure i territori e gli eventi, così da non dominare una storia ma da darle la libertà di costruirsi, di esprimersi. E da qui la struttura del libro, calcolatamente casuale (...). Questo libro non si conclude col nostro lavoro, ma comincia da esso, perché il lettore ha un ruolo fondamentale, diventa autore nel fare sue e continuare queste storie o suggestioni. E allora questo libro ha l'ambizione di creare anche identità intorno a sé, di sostenere o affiancare lo scatto d'orgoglio che emerge e che non deve essere taciuto".


Un centinaio di fotografie in bianco e nero costituisco l'ossatura di questo commovente volume. Le foto testimoniano il coraggio e la perseveranza delle genti emiliane colpite dal sisma, ma anche il grande sforzo di solidarietà dell'Italia intera. Un libro di grande formato che rende giustizia alle fotografie, che sono accompagnate da testi ben amalgamati ed istruttuvi.

Il libro è stato presentato oggi, ad un anno dal sisma del 2012, presso la Galleria 28 di Francesca Anfosso, a Piazza di Pietra, a Roma.

Compra il libro qui oppure contatta la Galleria 28.

17 February 2013

Film review: Born into Brothels (2004) by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, ****

"Running" by Gour, 13 years old

The most stigmatized people in Calcutta's red light district are not the prostitutes, but their children. In the face of abject poverty, abuse, and despair, these kids have little possibility of escaping their mother's fate or for creating another type of life. Directors Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman chronicle the amazing transformation of the children they come to know in the red light district. Briski, a professional photographer, gives them lessons and cameras, igniting latent sparks of artistic genius that reside in these children who live in the most sordid and seemingly hopeless world. The photographs taken by the children are not merely examples of remarkable observation and talent; they reflect something much larger, morally encouraging, and even politically volatile: art as an immensely liberating and empowering force.

The winner of the 77th annual Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Born into Brothels offers a tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art. Devoid of sentimentality, Born into Brothels defies the typical tear-stained tourist snapshot of the global underbelly. Briski spends years with these kids and becomes part of their lives. Their photographs are prisms into their souls, rather than anthropological curiosities or primitive imagery, and a true testimony of the power of the indelible creative spirit.

05 November 2012

Photo slideshow: "Minds in Path" di Shades of Women

L'associazione Shades of Women propone per il secondo anno una interessante serie di proiezioni di reportage di fotografe in giro per il mondo, a documentare il dramma di molti popoli in guerra. Oggi la seconda serata alla quale ho assistito. Puoi leggere qui un'intervista con Ilaria Prili, fotografa ed organizzatrice di questa serie di eventi. Ecco il programma:

At all latitudes the mind of men and, in particular, of young people is on the move, it designs, dreams, builds, faces obstacles, sometimes succumbs, but does not give up. A big river tells both these stories and those in which men themselves create obstacles, attack nature, pollute it, deform it. To win over all this is people’s creative sensitivity, their individual and social initiative, their ability to invent something in which new and old come together and complement each other.

Sotto tutte le latitudini la mente degli uomini e dei giovani in particolare è in cammino, progetta, sogna, realizza, affronta gli ostacoli, qualche volta soccombe, ma non rinuncia. Un grande fiume racconta queste storie anche quelle in cui gli uomini stessi creano gli ostacoli, aggrediscono la natura, la inquinano, la deformano. Vince la sensibilità creativa delle persone, l’iniziativa individuale e sociale, la capacità di inventare nella quale nuovo e antico si incontrano e si completano.

22 October 2012

Proiezione fotogafica: BLEEDING BLOSSOMS di Shades of Women

L'associazione Shades of Women propone per il secondo anno una interessante serie di proiezioni di reportage di fotografe in giro per il mondo, a documentare il dramma di molti popoli in guerra. Puoi leggere qui un'intervista con Ilaria Prili, fotografa ed organizzatrice di questa serie di eventi.

Nadia Shira Cohen - Arab spring
Her personal website is

Rena Effendi - Georgia conflict
Her personal website is

Simona Ghizzoni - Just to let you know that I’m alive
She works for Contrasto.

Sofie Amalie Klougart - Going to war.
Her personal website is

Benedicte Kurzen - Nigeria, a nation lost to the gods.
Her personal website is

Ilvy Njiokiktjien and Elles van Gelder - Afrikaner blood.
Her personal website is

Lana Slezic - Forsaken
Her personal website is

Here is a link to the next event of this series that I attended.

Interessantissima proiezione di drammatici documentari di guerra e rivoluzione al Teatro Due di Roma, in Vicolo due Macelli. Sala piena, fotografia di alto livello. Da consigliare la prossima proiezione del 5 novembre.

Teatro Due Roma

teatro stabile d’essai

Vicolo due Macelli, 37 (M Piazza di Spagna)
Tel. 06/6788.259 – fax 06/6793.349

04 October 2012

Book review/Recensione: Non dire nulla (2012), di Paola Viola, *****


Paola Viola spent a few months in Kenya for an NGO (Una Mano per un Sorriso - For Children). Paola started taking pictures not so long ago, but in this first collection of B&W images she displays rare talent and high sensitivity. Paola tells us about the daily life of a part of Kenya that tourists never see, and that we should all know. From her trip, she takes back strong emotions, which she relays to us through her pictures and her short text in English and Italian.


Paola Viola ha passato alcuni mesi in Kenya per conto di una ONLUS (Una Mano per un Sorriso - For Children). Paola non fotografa da molto tempo, ma questa prima collezione di immagini (tutte in bianco e nero) dimostra un talento innato ed una spiccata sensibilità. Paola racconta la vita di tutti i giorni di una parte del Kenya che i turisti non vedono mai, ma che dovremmo tutti conoscere. Ciò che ci riporta dal suo soggiorno, con le immagini forti ma anche con brevi e puntuali testi di accompagnamento, sono emozioni preziose.

Compra il libro su

01 July 2012

Photo exhibition: Robert Capa in Verona

Today I went to see the Robert Capa photo exhibition in Verona. Organized by Magnum Photos, the historic photographic agency founded in 1947 by Robert Capa himself, the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and other great photographers of that time, the Verona photo exhibition intends to pay homage to Robert Capa, one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century.

Sicilian farmer showing the way to an American soldier

The Verona exhibition presents some of the crucial moments of the history of the past century, documented by Robert Capa during his many trips. Almost one hundred photogaphs are shown, all B&W, which represent a compendium of Capa's work over a quarter century.

Born in Budapest in 1913, Robert Capa (born Endre Friedman) started working as a photographer in Berlin, and soon got in contact with an important photographic agency. With the rise of Hitler Robert Capa left Berlin and followed his restless soul across Europe until the start of World War II when he decided to move to New York and started working for “Life”.

The earliest pics are the photos taken in 1932 during the Leon Trotsky conference in Copenhagen, when for the first time the violence of Stalin regime was exposed.

D-day landing in Normandy, 6 June 1944
We then move on to the Paris riots of the late 1930s. Capa then goes to war: first the Spanish civil war, then the Japanese invasion of China and finally the Second World War, where he followed the Allied landings in Sicily and then D-Day. On that fateful day he took over 500 pictures, but only a dozen or so survive because a technician screwed up the development of the rolls he sent back to England!

The exhibition in Verona also contains a display of photos showing some of Robert Capa’s friends, such as Hemingway, Faulkner, Matisse and Picasso.

We can also see photos taken in the Soviet Union in 1947, as well as the founding of Israel and finally his last photos taken in Indochina, where Robert Capa travelled to document the independence war and where he was killed in a mine field on 25th May, 1954.

Finally we see pictures of his lover Ingrid Bergman.


I always loved his most quoted teaching to photographers around the world: "If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough."

He certainly did get close to the action. He risked his life in many a war theater, often at the front line, and eventually died doing so. It is then surprising that he seems to have faked the most important image of his entire career. But then, at that time he was not a famous photographer. He was trying to scrape a living and might have given in to the temptation of creating a moving image when he could not find one.

I had a conversation with the exhibition guide about the famous picture of the "death of a militiaman" or "falling soldier". She argued it is genuine, the true instant when the loyalist militiaman was shot dead by Franco's forces. The picture has been controversial for a long time, but now the majority of scholars agree it was most likely staged. Another argument is about whether or not, if the photo was indeed staged, Capa was nonetheless justified in publishing it to send a political message. In my view, he was not. There is a difference between a mock image and a fake one, as it has been argued very well in this article (in Italian).

Some disagree, like my guide today. One famous article to argue that Capa's photograph was not staged was written by Robert Whelan in 2002.

Be that as it may, Capa remains a towering figure of photography. Another of his quotes I like, and try to implement in my travels, is: "Like the people you shoot and let them know it."

You can buy books with Capa's pictures on Amazon:

Here is his autobiographical essay on his work at the front.

10 May 2012

Book Review: Russia in Original Photographs (1860-1920), edited by Marvin Lyons, ***

An interesting collections of photographs from pre-Communist Russia. Common people, ethnic minorities, military officers and the imperial family are all depicted here in the decades preceding the October Revolution. One can almost sense the blatant inequalities and an atmosphere of pending tragedy. All pictures are in black and white.

Some great color photos from Tsarist Russia online are visible here.

08 May 2012

Book review: The Romanov Family Album (1982), edited by Robert Massie, ****


A great book which will make you feel you are living in the imperial family of pre-revolutionary Russia. The photos are B&W, and come from the collection of a family friend of the Romanovs who took them to the United States.

Not all are good quality, the book was printed in 1982 and perhaps a better job could be done with new technology  thirty years on in digitalizing the old originals. However the grain of the pics contributes to recreate the atmosphere of the time.

The text accompanying the pictures presents a benevolent image of the imperial family. Too benevolent perhaps. But this is not the purpose of this book, which is about the photographs, and not about political interpretation of the Tsar's rule.

Buy your book here

18 February 2012

Recensione: Sale Nero, di Marco Aime, Stefano Pensotti e Andrea Semplici, ****


Taudenni e Ahmed Ela: due "non luoghi" africani, il primo in Mali il secondo nella Dancalia etiope, sono un chiaro esempio di quelle società "diversamente sviluppate" dove il modello è ancora quello della cultura materiale. Per entrambi è grande l'importanza che continua ad avere il commercio del sale, l'uso dello stesso per gli scambi commerciali è ancora ampiamente diffuso. 

Il libro racconta con testi e fotografie l'ambiente "umano e geografico" che le carovane attraversano: comunità, culture, ambienti naturali. Mette in rilievo le comunità che vivono di questa economia, i rapporti che si intrecciano, le strutture sociali e parentali delle popolazioni, l'esperienza umana. Chi sono questi uomini, quale la loro esperienza?


Un libro insolito, il cui il protagonista è una materia prima alimentare, la sola roccia che faccia parte della nostra alimentazione da sempre. Ed è anche merce di scambio in tutte le culture del mondo. L'aspetto economico cruciale del sale è che di solito deve essere trasportato per centinaia o anche migliaia di kilometri dal punto di produzione al consumatore. Il sale, ovviamente, è bianco, ma qui siamo in Africa...

24 December 2011

Book Review: Inferno, by James Nachtwey, *****


A document of war and strife during the 1990s, this volume of photographs by the photojournalist James Nachtwey includes dramatic and shocking images of human suffering in Rwanda, Somalia, Romania, Bosnia, Chechnya and India, a well as photographs of the conflict in Kosovo. An essay by the author Luc Sante is included. The book is published to coincide with an exhibition of Nachtwey's work at the International Centre of Photography, New York.


This book is a masterpiece of what I would call "political" photography. Nachtwey is a traveler, big time. He goes to war, or follows war's footsteps, and closes in on his subjects where most others would turn away. He prevails over his own emotions in order to show us the horrors of the world. He feels he has to do it, as he explains in interviews (see DVD below) because if he does not, who will? He is humble, understated and brilliant. The book contains only B&W pictures, is big and heavy and expensive, and it is probably the best photo reportage book you will ever buy. It certainly is for me.

You might want to buy this Oscar nominated DVD, made by Swiss director Christian Frei, who followed Jim Nachtwey and placed a micro cam on his film camera. He is also extensively interviewed and so are many who work with him. I have reviewed this DVD here on this blog.

Vous pouvez aussi acheter l'édition française de ce livre:

15 October 2011

Book review: Coral Gardens, by Leni Riefenstahl, *****

Leni Riefenstahl was a great, if politically controversial, movie director, but only later in her life she picked up photography in a serious way. Her books on African tribes are justly famous.

26 September 2010

Book Review: Land of a Thousand Atolls, by I. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, ***

When this book was published in 1965 it must have been a ground breaking achievement. Very little was known then of the Maldives and underwater life in the atolls. Many photographs (of good quality given the technology of the time) complete an exhaustive description of the animal and plant life in the reef.

13 February 2010

Film Review: War Photographer, by Christian Frei, *****

An Oscar nominee for best documentary, 'War Photographer' was directed by Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei, who followed Nachtwey, who for many is the greatest war photographer of his generation, to Kosovo, Palestine and Indonesia.

We see the photographer in combat zones and pockets of horrific poverty, approaching his subjects slowly, with a hand raised in peace. After 20 years of covering war, poverty and famine Nachtwey still sees his work as an antidote to war and his photographs as a graphic 'negotiation for peace.'

Christian Frei is never in want of original ideas for his films. Here he mounts mini movie cameras on Hachtwey's photo cameras and shows us the world's tragedies as Jim himself saw them. From war theaters in Bosnia, Kosovo, Palestine, Somalia (hence the title) to poverty and gruesome mines in Indonesia, Jim has seen it all. His goal: to make people around the world aware of the horrors of war so as to build up forces to prevent this tragedy from happening again. A bit idealistic perhaps, but he puts immensely powerful images behind this goal.

Jim took all black and white pictures, and some scenes of this documentary are shot back home in NY and show Jim working with his assistants in the darkroom (this is predigital) to make perfect prints of his negatives.

You might want to buy his superlative photography book on the wars of the 1990s. It is a big, heavy and expensive book but worth every cent you pay for it.

15 November 2007

Book Review: In Viaggio - En Voyage - Travelling, by Savina Tarsitano, ***

This is a catalog of Savina's main work up to 2006. Here you will find excellent color photographs and several descriptions and illustrations of her installations around the world. One section is dedicated to her "islands" project, which has taken her to various islands in Europe, Greenland and the Caribbean. Her style is soft spoken yet can project stark contrasts and shadows, and never leaves the viewer indifferent.

Other sections are devoted to Brussels, where she has lived for a few years, her native Calabria, Liguria and Finland.

You can find more about Savina's work on her web page.

The book is available for sale from her publisher.

21 October 2006

Book Review: Yemen, by Isabel Wets, ****

A beautiful book of black and white pictures by a Belgian photographer. Text in French but the real treasure here is the wonderful pictures...

Attitude fière et altière des Yéménites de tous âges, armés de leur djambya, poignard recourbé porté à la ceinture. Regard empreint de gravité des femmes, dissimulé ou non d'un voile. Tant de visages qu'Isabel Wets nous dévoile à travers ces images d'une grande simplicité mais aussi d'un grand talent. (...) Par cet ouvrage, Isabel Wets, passionnée de voyage et photographe d'une rare sensibilité, nous emporte, en mariant harmonieusement photographie et magnifique poésie yéménite, vers ce pays magique ayant su conserver l'authenticité de son passé dans la vie de tous les jours. Les 78 photographies originales, en noir et blanc, d'Isabel WETS sont accompagnées de 39 poésies yéménites.

More info on the author's website.

13 July 1985

Book review: The Russian War (1978), ed. by D. Mrazkova and V. Remes, *****


From the time of the German invasion of Russia in June 1941 until the Soviet armies marched into Berlin in 1945, six million Russian soldiers were killed and 14 million civilians were murdered by the Germans. 

In the West, we forget that for most of the war Soviet armies contended against nine-tenths of the German army and never against less than three-quarters of it. Throughout this war a brave band of Soviet photographers were recording the events at a remarkable closeness to the field of action - often alternating between lens and pistol. These photographs have been arranged to form a story that begins with the Nazi assault along a 1200-mile Russian front and ends four years later when the Red Flag was raised over the Reichstag. A J P Taylor introduces each chapter with a brief narrative and an account of the photographers particularly involved. "Those who look at the photographs assembled here will, I hope, be moved," he writes. "They are a twentieth-century equivalent of War and Peace, transmuting human experiences into a vision of grandeur."


This is an exceptional collection of 143 B&W Soviet photographs from throughout the course of WW II. Some pictures have been so widely reproduced that they will be familiar to any student of the war, like Khaldei's shot of the Soviet soldier raising the red flag on the Reichstag, or Alpert's photo of a Commissar leading the troops into action, which is the cover of the book. Others are much less known.

Photographers like Lipskerov and Zelma were at the frontline of Stalingrad, and Kudoyarov spent the whole of the 900 days of Leningrad's siege in the city.

This book is the work of two Czechoslovak editors, and for some reason it has not been published in the USSR itself. Interestingly, most of the pictures were taken with a 35mm German Leica camera, the standard at the time.

In my view, several pictures have been staged, but this is normal in wartime and one must remember that the USSR, like all other countries, used photography as a wartime propaganda tool, during and after the duration of the war.

Read an interesting article on Soviet photography here