When the shutter counter says nine

The confusion of discovering my Voigtländer Vitoret DR camera had already a film loaded in it; the thrill of noticing the shutter counter said nine but I had no recollection of when and where I took those photos; the constant questioning myself while shooting the remaining frames; the anticipation while waiting for the roll to be processed and, finally, the sheer delight of realizing I came back from last-year visit to Garnish Island in southwest Ireland with a couple of more pics. These are the things I wouldn't have experienced if I hadn't gone back to shooting film.

Film: Kodak T-Max 400 B&W

Camera: Voigtländer Vitoret DR

Location: Garnish Island, Glengarriff, West Cork, Ireland

A roll of film a month | May

Film: Kodak T-Max 400 B&W

Camera: Voigtländer Vitoret DR

Location: Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

Had I known a black and white film was loaded in the camera, I'd have picked another camera. But more on this later.

Photo opportunity

Every now and then, a notification that invites me to take photos and add them to Google Map, appears in the upper left-hand corner of my mobile. I haven't turn it off yet because it amuses me when it says things such as 'SuperValu Greystones' photos are popular on Google Maps'. Now, for those who don't live in this neck of the woods, SuperValu is a grocery supermarket chain. Some stores are undeniably more attractive than others, but I still can't comprehend their allegedly popularity. Every time I see the message I look around and wonder, is there something I am missing here? What are people taking photos of? A salmon fillet?

Conversely, as I work in one of Ireland's most photographed landmark, I do often wonder how tourists would cope (how I would cope for that matter) with a camera that would retract the shutter and block the viewfinder if too many photos of the same subject have already been taken. Camera Restricta is the brainchild of designer Philipp Schmitt and the kind of camera I would buy tomorrow if it wasn't only a speculative design.

The photo below was taken last year in charming Mount Stewart House, a Neo-classical residence which was home of the 7th Marchioness Edith, Lady Londonderry and her family in the early 20th century. I have no recollection of a message appearing on my mobile but I am positive Mount Stewart photos are popular on Google Map.

L’italiano acculturato a Dublino e dintorni – edizione Estate 2017, parte II

[Parte I]

Le gallerie d’arte pubbliche a Dublino sono la National Gallery of Ireland e la Collezione Civica Hugh Lane. Come detto in precedenza, l’ingresso alla National Gallery è gratuito, ma questo non include l’ingresso alle mostre. L’attesissima riapertura dell’intera galleria il 15 Giugno (il restauro è durato sei anni) sarà seguita dopo solo due giorni dall’apertura di una mostra dedicata al pittore olandese Jan Vermeer. Questa è la mostra che era al Louvre in primavera e che ha ricevuto cinque stelle dal The Guardian. Se intendete vistare la mostra, prenotate i vostri biglietti seguendo il link sulla pagina principale del loro sito web.

Musei e gallerie in generale chiudono al pubblico abbastanza presto (intorno alle 5.30), ma il giovedì la National Gallery è aperta fino alle 8.30.

La Collezione Civica Hugh Lane ha un’interessante collezione permanente. La galleria prende il nome dal collezionista e mercante d’arte che per decenni si batte’ e lavorò strenuamente per la costruzione e apertura di una galleria di arte moderna a Dublino. Sempre pensando alla costituzione di una collezione pubblica e permanente, Sir Hugh Lane acquistò le più importanti opere disponibili all'epoca sul mercato. In seguito alla sua morte inaspettata (il collezionista era di ritorno da New York City quando il transatlantico RMS Lusitania, su cui era a bordo, fu affondato da un sommergibile tedesco durante la Prima Guerra Mondiale), poiché’ il codicillo che lasciava tutte le sue opere alla galleria Dublinese era stato redatto e firmato non alla presenza di testimoni, gli otto capolavori Impressionisti per cui la galleria è maggiormente famosa, sono stati divisi in due gruppi e si alternano ogni sei anni con la National Gallery di Londra. La galleria merita una visita indipendentemente dai capolavori impressionisti. Se siete interessati all’opera di Francis Bacon, non potete perdervi una visita al suo studio il cui contenuto, alla fine degli anni Novanta, fu interamente trasferito da Londra alla galleria dublinese. La galleria è chiusa il lunedì.

Molto vicino alla prigione di Kilmainham è l’IMMA, Irish Museum of Modern Art. Il museo ospita mostre di arte contemporanea, ma se desiderate informazioni sulla costruzione di questo enorme edificio che, costruito nel 1680, era un ospizio per soldati in pensione, visitate la mostra The Old Man’s House. L’ingresso alla maggior parte delle mostre è gratuito, ma occorre comprare un biglietto d’ingresso se volete visitare quella dedicata a Lucian Freud. Il biglietto costa 8 euro, ma è gratuito il Martedì. Gli orari di apertura variano durante la settimana (in generale, vi consiglierei di prendervela comoda al mattino) per cui controllate il sito web. Anche in questo caso il museo è chiuso il lunedì.

E a questo punto non mi resta che salutarvi con un proverbio irlandese che tradotto in italiano suonerebbe 'I viaggiatori hanno storie da raccontare'. Buone vacanze!

L’italiano acculturato a Dublino e dintorni – edizione Estate 2017

Questa è una raccolta di consigli per gli Italiani che intendono visitare la capitale della Repubblica Irlandese quest’estate e trascorrere una considerevole parte del proprio tempo visitando monumenti, gallerie d’arte e musei, o anche solo sono in cerca di attività da svolgere al riparo dalla pioggia e dal vento. Ah, le sorpese che l'estate irlandese vi può riservare ...

A chi intende visitare Dublino e un po’ di Irlanda, consiglierei di prendere in considerazione l’acquisto di una Heritage Card (le opzioni sono: Adulto; Studente – se siete studenti universitari, portate la tessera; Senior – per chi ha più di sessanta anni; Family – per famiglia si intende due adulti e (fino a) cinque bambini, in Irlanda si è considerati ‘bambini’ fino a diciassette anni). La carta è valida in tutti i siti gestiti da OPW, statali per intendersi. Il Castello di Dublino, la prigione di Kilmainham, il Castello di Kilkenny, la Rocca di Cashel (solo per nominarne alcuni) sono inclusi nella Card, ma per una lista completa dei castelli, siti archeologici, chiese e palazzi vi consiglio di scaricare la brochure e scrutinarla mentre siete ancora comodamente seduti sul vostro divano. A partire dal 1 Luglio i bambini al di sotto dei 12 anni di età non pagano. Non ci sono gratuità per insegnanti (fuorché non accompagnino gruppi di studenti la cui visita è stata prenotata in anticipo) o giornalisti (fuorché non intendano recensire una mostra e in tal caso hanno già contattato l’Ufficio Stampa o Eventi).

Se invece visiterete solo la capitale e avete già programmato di visitare un certo numero di monumenti e attrazioni (il Castello di Dublino, Dublinia, The Guinness Storehouse, le due Cattedrali, una o tutte le distillerie di whisky presenti nella capitale etc. etc.) vagliate l’acquisto di una tessera Dublin Pass valida per 2/3 or 5 giorni. Onde evitare malumori, leggete tutte le note ai siti inclusi nella tessera (sono pubblicate sul sito web ma anche nel booklet, che potete scaricare dal sito) in quanto, ad esempio, al Castello di Dublino non potete saltare la fila alla biglietteria perché dovete comunque ritirare un biglietto (anche se gratuito), e se volete una visita guidata, dovete pagare 3 euro extra.

A coloro il cui hotel non è in centro, ma anche a coloro che intendono avventurarsi al di fuori del centro storico, raccomanderei l’acquisto di una Visitor Leap card. La tessera è valida nell’area detta 'Great Dublin', per intendersi quella che potete attraversare con i bus di Dublin Bus (quelli blu e gialli a due piani) la DART (il treno verde metropolitano che va su e giù lungo la baia di Dublino) e la LUAS (le due linee del tram). Trovate informazioni (in italiano) sui prezzi qui. La soluzione migliore sarebbe acquistarla in aeroporto (all’Ufficio Informazioni Turistiche se arrivate al T1, all’Ufficio Informazioni Turistiche 'Discover Ireland' se arrivate al T2), giacché potete usarla subito per la navetta aeroportuale che vi porterà in centro.

Castletown House (sopra) si raggiunge con il bus numero 67 da Merrion Square (scendete alla fermata 'Celbridge Village') e una passeggiata nel parco di circa dieci minuti.

L’ingresso ai musei nazionali e le gallerie d’arte è gratuito. A Dublino i musei nazionali sono:

Il Museo Archeologico, che al pian terreno espone talmente tanti artefatti d’oro (alcuni davvero misteriosi) da far arrossire Bulgari;

Il Museo di Storia Naturale, affettuosamente chiamato 'The Dead Zoo' poiché il nucleo della collezione è costituito da animali imbalsamati;

e il Museo di Arti Decorative Collins Barracks, nelle cui gallerie si può girovagare per ore giacché il museo è un mix straordinario di collezioni. Non perdetevelo se siete appassionati di design o storia militare.

A roll of film a month | April

Film: Kodak Portra 400

Camera: Yashica Mat-124G

Location: The Devil's Glen, Co Wicklow, Ireland

A rock arch, bench-back poetry, the scent of oaks, a waterfall, slippy stones, muddy spots, tree trunks, sculptures along the trail, bluebells.

A roll of film a month | March

Film: Lomography B&W 100

Camera: Hasselblad 500C/M

Location: From Wicklow to Wexford, Ireland

A "trop athlétique" Napoleon

Last year, in the space of just a couple of months, I came across a statue of a naked Napoleon twice. The first time it greeted me as I entered Brera Art Gallery's inner courtyard in Milan, the second as I was about to leave the ground floor of the 'Iron Duke' residence in London.

The colossal figure, made between 1802 and 1806 by artist Antonio Canova, depicts the French General as Mars the Peacemaker in an effort to make the subject universal, yet the business proved to be a tricky one for the Italian sculptor as, alas, the bronze copy - which is barely visible in the below photo I took in Milan - ended up having more success than the original marble.

The Empereur loathed the statue so much he banished it into storage, where it remained until in 1816 the British Government purchased and presented it to the Duke of Wellington in recognition of his victory over Napoleonic France at the Battle of Waterloo. The statue has remained in Apsley House in London ever since.

It appears that Napoleon didn't object to being represented like the Roman god of war, but complained of looking "trop athlétique". Is it possible that, in spite of his renowned arrogance, he knew he was not a Greek Adonis? As for the Duke of Wellington, the story goes that he didn’t mind his guests using it as an umbrella stand.

Looking back at 2016 - My year in art

As the year draws to a close, I am taking the opportunity to look back at what has been a really exhilarating and at times challenging year. I don't have that many photos to share, partly because I have found myself reaching for my camera less and less and partly because most of the photos I took can not be shared here - I got permission for research purpose only. As for using my analogues cameras, well I shot only four rolls of films. And to think that, in 2012, I managed to shoot one roll of film each week for a year!

Are you ready to re-live with me the highlights of the exhibitions and places I visited in 2016? Let's start.

  • Wicked Wit: Darly's Comic Prints, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
  • Turner: The Vaughan Bequest, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
  • David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef Dive, Natural History Museum, London
  • Jean-Etienne Liotard, Royal Academy of Arts, London
  • Sir John Soane's Museum, London
  • Apsley House, London
  • Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, London
  • Tintin: Herge's Masterpiece, Somerset House, London
  • Europe 1600-1815 Galleries, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Mount Stewart, County Down, Northern Ireland
  • Avondale House, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow
  • High Treason: Roger Casement, Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
  • Leonardo da Vinci: Ten Drawings from the Royal Collection, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
  • Beaulieu House and Gardens, Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Titanic Exhibition Centre - Titanic's Dock and Pump House, Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Trim Castle, Trim, Co Meath
  • Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare
  • Ilnacullin (Garinish Island), Glengariff, Bantry, Co. Cork - Gallery here
  • Bantry House, Co. Cork
  • The Crawford at the Castle, Dublin Castle, Dublin
  • Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England
  • Michelangelo Pistoletto at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England
  • Stowe House, Buckingham, England
  • Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England
  • Audley End House, Saffron Walden, Essex, England
  • The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace, London
  • Spencer House, London
  • Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London
  • Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016, Peter Harrison Planetarium, Greenwich, London
  • Queen's House, Greenwich, London
  • The Banqueting House, Whitehall, London
  • The Wallace Collection, London
  • Rossborough House, Blessington, Co. Wicklow
  • Hong Ling: A Retrospective, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
  • Creating History: Stories of Ireland in Art, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

I hope this year which is coming to an end in just a couple of days was as memorable for you as it was for me!

Copenhagen and Beyond. Part Two.

On my third day I travelled by train to Roskilde, a city a mere 30km west of Copenhagen, to visit the Viking Ship Museum. I must say that the flat landscapes, pointed by so many delicate birch trees, added to all my train journeys around and beyond Copenhagen a dreamy element.

Viking_Ship_Museum
Roskilde_Harbour
Roskilde_Harbour_2

After paying homage to the open sandwich tradition of Denmark - I had a magnificent smørrebrød in the restaurant just outside the Museum - and a brisk walk around the city centre, I went back to Copenhagen to take a canal and harbour tour. It was during this tour that I spotted a bronze copy of Michelangelo's David statue.

Donated to the city by brewer Carl Jacobsen in 1896, this replica of Michelangelo's nude statue of the biblical King David was first exhibited nearby Vartorv Square and its religious foundation. Unfortunately,  David found himself almost immediately in the doghouse as a number of no spring chicken damsels were living in the same square. It seems that mainly those who were living on second floor-level were distressed, as their windows looked out on David's symbol of his manhood. After thinking for a little while of joining the infamous 'fig leaf campaign' - which, by the way, wouldn't have solved the problem of David's buttocks turned against the convent - the municipality started to look for a new more suitable location. This proved to be more difficult than they had anticipated, as the statue has wandered the city for almost one hundred years and found his present location only in 1993.

Copenhagen_Canal_Tour
Copenhagen_Canal_Tour_2
Copenhagen_Harbour_2
Copenhagen_Harbour

I finished my day with a late evening visit to the wondrous National Aquarium, where unashamedly I had fish and chips for dinner. Most of my fourth and last day was spent visiting the SMK, National Gallery of Denmark.

Just an end-note: the non-square photos were taken with an Ilford Black & White Disposable Camera, which proved to be almost perfect for low light situations as it contained a ILFORD HP5 PLUS roll and a flash. I do not remember why and when I bought it, but I do remember I took it with me because it was so light compared to my beloved Hasselblad 500 C/M.

Apart from the usual frozen-shoulder pain, this time the Hasselblad also caused me an embarrassing moment at the airport when the Security guy who was checking my bag shouted at me just because ... he wanted to say he loved my camera. Ehm, I love it too.

Copenhagen and Beyond. Part One.

Like the true festival lover that I am, last year in March (yes, it took me one year and a half to go back and organise my notes and photos) I decided to go away for the long St Patrick’s weekend and fly west to Copenhagen.

The first day was spent basically familiarizing with the area where my Airbnb flat was - the supermarket in the nearby shopping centre was so big that I think I walked twelve minutes to reach the till from the aisle where I got milk and bread - and doing a tad of window shopping and people watching in the inner city. Before heading back to the apartment, I managed to squeeze a visit to the Round Tower from whose top I took the photos below . I ended my day in the most uninteresting way: eating a box of sushi while watching on TV a re-run of Would I Lie To You? with subtitles in Danish.

Copenhagen from above
Copenhagen from above

The next day I took a train to Helsingør, classically known in English as Elsinore, to visit Kronborg Castle - the impressive royal residence that Frederick II built on the shores of the Baltic Sea in 1574-1585 and for which no expense was spared. The home of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is also the fortress where Queen Caroline Matilde, married to the insane King Christian VII, was taken and kept under house arrest after being accused of infidelity. I have been captivated by this story since I read Stella Tillyard's book, Royal Affair, and if you, like me, have an interest in the lives of royal women, especially those from the 18th century, I would recommend reading it. The whole building is simply massive, and at the risk of sounding unsophisticated, I was positively impressed with the sheer number of toilets around.

The figure below to the right, drawn by an anonymous visitor and left in the Educational room, represents Holger Danske, the Danish mythical hero who lies asleep in the dark and damp underground passages, where the smell of the oil lamps is rather intense I must admit.

To say that the weather was wintry and the wind bitterly cold would be an understatement so, despite my desire to take photos, I immediately looked for a place where to rest, warm up and have lunch. I didn't have to go that far as I found a table in the restaurant of Culture Yard, a cutting-edge glass and steel structure created from old wharf buildings.

On my way back to Copenhagen, I stopped in Humlebæk to visit the Lousiana Museum of Modern Art. To start with I must confess I spent more time in its stylish butik than the gallery itself, but when, eventually, I found the energy to go on my meandering art-quest, I was truly taken aback by the amicable and restful atmosphere. Speaking of rest, I truly appreciated the room with the huge corner sofa and panoramic sea view of Sweden across the river Sound.

I was still sank into the sofa when I started to notice plenty of visitor carrying rolled-up posters. They were reproductions of the work that the Irish artist, Richard Mosse, has produced during the civil war in eastern DR Congo. Because they are beautiful but deeply unsettling images, I thought the enthusiasm of those who were grabbing the posters from stacks located all around the exhibition room, inappropriate and excessive.  I won’t deny that seeing a mousetrap in the Giacometti room left me kind of perplexed too. To be continued.

Milan. A weekend in January. Part Two.

It continues from here.

The day was bright and warm, and people and pigeons were milling about everywhere but mostly in the streets leading to Piazza del Duomo. This square is so vast that its only landmark - the equestrian statue of Vittorio Emanuele II, first king of Italy - is always a long long way from whichever corner you may find yourself in.

After lunch, we decided to make the most of the clear day traipsing up to Le Terrazze, the Duomo's roof terraces. Well, I am using the word 'traipsing' loosely here, as we didn't think even for a second of clambering up the 158 steps! We took the lift, instead.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Kodak T-Max 100.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Kodak T-Max 100.

The name of the concrete beauty you see in the centre-right-ish of the photo above is Torre Velasca, a fine example of 1950s Italian Brutalist architecture which has always fascinated me. And here is a gallery of photos I took while walking in that forest of spires, statues, turrets and gargoyles which is the Duomo's roof. Warning - fetch your sunglasses as the roll was accidentally cross-processed.

Once we were back down to the ground, we joined the queue to enter the cathedral. Someone may find the interior of this building, which is an hybrid of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles, rather overwhelming. And in fact, if you have the time and the energy to take a tour along all its five aisles - divided by 52 colossal piers, one for every week of the year - among all the sarcophagi, funerary shrines and statues, you really won't know where to rest your eyes. I rested mine on a modern work of art, which was only temporally exhibited: Paradosso by the British sculptor Tony Cragg.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Lomography X-Pro Slide 200, cross-processed.

I trust this won't come as a shock to any of you, but we spent the rest of the afternoon walking along boulevards, doing shopping, eating and drinking.

Only the last day of my stay, I was able to look at the view from the window of my hotel room, for the previous morning it was still dark outside when we left to visit Leonardo's The Last Supper. It wasn't exactly stunning but I think it was interesting with its mix of old and new.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Kodak T-Max 100.

On our last day we went west again to visit Sant’Ambrogio, Milan's most charming church.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Kodak T-Max 100.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Kodak T-Max 100.

Sant’Ambrogio is a graceful red-brick church that was founded in the 4th century by St Ambrose, the city’s bishop and future patron saint. The church we see today is a fine Romanesque basilica that dates from the 9th-12th centuries, with a perfectly preserved atrium that was built as a shelter for pilgrims.

We then visited the National Museum of Science and Technology 'Leonardo da Vinci', which is set within the cloistered former monastery of St Vittore.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Kodak T-Max 100.

The array of exhibits is vast and covers all the sciences, but a star attraction is the Enrico Toti submarine, which was built in 1967 to track Soviet submarines in the Mediterranean. Viewing numbers are limited to six at a time, so I took care of booking well in advance.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Kodak T-Max 100.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Kodak T-Max 100.

So, this is how the year started, and I still have a lot to share here before it will end.

Milan. It all started with a fresco.

I spent the first weekend of this year in Milan to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, aka the Cenacolo Vinciano, and a couple of other things to please those who were travelling with me. Cough cough, more on that later.

Because it was before the Epiphany, that in Italy marks the end of the Christmas season, streets were still adorned with Christmas lights and decorations, crowded with people meandering around after days of binging on panettoni, and dotted with roadworks and temporary signposts as the city was getting ready to host Expo 2015.

I had visited the city before, but I'd never had the opportunity to see the Cenacolo Vinciano, for this is the kind of attraction you are more likely to find in a list of works-of-art-to-see-before-you-die than an adventure generator for spontaneous travellers.

After the success of The Da Vinci Code – both Dan Brown’s novel and film, visitor numbers to this attraction has risen sharply. Besides, in order to preserve the fresco, only twenty-five visitors are admitted every 15 minutes hence, if you let me do the maths for you, about 320,000 visitors are allowed in per year. The long and the short of it being that, if you are thinking of paying a visit, you should book your ticket as soon as you can. I booked mine in mid-November, and then planned a trip around it.

Science has played an important role in the preservation of this unconventional fresco - Leonardo painted it on a dry wall rather than on a wet plaster, but learning that the work survived the Napoleonic regime when the refectory became a stable and the wall was used no less than for target practice, and World War II when bombs fell on the building, made me think of a miracle!

Leonardo’s Cenacolo is really what everyone says it is: a masterpiece of emotional insights to be read in the Apostles’ facial expressions. In the gift shop you will find these “moti dell’animo” (in the artist’s words) reproduced endlessly on all sort of souvenirs, from kitchen aprons to mouse pads to anything-you-like or dislike. Actually some are so tasteless you may find it hard to believe the Quadrilatero della Moda (Milan’s fashion district) is a stone’s throw away. But I didn’t walk away empty-handed as I bought a postcard of The Crucifixion (1495) by Donato da Montorfano, which stands on the wall facing Leonardo’s masterpiece (could you think of a more unfavorable place?) and therefore catch few people attention. I’m always one for supporting the underdog!

Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church where The Last Supper sits, has a superb brick-and-terracotta exterior, and below is a photo of the grandiose dome from one of its peaceful cloisters.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Lomography CN 800

The historic heart of the city is compact. A short journey by metro was necessary to reach Santa Maria delle Grazie from our hotel, but then we moved on foot, passing by the imposing Castello Sforzesco on our way to the Pinacoteca di Brera, one of the finest collections of Italian masterpieces.

Let me digress for a moment and tell you something about travelling with an art historian: this is not for the faint-hearted! You might think that is because of a desire by part of the aforementioned art historian to tick off as many as possible cultural must-sees in the chosen destination, when actually it is quite the opposite as visits to monuments and art collections are more similar to thorough investigations. As a result, exhaustion by boredom more than by physical fatigue is likely to affect the poor ill-fated significant other, family and friends. However, every now and then, we too can be considerate and do our best to linger less in art galleries and the like. And this is exactly what I did while visiting the Pinacoteca di Brera.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Lomography CN 800

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Lomography CN 800

Leaving Brera district, we strolled along Via Verdi, passed by Teatro alla Scala and entered Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, which is a light, airy, glass-and-iron 19th century shopping arcade known also as ‘Il salotto di Milano’ - Milan’s drawing room. Going through it, we found ourselves facing the Duomo, Milan's sumptuous Gothic cathedral. To be continued.

Hasselblad 500C/M -  Lomography X-Pro Slide 200, cross-processed.