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Time flies

A Saturday

Boat trip from Kvaløya (in Norwegian, “the whale island”…), near Tromsø, 16.1.2016. Thank you Stefano!

Dogs and owners..

Did anyone say that dogs and their owners often look alike? Anyway, Kodak TMax 400, just scanned.

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Pervomayskiy market (sequence I & II)

Murmansk (Russia), 16th March 2013. Temperature -25 C.

Oslo, end of February

Home sweet home: Tromsø

Home is where you heart is, they say. Heart or not, Tromsø is where I spent 7 years of my life and it’s the only place where, 2 years after my departure, every visit feels like coming home.

Tromsø is cold, windy and slippery, a not exactly clean architectural mess surrounded by some of the most stunning nature Norway has to offer.

Tromsø is perhaps not the pearl it could be, yet it’s impossible not to love.

Jonny, photo model

Oslo center, an evening about one month ago. I notice that a popular retail-clothing company is advertising their Christmas sales by using dummies wearing paper masks. The masks reproduce a man’s face, bearded, with dark sun glasses and a Santa Claus hat. Nothing special in fact, however I take a photo of the scene as a man stops to look at them (probably thinking “what the heck..?”).

An hour later I move to another part of town to see if I can get a shot or two there. As I walk by a pub, I notice a bearded man smoking a cigarette. He’s rather photogenic but I have no chance to take a photo of him while staying unnoticed. It’s so dark that I doubt I can get a sharp shot anyway, but I stop and ask if I may… Permission granted, a few shots taken. And it turns out he’s the model the retail-clothing company used for their mannequins!

A completely coincidental encounter in a city with over half a million inhabitants..

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Kirovsk – Apatity

Another couple of hours by train and I’m in Apatity, named after the phosphate mineral the hills around the city are rich of. Needless to say, that’s the very reason why a city was founded here, back in 1935.  It’s a bit strange for an Italian to think that all these towns are only 50 – 80 years old (my parent’s house is way older than that, and it’s no renaissance palace..).

Kirovsk, located only 23 km from Apatity, is only a few years older and was built under the same rush to mineral exploitation as the other towns I visited. However, it’s surrounded by the Khibiny mountains which make this little city a popular ski resort. This gave a little burst to the local economy, which shows, at least in the very center..  They are even opening some trendy disco bars and hotels, in sharp contrast with the soviet blocks and the abandoned industrial areas nearby, but a clear indication of the little renaissance this place may be experiencing. That’s at least my hope and wish to the lovely people of Kirovsk.

Some street photos then. See also Part I and Part II of the trip.

Olenegorsk

Olenegorsk. Gray weather, 10 degrees Celsius. My first thought as I looked through the curtains of my hotel window: “oh gosh, what am I going to do here for two days alone?”.

So I went out with my cameras and a short while later it was time to leave. Funny how time flies sometimes, when you meet people who aren’t afraid to smile to a stranger, who bother to hear his story and are curios as to why an Italian would ever be there, even alone, where they never see a tourist. Time flies when you go out to take street photos that are supposed to be candid, but end up speaking with half the village and then eating dinner with a Russian family (thank you again Olga!).

I admit some temptation to depict this town as other than.. gray, to repay its people’s kindness. But hey, all of this was built in a hurry from 1949 on, and those who did valued more the vast mineral resources of its underground than the pristine beauty of nature. So, no, should you visit Olenegorsk, don’t expect this town to end up on your list of the word’s most beautiful sites. Even the amusement park is rather depressing. However, this place will charm you as it charmed me and you won’t forget it for sure. And, if you take time to speak to its people and value hospitality, generosity and friendliness, you’ll also discover a treasure here.

You may also see the first and third part of my trip here: Part I and Part III.

Back to Russia

I just came back from yet another fantastic journey through a remote region of Russia. Remote because it lies almost 2 days by train from Moscow or St. Petersburg, but in fact it’s pretty much around the corner if you enter it from northern Scandinavia. Yet, the landscapes and especially the cultural landscapes that meet you as you travel the Kola region of Russia are very far away from those of the Scandinavian countries.

For this trip, I chose to use trains, and this series is about exactly that. Outside the dirty windows, in the cold autumn air, endless forests only interrupted by industrial settlements; towns having the extraction of minerals as their only reason of being; low, timber houses with their Siberian mood. Inside, in a overheated train car, many human stories I got the privilege of sharing a few hours of. When language was a problem (my Russian is still rudimentary), concepts as complicated as the social situation in the country could be illustrated by means of countless pieces of paper scattered on the seat, representing the government, the police, the rich business men, the poor people, the mafia.

So this one is about the train. You may also see the first and third part of my trip here: Part II and Part III.

Il corso

“Il corso”, in Italian the main pedestrian street, is where it all happens and where nothing happens.

It’s where we take aperitivo or read the newspaper and discuss politics, gesticulating the way only we can.

Il corso is where you find la dolce vita. As long as you’re a tourist, that is.

A few shots to give you the idea..

The guide

Brunico, in the Italian Alps, early afternoon of a summer day. A little but noisy group of tourists walk along the main pedestrian street. Their guide, a man so elegant that he seems jumped out of a movie, captures my attention. He must be a very charming guide, as none of his clients seem bored or distracted and at times he works hard to moderate questions and comments from the most “interactive” ladies…

Streets and roads of Afghanistan

What defines street photography? And what defines a street? Asphalt? Shiny skyscrapers? Street lights? Busy people rushing in or out of a subway?

In this case, doing street photography in Afghanistan (and much of the world) might be hard, as you find none of that.

Whether they qualify as street photography or not, the pictures below are all taken on the streets and roads of Afghanistan.

You may also want to check the color gallery with more images:

Steep lives of the Hindu Kush, Afghanistan

No more trains

Very different human stories, the same destiny: a subway station. Not as a short, noisy interlude between home and work or between family life and friends, but itself home, family, friend and only daily occupation.

Some of these people just kept missing the train of their life, the train that could have taken them to a regular office job or to the joys of a happy family. Some others jumped on many trains but were thrown off each and every one of them, humiliated like ticketless passengers.

Dummies

I’ve always been searching for new ways to make my life meaningful, to fill it with something worthy. And I’ve always felt little and insignificant comparing myself with those I admire, famous or completely unknown people who really make the difference for others as well as filling their own lives with things worth living for.

I believe that having a brain and a normally functioning body and living under the most fortunate conditions almost forbids us to just stand and watch, like headless, armless dummies. I have always dreamt of getting my chance to act, well knowing that my definition of acting requires either a particularly smart brain or guts, if not both.

Now, I have a chance. Engineers Without Borders need a geologist with landslide / avalanche experience in a remote province of north-eastern Afghanistan, where entire villages have been buried and hundreds of people killed by major avalanches the last two winters.

One of the dummies is tired of standing there and watching, and in a few weeks will not only try to help those people stay safe against avalanches, but hopefully also tell their stories in pictures. Stay tuned.

Turid

I was taking street photos, when I came across a nursing home that I didn’t even know was there. Just outside it, on a wheel chair, an elegant old lady seems to be enjoying some fresh air as she whaves me hallo. Then she tells me to be careful not to slip on the ice, how nice of her!

I stop to exchange a few words, and she promptly introduces herself as Turid. Without asking too much, I find myself knowing a bit of her life: a life long job at a hospital in Sweden, many years going fast, a move back to Norway after retirement, and now her new life, receiving that care that she used to give others.

I hope Turid is happy as she receives a couple of prints I sent her of these photos. She was so amused and flattered by being photographed!

The perfect machine

Few things fit to the definition of “the perfect machine” better than an orchestra. To agree on this, you just need to commit yourself to learning an instrument. It will take you many years of devotion (and frustration) and most likely you’ll never get close to the skills it takes to perform in a real orchestra.

Some years ago I was asked to take a few photos of the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra during a rehearsal. Here are some shots.

Am I a criminal?

Two days ago, once again in Oslo, I got slightly in trouble with a hotel receptionist for taking one of the photos in the series below. She meant I was not allowed to photograph the hotel window from the public street. I protested that even though it was a private property, it’s perfectly visible from the public street and there’s no sign forbidding photography.

After I got back to my hotel, I did some research to find out what the Norwegian law says about street photography. Am I only doing this now after 10 years of street photography? Yes in fact.

What I found out is that the Norwegian law is very strict in protecting personal rights. It’s perfectly legal to photograph anyone (maybe except children) without asking for a permission, but it’s not allowed to publish photographs of identifiable persons without their permission. Exceptions are photos where the identifiable persons are taking part in street protests, parades or similar, photos that have a public usefulness (whatever that is), and photos the main content of which isn’t the person – although identifiable – but the situation, the context this person is involved in. Hopefully, most of my pictures will fall within this last category for the judge who gets my case the day someone sues me for doing street photography and sharing it. The alternative is photos like the ones below, without a face or a soul. Feel free to leave a thought on this, if you like.

A trip to Milan

Milan, Italy, December 2011.

Majorstuen (Oslo)

No more meetings, no more schedules, no more everything. Only my thoughts and my camera, at least for an hour or two.

København

Just back from a week end in wonderful Copenhagen, here are a few street shots…

Adagio, Allegro, Venezia

What strikes you most when visiting in Venice? Magnificent palaces, timeless atmospheres? No, people, lots of people. Visitors from all over the world crowd Venice at any time of the year, bringing money to some and stress to the rest of the city’s residents. Yet even back in its gold days, “la Serenissima” used to be crowded, the number of its inhabitants at that time being triple than today’s. But things change when the night or the rain comes.

Frøya

Frøya is an island off the coast of mid Norway. Its outermost settlement, Titran, is nowadays permanently inhabited by no more than 60 people. It was a strategic site during the 2nd World War and it still bears signs of its past, with several bunkers, a fort and defense structures.

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