So, it all started in Bangkok, like many other trips in South East Asia before.
We enter the sprawling city flying above its entrails with the freezing (you love air conditioning, don’t you?) skytrain and, a tuktuk later, we find ourselves in the welcoming/repelling backpacker ghetto that is Khao San Road. Not much has changed since my last visit here: same (or very similar) pay-one-drink-two bars full of rowdy, young boozers, same old (undefinable age) ladies with elsewhere-in-Thailand-unseen stupid hats peddling wooden toads, same scantily clad twenty-something girls that show off their mile-long tanned legs. The only noticeable difference is that now there are now two Burger Kings (one at each end of Khao San, in case you missed the other) and a new Starbuck (a welcome addition if you ask me). Bloody parenthesis.
Don’t get me wrong: inasmuch I like going where there are no other tourists I don’t mind being in a backpacker hell from time to time and I could spend a lot of time in one of the many roadside cafés just watching the foreigners that pack this area of Bangkok go by.
We celebrate our arrival in Asia with a string of delicious mojitos (couldn’t think of anything more suitable) and the following days we laze off in a city I’ve never quite managed to fully “understand” (if you can actually “understand” a place), hopping from one sight to another and sorting out our visas for Myanmar.
We stroll quite aimlessly in the city, getting lost in Chinatown, taking our share of temple overload and relaxing in general.
In the days we spend in Bangkok I get a little deeper under its skin and try to absorb its many facets and when it’s time for us to leave I think this time I could grasp its multiethnic soul a bit better.
Photographically speaking there is one main reason why I don’t like being in big cities: I think it leaves little to zero place for personal interaction with local people. Yet, metropolis are a constant source of inspiration for street photography and (although my mind is already set on Myanmar) I spend most of the days here doing just that.
The day we decide to take care of our Myanmar Visa there is a queue that goes around the block (alarm bell #1 should have already rang at this point…) and I’m a bit surprised by a few applicants that sport professional photographic gear: wasn’t Myanmar a country notoriously resentful towards photographers and journalists?
The line is so long that we would never make it before closure time and since the day after will be a national holiday we decide to invest a few bucks with a local visa agent (much cheaper than the ones you can find in Khao San) and get away for a few days: after all we’ve been working a lot these last months and before we start travelling again, we deserve a holiday.
And so we head to the Island.
First of all, after reading this interesting article by one of my favourite photographers, Drew Gardner (if you don’t know him, you should), I decided it was time for me to make a move towards video and so I enrolled into a local videoclub for a video-making course and started shooting with my camera (the battered 5D that’s been with me for a while).
Some hardcore photographers out there will shout at me with disdain but in all fairness it was an interesting experience. Not only I can confirm Drew’s words by saying that in the present competitive environment (oh I hate when people say “present competitive environment”, a bit of self loathing won’t hurt) it’s much easier to find an assignment when it comes to video-making, but it is also an interesting art to explore, one that can ultimately help photographers in developing their storytelling abilities and focussing a lot more on the overall story they are trying to convey with their still images. I could go on and on about the things I like about video-making but I’d rather invite other photographers like me to experiment with it, with no prejudices, and see for themselves. Oh, I don’t really want to talk about the negative sides of moving images with sound but be prepared to spend countless hours in front of a screen (no, you haven’t yet, not until you’ll have to watch again and again and again your own videos and find the perfect cut) and learn a whole new sets of skills. And no, unfortunately it’s not because you are an accomplished photographer that your newly created videos will win an Oscar for Best Cinematography.
If you are interested though, Mother YouTube is out there for you. Of the countless tutorials I’ve seen I wold recommend to start from the excellent series by the guys at NextWaveDV on shooting with your DSLR and then move to some tutorial for Premiere (the software I personally use), Final Cut or similar. Don’t be scared, I personally think the learning curve for Photoshop is much steeper…
Here you can see my very first production (admittedly funny, poor acting) along with an example of commissioned work (a commercial for a German-Italian association that fights eating disorders)(with a little timelapse in the end).
I would only like to point out that my love for photography is undiminished and I still derive the best of feelings when I hear the comforting sound of a mirror lifting up and leaving room for light. I did take some pictures during all this time but most was limited to commercial work or not travel related anyhow so it didn’t find room on this site. Oh, yeah, and a few random iPhone pictures:
Talking about photography: along with other friends and professionals I’ve started a company, Flabbergast V, whose aim is to provide the best photography contests on the internet. I’ve always felt that most of the competitions out there were falling short in some respects and we’ve tried to address these shortcomings to give participants the best and most fair experience. Our first competition about India (a country full of suggestions for so many photographers) went great and we’re now in the final phases of the contest and already preparing the next one. Setting up the company and the contest took a great deal of time but I’m quite proud of the results: check it out and spread the word!
The main reason that kept me from this blog though (and musing too much about travels) is that I was trying to find a certain… stability. After more than twelve years living and traveling abroad I felt it was time for me to stay in a place long enough so to create a stable base from which I could travel freely, knowing that I would have not to start from scratch on every comeback. I’d chosen Italy, my own country, as a base, I’ve met Sarah in the process and together we’re working with the simple goal of… making this world a better one.
She’s an anthropologist and a curator and together we worked on a series of social projects that have been quite successful so far. We’re now focussing on a new exhibition concept that mixes art, photography and personal experiences of immigrants living in Italy to foster integration of local foreign communities. More to come in the future but I’m really excited about the outcome! By establishing some durable connections here we hope we could then travel extensively without fearing every return…
And why haven’t I blogged more frequently when I was in Myanmar? Well, in a nutshell, intenet connections were so crappy that uploading a single picture would have taken forever. So I am writing my travel blog now, in January 2013, backdating this and every subsequent post to match my travel itinerary: I hope you don’t mind!
So, it all started in Bangkok…]]>
A child among drying noodles in Vietnam]]>
These are just few of the pictures I took there almost two years ago.
A reportage of mine that tries to identify the links between nationalism and religion in today’s Bosnia has been published by the prestigious OBC, check it out!
If you want to see the full reportage at a higher resolution and with some extra photos taken in Banja Luka, have a look here.]]>
On a cloudy day’s walk, this graffito brought to my memory a striking association.
The outline of the starving child portrayed on the wall immediately reminded me of Kevin Carter‘s Pulitzer winning photo. My memory failed me as the child on the wall is obviously in a different position but I still feel the torn sticker somewhat mirrors the presence of the vulture in Kevin’s image.
Kevin’s controversial photo was shot in Sudan in 1993 and, almost twenty years later, is to this day one of the most powerful images I’ve ever came across.]]>
My very vision changes when I have a camera with me and I notice details that would have escaped me altogether during a camera-less stroll. I don’t know whether it’s the camera itself that imposes a new vision on the environment surrounding me or because of its presence I’m now in a position to give others a glimpse of my world, by excluding (more than including) elements that would otherwise tell a different story.
That’s it, I have no pretension of conveying a unique truth through my images: I just want to tell a story.
So, what is the story behind this picture according to you?]]>
The night of the 6th of April 2009 the Italian city of L’Aquila was shaken by an earthquake that killed 308 and severely damaged the city centre. A few neighbouring villages were completely wiped out.
Last year, a few days after the second anniversary of the tragedy, I happened to be in L’Aquila and I wanted to witness with my eyes the state of the city, amid controversial government reports boasting that the city had been fully reconstructed and its inhabitants had gone back to their homes: nothing was farther from truth.
Although what follows is a description of what I saw a year ago I don’t think the situation has improved that much.
The city entry points were guarded by military units that didn’t allow visitors in, but as one of the major roads had been reopened to the public, it was quite easy to “get lost” and sneak in the “red area”, an off-limits zone full of torn buildings and houses.
What was once a beautiful historical city, an architectural pearl, is now a series of half collapsed structures held together by metal braces and supports. The irony of the 2009 earthquake is that it didn’t completely destroy the city but damaged the centuries-old buildings so severely that they are now too dangerous for their former tenants to live in: too precious to be knocked down, too expensive to repair.
The Italian government, so reactive in the first phases of the drama, was unable to take any courageous decision about the city, leaving it in a half-destroyed limbo: there is no visible plans for L’Aquila’s future and its once vibrant centre is now a sad collection of crooked building devoid of all life.
What struck me most when I walked through the ruins though wasn’t the sheer amount of destruction surrounding me but the objects that people that fled their homes haphazardly left behind, thinking they’ll be able to recover them soon enough: two years later they are still there, the memento of an instant we should not forget.
In this article I’ll share the process that brought me to setting up this website using WordPress: it is by no means a professional advice or a do-it-yourself guide but it can be a useful insight for fellow photographers considering using WordPress to showcase their work on the Internet. I hope it will help!
First of all a bit of background: I’m not a web designer and, although I’m at ease with computers, my last (not-so-great) programming experience dated back to university time, coding in C. During the year I’ve spent travelling through Asia and Europe though, I run quite a successful blog using an online platform where no much coding was needed: my biggest programming achievement back then was being able to change the header image of my former blog. I knew HTML existed, I had a vague understanding of what CSS was and ignored pretty much everything else but I wanted to create the new website on my own: how hard would that be? Furthermore, I had no money to spend on the kind of web development I had in mind (not that it was that clear to be honest…) and I thought I could learn a few new skills in the process. For sure in just a couple of weeks I would have been able to show the world my shots the way I wanted!
It took little less than a few days days to figure out I would have used WordPress to run my website: I had a blog already (that wasn’t powered by WP by the way), I knew WordPress was used by millions and although originally developed for blogs I heard it could be used to run fully featured websites. The wealth of plugins WordPress has and its active community convinced me even further.
I ruled out using Flash for indexation purposes, Drupal looked too complicated for my hasty self and I didn’t even bother considering Joomla or Dreamweaver. This article (from the Graph Paper Press blog) convinced me I was following the right path and so I selected WordPress for my project.
When I first started I was using the battered Windows netbook that was my best companion for more than a year on the road: if that was enough for some simple image processing and writing whilst travelling, to say that it was not the right tool for the job is a vast understatement: with only one giga of memory and with a minuscule screen it proved quite tiresome and slow to build a website on it. So, if I can give anyone a first advice: unless you have a lot of time on your hands get a decent computer even before you consider to start.
I used Notepad Plus Plus as a text editor: it is a wonderful editor for its cost (it is free) and I miss it a lot now that I moved to a Mac platform (but this is another story).
I then proceeded to install a local web server for easier development: I used XAMPP that was fairly easy to install and use. Yes, you need a local server as you don’t want to run your tests online, unless you know exactly what you’re doing and you have a fast internet connection.
Oh yeah, and Firebug. You definitely need Firebug for your debugging.
To run a website you then need a host and an FTP client to load your files online but this is quite simple and you don’t need them in the early phases of development.
(As stated previously, there are certainly other and better tools available but this is what I used)
With my text editor, my local server and Firebug installed in Firefox I already felt like a professional web designer: although I hadn’t written a single line of code I hoped it would be a straightforward process to turn my ideas into a brilliant website. Let’s all laugh together.
Installing WordPress, selecting an existing theme (basically the template that drives the appearance of your website) and filling it with content is extremely easy. There are literally thousands of themes out there, some of them are available for free, others with more sophisticated architecture sell for way under 50 bucks: if you are happy with any of them you are set to go, you just load the theme on your WP installation and you are ready to go! Some of them come with an easy way to customize them straight from the WordPress interface, others need manual edit but changing bits of code here and there is not that complicated either; on the other hand if you want to modify them more incisively things get complicated to say the least.
Of course I couldn’t find any theme that I liked and I decided I could go on coding my own theme: this is where the nightmare started.
As ignorant as I was I had to study a bit before I could even start: after all I had a lot of time (whilst adapting to life out of the road) and I wasn’t prepared to fork out at least 2000$ on a custom development.
I started modifying a very basic free theme to accommodate my needs and after another month of head bashing against the computer screen and some very frustrating moments (I cannot recall how many hours (and days and nights) I wasted trying to modify slightly some minute details: I started telling friends that were enquiring about my activity that I was “about to see the end of the tunnel” and that I would soon come back to life again) I finally and proudly showed version 1.0 of my website to a selected few. They were very kind. In fact, it finally took my girlfriend to let me look at reality straight in the eyes: the result of two months of “life in the tunnel” was… huh, crap.
I had taken too many shortcuts, whenever I wasn’t able to do something I simply moved on to the next feature, on and on. Even worse, the whole idea underling my design didn’t seem to work either: it really looked terrible. I spare you the sight of that atrocity, even through a screen capture.
Not that I was desperate but I didn’t know what to do.
I spent the next few months brooding about my website. I was looking for inspiration around the web but I couldn’t find anything that would move me to start again and I almost though I would resort to some online portfolio system to showcase my work.
Finally, one sunny day, I found the right inspiration and I figured out what would be the right feel for my online corner: I needed to study more and, this time, I would not take any shortcut.
I changed my approach altogether and if I thought of a feature I wanted to include in my website I would study in order to achieve that.
I didn’t neglect jQuery this time and understood its full potential, I relied more heavily on some WordPress plugins and decided to integrate a blog in my photo website: I missed writing and I wanted to include a place where to express myself. WordPress custom post types feature would allow me to have both a blog and a standard photographic gallery.
To make my life harder I’d also decided I would have made my site responsive, namely, creating a design that would suit any browser window’s size without any annoying horizontal scrollbar whatever the size of the window will be (that thought later on evolved to even create an iPad and a smartphone version of my website): you can check what I mean by resizing the browser window and see what happens (I assume only web designers will be impressed though!)
I browsed through countless WordPress articles and tutorials, I read on a daily bases some of the most up to date designers’ sites (my biggest gratitude goes to CSS-tricks.com) and participated actively in the WordPress.org forums (to the point of actually giving answers in the process!): yes, I’ve left photography to the side for a while and turned into a full time nerd!
I worked almost full time on the website as you see it for another three months (including a hard disk breakdown that almost made me cry and made me start from scratch: that set me back at least a couple of weeks) and I launched it at the end of December 2011.
If you are an established photographer and you are not willing to learn a whole different set of skills then you are better off paying a serious designer to create your website.
If you are happy with one of the free or premium WordPress themes that can be found out there it will be a fairly straightforward process to set up your next photography website, but you run the risk of having several other photographers’ sites looking exactly like yours!
On the other hand if, like me, you have little or no programming skills brace yourself for a few months of hard work: you’re about to enter a world of pain. The rewards you are getting out of the process are not to be dismissed though: I don’t think you can really understand how the Internet works unless you get down to actually building and optimising a website, furthermore you’ll become less reliable on other developers for small tweaks and changes and you’ll be up to date with the ever changing web technology that will make your website look exactly the way you wanted!
Back to photography now, I won’t touch the core of this website for a while but I’m already thinking of the new version I will make in a year or two… this time in HTML5 probably!
If you need help or advice feel free to drop me an e-mail: my debt of gratitude with people I’ve never met and helped me greatly is so big I would be more than happy to help anyone in need and well… if you want me to design your website we can talk about it
Chris Coyer and CSS-tricks for way too many suggestions
NextGen Gallery, the best WP plugin for image management (the version I use is quite customized though)
Brian from Greywywern, for the cool dropdown menu effect
Matt Kersley’s page to test responsive design
Mitchell Kanashkevich, initial and continuing photographic inspiration
The already classical article about adaptive design, by Ethan Marcote
Enkoder to turn your spammy e-mail addresses in scraper unfriendly gibberish
GT-metrix, in my opinion the best tool to check for your site’s speed
CSS, HTML and PHP lessons
Last but not least Bluehost, my host: I would thoroughly recommend them to anyone willing to set up a WordPress site, not only their WP installation is painless but they have the most astonishing customer service I’ve ever came across.
Furthermore, two consecutive days of good weather, after so much snow and grey skies, were a blessing and from a street photography point of view it proved to be very worthwhile.
(I open here one of my infamous parenthesis. Sometimes I feel there is an urge to fit a photographer into a specific category: “he’s a fine art photographer” (whatever that is), “she’s doing fashion”, “he’s into architecture photography”. Well, if I really have to put a tag on what I do (or like doing) I would choose street photography as the most fitting one: that I do that mostly in foreign countries is just a mean to combine two separate passions.)
Here’s what I came up to during my stay in Zagreb: for every picture I could tell a long story, maybe I’ll do it another time though. Just enjoy the pictures for the moment.
The city is teeming with people in the street and the national colours can be found everywhere: blue, white and red flags are hanging loosely in the still sky, billboards and posters are covered with images from the rest of the country under a ribbon twisted so to form a huge number twenty.
What strikes me most is that this civil anniversary is treated as a religious holiday: in the newly built church, next to the Parliament and the City Hall, the Patriarch celebrates mass and breaks a holy bread covered with the number twenty. Throughout the day the number of people that go to church or light a candle in its basement is astonishing. If in Srebrenica Christmas preparations became an excuse to revamp nationalistic symbols, here in Banja Luka the opposite (just the other side of the coin as a matter of fact) is happening. This mixture of religion and nationalism is a bit frightening and makes a critical appreciation of the facts that led to the war an almost impossible task.
Nonetheless, the atmosphere in the city is one of joy and happiness: while celebrities and politicians meet in the House of Parliament, a political party offers cake and music to passers-by and everyone we cross in the street welcomes us with a broad smile (and yes, the odd weird face).
In the evening the city centre fills with an incredible crowd: notwithstanding the cold, a huge mass came to assist a series of computer projections on the city hall and the ensuing light and sound show that culminates with a fireworks display.]]>
Tuzla doesn’t provide a lot of interesting photos opportunities if it wasn’t for this surreal Coke sponsored landscape with admittedly one of the ugliest modern churches I’ve ever seen: what’s wrong with contemporary architects and churches?
The city isn’t exactly picturesque and the weather conspires against me: it snows on and off and there’s barely a soul around. I’m sick of these conditions and I start to grow restless and I want to leave.
Although Tuzla isn’t very pretty it’s worth coming here to visit the ICMP centre where all the unidentified remains from people found in the various mass graves of Bosnia are stored, waiting for a possible DNA match: it gives yet again another perspective on the massacres that took place during the Yugoslav War.]]>
I was on my way to a monastery when I met the man pictured above, when I asked if I could take a picture he posed using the much controversial three-finger salute. I can’t say I was shocked but I rapidly went away anyway.
Serb Orthodox believers join the first three fingers, representing the holy trinity, together when performing the sign of the cross. The three joined fingers used to be a form of salute among Serbs up until the early nineties, when this gesture evolved in the open version as depicted in the photo above. So far, nothing is wrong with it, if it wasn’t for the fact that during the Yugoslav War the same gesture was used by Serb soldiers when fighting against Muslims, in this constructed war of religions the entire world ended up believing. We’re crushing you, God is on our side: god is with us… who else used that as their motto already?]]>
In Srebrenica one of the saddest pages of the war has been written.
In a nutshell (once again I’m just trying to give an overview, the Internet and books are out the for you if you want): during the conflict in Bosnia this small city, previously a mixed Muslim/Orthodox community, saw the departure of the Serbian population towards safer areas and a massive concentration of Muslim refugees that came here from the surrounding villages to seek the protection of the UN, that in 1993 declared the area a “safe haven” under international protection.
A proper enclave surrounded by territory controlled by the Bosnian Serb army, the population of the city grew from the initial 10,000 people to an astonishing 60,000 (according to certain sources), thus creating one of the biggest concentration camps in modern history.
On the 11th of July 1995, Mladic’s forces shelled the city, vanquished the non-existent resistance of the young and poorly trained Dutch battalion that was “protecting the city” and stormed the roads of Srebrenica.
Most people fled to the UN compound to receive protection whilst a group of men chose to escape through the woods in hope to reach Tuzla, some 100 km away, in the scorching heat, on a mined road that was under heavy artillery attack: many of them perished in the attempt. (On a note: every year there is a peace march leaving from Tuzla and arriving to Srebrenica on the 11th of July. I’ll try my best to attend later on this year…)
The Dutch battalion opened the doors of their base to a small minority of people whilst leaving most out: when Mladic forces arrived, women and children were separated from men and sent to the free Bosnian territory. Serbs insisted man must be questioned to identify Muslim war criminals. The civilian who were captured were mercilessly killed in the vicinity of Srebrenica. In the most shameful way the UN surrendered to the attacking forces and handed over the few they were still “protecting” to Mladic’s men. At least 8000 man and boys were killed by soldiers of the Army of Republika Srpska in the close vicinities and buried in mass graves.
Coming to Srebrenica these days is an eerie experience, during this time of the year even more as the now preponderant Orthodox community is busy with preparations for the upcoming Christmas.
The streets of the city are busy with people skinning pigs and sheep for Christmas lunch and breakfast: it looks pretty much like a man business where rakia (the local superstrong spirit) flows like there is no tomorrow; rare are the women helping with this task. Although most of the people I’ve met during my stroll in the city were kind and welcoming I cannot but ask myself whether these rubicund and happy faces had been involved in any way whatsoever with the Muslim genocide. I’d like to think that people I’ve shared one too many shots of rakia weren’t even here when the atrocities happened but the loud volume of the nationalistic music in the background shakes my beliefs.
The visit of the Potocari Memorial in this atmosphere is particularly striking. Near the former UN base, lines of white and green tombstones mark the graves of thousands of victims: green temporary ones are then replaced by permanent marble ones, all of them bearing the same date. The process of identification is a slow and painful one, even using the most advanced DNA matching techniques. Sometimes only a fraction of the body has been recovered, a limb without a body: to cover the traces of the massacre, to make recovery harder or just as a cruel game, bodies that were haphazardly thrown in a single mass grave were dug out and scattered in several other minor ones. In one instance, remains of a dead man could be found in four different graves (I’ve read account of remains found in six different ones but I couldn’t find any online reference).
On the walls of the former battery factory, that housed the Dutch soldiers, can still be found some shameful graffiti, drawn by the same people that were supposed to defend the local population. I’m only showing the most famous one describing a Bosnian woman according to a UN soldier and just one of the least offensive ones (believe me, there are other, more disturbing ones).
Of course, with facts of this gravity there is not just one side to the story and when it comes to Srebrenica there are other revisionist theories explaining what happened: when you go there and you speak with some of the survivors it’s hard to believe it’s just a fabrication.
Meanwhile, the streets of Srebrenica seem forgetful about their recent history and the day before Christmas fires are lit everywhere to roast the animals that have been skinned the previous day. Rakia and music.
And on Christmas’ Eve a procession of cars and tractors, blowing their horns and waving Serbian flags, as if after a football game victory, heads to the church for midnight mass.]]>
Throughout the journey from Belgrade I stare out of the bus’ window and I struggle to notice any village. Groups of identical houses appear along the road but there is something missing to qualify them with a different description: there is no discernible sign of an older city centre, a square or a distinctive building that could be used for gatherings, other than mosques and churches. Maybe this standardization of modern residential settlements is a consequence of the war, maybe it’s deeply linked to local customs that value family more than other social interactions, more likely a combination of the two.
The first few days in Sarajevo I spend way too much time photographing the various cemeteries that dot the city: near our accommodation, what was once a verdant field, is nowadays an almost endless space covered by the pointy shapes of Muslim graves. “We used to take our sledges down that slope when we were kids”, points out a friend we met in Sarajevo.
Two stones to mark each grave and thousands of them: under a thick layer of snow the landscape is surreal, only Alija Itzetbegovic’s (former president of Bosnia Herzegovina) mausoleum cast a yellow light on the ethereal whiteness.
During the four year-long siege Sarajevo was subjected to, its inhabitants (not to speak of the other hardships they had to withstand) had to use any available land to bury their dead relatives and nowadays cemeteries can be found everywhere in the city, not even surrounded by a wall or a fence, always visible as a constant reminder of what war has brought to this city.
A child building a snowman with his grandfather among the older Ottoman graves is a welcome sight.
Sarah and I wander through the city and the hills that surround it and from where Mladic’s forces kept the city under siege for almost 1400 days. If certain areas of the city are back to normal and tourists flock the ancient neighbourhood of Bascarsija (with its famous wooden fountain and pigeons), in other parts it looks like war has ended three days ago: shelled out building, ruins, every single wall scarred by countless bullet holes.
It is a striking contrast to watch children going downhill on the iced streets with sledges and plastic bags.
As odd, the sight of some futuristic building rising over an horizon of a torn city.
Even when the snow has completely left the city, the suburb of Dobrinja, a stone’s throw from the border with the Republika Srpska (yes, after Dayton’s peace agreement of 1995 Bosnia has been divided in two separate entities, the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska: countless are the resources on the Internet to find out more about this but reading a few books would certainly help), is still covered in white and people enter the woods to fetch young oak branches for the upcoming Orthodox Christmas.
PS: cheers to the countless great people we’ve met in Sarajevo]]>
My girlfriend Sarah and I had planned a trip to Bosnia for quite a while but decided, at the very last minute, to fly to Belgrade as going directly to Sarajevo was outrageously expensive.
When we land in the cold Serbian night a thick mist covers everything. During the ride from the airport to the city centre we pass several rows of high buildings and the only colourful spots in the decaying socialist architecture are McDonald’s restaurants: their yellow and red signs cast a soft light in the whiteness that surrounds them.
I love mist and I think it is a boon for photography: we hurry up to get out and take some shots in these conditions but the blanket that was covering the city no less than ten minutes before vanishes quickly and I can only manage to take the shot below when the mist is already disappearing.
Belgrade wasn’t exactly a planned part of our itinerary and during the days that we spend here I am little more than a tourist with a camera. Although I think that visiting a capital is important to understand the spirit of a country, when it comes to (my) photography big cities aren’t exactly ideal: people tend to be a tad too “standard” and a lot less approachable. I long for a less developed environment and I only take lazy shots of the city, its huge buildings with stunning graffiti and the elegant streets that lead to the castle (cheers Vesna).
The weather and light conditions are far from ideal too and throughout our stay in the city the sky will always remain a dull gray colour.
The suburb of Zemun provides some more interesting opportunities with its village atmosphere and the neighbouring gipsy settlement, yet, because of the freezing cold not a lot of people could be seen around: I start to worry that between the low temperature and the lack of light it won’t be easy to find some decent shots during this trip but I try to focus on the positive side thinking that I would be able to produce images rarely seen otherwise.
Serbia, and especially Belgrade, played a pivotal role during the war and many of its former leaders have been trialled by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). On our last night, it comes as a surprise to find this graffito depicting Ratko Mladic, the general responsible for the infamous Srebrenica genocide, to many here still a national hero, that a brave hand has “corrected” with a red, bloody border , adding vampire fangs equally covered in blood. I cannot speak for the other words written in Cyrillic but I’m pretty sure that the “SMRT” that covers his eyes means death.]]>
People have been giving me some odd stares whenever I mentioned Serbia or Bosnia in these last days: probably they think that a travel photographer (or any normal person) should try to maximize his sunshine/beach opportunities whenever possible and the cold winds of Belgrade didn’t seem as a tantalizing option for many. Well, I’m going there anyway: forget shorts and sunglasses (and my beloved flip-flops) and enter gloves and winter jacket.
The plan is to stay there just for a few days, then move towards Sarajevo and wander around until the right picture pops up. Although I know it won’t be a long trip I have no set itinerary and I feel once again the rush that precedes a trip with no boundaries.
Off to packing!]]>
(a Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame, in Paris. It was 2007 and this was one of my very first pictures!)]]>
In another post I’ll tell you what happened during these last months, the story of how I became a full time nerd and of how I finally found the light at the end of the tunnel. For the time being though, let’s just celebrate! Have a look at the galleries already published, share on your favourite social network, subscribe to the feeds and come back soon!
(in the picture above a devotee prays in the Great Cao Dai Temple near Tay Nihn, Vietnam. Today I feel the same devotion for the Gods of the Internet as I approach this new adventure!)]]>
If you like what you see right now, why don’t you subscribe to the RSS feeds and come back in a few days?]]>