A few weeks ago I entered a photo contest where we were able to submit photos which fell in the categories of “street photography, photojournalism and social documentary.” I picked four photos that immediately popped into my mind, all black and white and all had a special meaning to me. I went through the process of trying to name the photos, which was a requirement, and I had a terrible time trying to find names. I enlisted the help of friends, tried to come up with clever play-on-words with the theme of the contest which was “With Our Own Eyes” and nothing came to me. I eventually picked pretty boring names which probably didn’t help my entries but it was what I could come up with at the time.
The most interesting part of this whole fiasco was that instead of names, each of these photos’ stories kept popping into my head. These photos didn’t have a name, they had my personal stories and to me that was so much more meaningful than a name. Each of the people in these photos have a narrative and I would have loved to have known about each of them. I decided that I wanted to share each of the photos and tell the story or fantasy behind them and hopefully from this, you can have the same love/appreciation for these images as I do!
Location: Caffè Rivoire, Florence, Italy
In 2009, we stumbled into a cafe in Florence which is something out of a 1920’s fairy tale. Caffè Rivoire is located in the Piazza della Signoria on a corner, overlooking the entire square. Its stone facade, gold lettering and chocolate candy filled window displays made it look like an extremely upscale sweet shop. We stepped inside to escape the 100 degree day and immediately fell in love. The dark wood, gorgeous green marble counter tops, white tablecloths, waiters in white button up shirts and black vests milling about and the smells of the various baked goods, sweets and coffee bar were captivating. We took a spot at a small table and quickly realized when opening the menu that this place specialized in any kind of pastry, candy, ice cream treat and coffee you could think of. And it tasted just as good as it looked. Fast forward to 2015 and we returned, this time to escape the cold, for our third time. We were standing at the bar waiting for our coffee and treats when I spotted this older man at his table. The lighting, his outfit and the symbolism of what Rivoire stood for (in my opinion) was a perfect photo opportunity. It was common that the cafe’s in the piazza were full of tourists and in this gorgeous cafe, there was (what appeared to be) a regular patron who was dressed to the nines, going about his daily routine and everything just seemed to stop. I whipped out the film camera, praying that this photo would turn out, clicked the shutter and right when I did, it seemed like the world sped up again. There is no question that in the years to come, if I am lucky enough to go back to Florence, that Caffè Rivoire will be a recurring stop. I highly recommend anyone goes there, if not for the unreal treats and coffee but for the charm and the people watching.
Location: Scuola del Cuoio, Florence, Italy
During the same trip in 2015 as the photo I snapped above, we returned to one of our favorite (common theme, we are repeat customers) leather shops. The Scuola del Cuoio or School of Leather, in Florence is one of the most genuine and beautiful leather shops I have had the pleasure of walking through and purchasing from. Inside of an the old Monastery of Santa Croce, you have to walk through doorways, courtyards and up stairs to find this hidden gem. Their pieces are hand crafted works of art and you know the top notch quality you will receive is unmatched. We went in with a mission for a leather jacket, a handbag and a travel bag. Much like the man in the cafe photo, when I walked down the dimly lit brick hallway which was lined with illuminated glass cases filled with all kinds of colorful masterpieces, I zeroed in on this man, hard at work creating the next leather piece. It isn’t often that we get to see the “behind-the-scenes” of high-end leather shops and with this being a school, it was a treat to be able to see the actual pieces being made. You have an image in your mind of what you want the final photograph to look like, which is much easier to accomplish with digital photography these days, but when a using a film camera, there is a sort of agony and mental game you play with yourself. Should I take another photo? Is my exposure okay? Did someone move? None of which you can fix or know until the film is developed. When you are shooting in black and white, your mind does something funny where you start to “see” things in black and white and automatically know if something will look striking. I stood there, only took one photo of this man and prayed that it would turn out how I imagined it in my mind. Luckily, it did, and I now have one of my favorite photos from our trip.
Location: Giotto’s Campanile, Florence, Italy
As a tourist in Florence or any city, one of the most important tips I can give is to get your behind out of bed at the crack of dawn and see the city before everyone else wakes up. One morning in 2012 we got up and decided we were going to climb the Campanile which is the tall clock tower building attached to the Duomo of Florence before it got too hot. We made it to the top, took some great photos and on our way down I noticed this woman taking a photo of the Duomo. Now, this photo would be beautiful without her in it, but the way she was standing and the scale she gave to the image was fascinating and I thought would make a great photo. I took a couple of pictures and instead of looking at them, decided to keep moving down the worn stone stairs to catch up with my family. When I uploaded the image I was blown away. Not only was the lighting perfect and the depth almost three-dimensional, but the sense of fantasy/fairy tale I felt from this photo and continue to feel every time I see it makes it one of my favorite photos I have ever taken. I wish I could have sent this photo to this woman. For myself, this photo symbolizes that amazing things can happen when you don’t overthink something. I could have easily tried to set this photo up and not come close to the same result but instead trusted what I had snapped. Be confident in your talent!
Location: Rome, Italy
Back-lit images can be one of the most striking genres of photographs out there. The stark contrast between every layer of the photo tells a beautiful story. Here, in Rome, we were walking across a rather large Piazza in front of a government building. The opportunity to take this photo was quick with different people in the frame moving about and the government cars driving in the piazza has momentarily halted. The harsh shadows of the buildings assisted in the overall look and this is one of my favorite pictures to date. It is classic, has perfect values of black, white and grey and has great texture in the foreground. It’s not everyday, especially with back-lit photos, that little to no editing needs to be done, as is the case here. I love this image and I hope you do too!
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