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An Unacknowledged Metaphor

The great limitations of photography: Obviously the images I’ve taken can’t possibly convey the feel of this place. The mountains of the mainland, including Vesuvius, turn out to be lifeless flat slivers on a blue horizon. Even a hasty sketch with charcoal or pen and ink would have more of a chance of capturing the depth and emotion of this scene.

A gray tiger-stripped cat comes to my table, looks up. I have no morsel to give her. She ambles off, and tries her begging routine on an English couple at another table. A flash of movement on the parapet catches my eye. It’s a white kitten, timidly exploring. She hops down and crawls into one of the big terra cotta flowerpots. I pick up the camera, move close.

On one of my birthdays back in America Vittoria gave me a handsome Fossil watch, accompanied by a card with a picture of a cute little kitten, very much like this one. Inside she wrote, “For the time we spend together, and for the future…” A few months later she apologized to me after one of our arguments, and she did it with an emailed photo of a precious little fuzzy ball of fur, with big innocent eyes. It worked.

My initial visits here to Castello Aragonese brought me great excitement. Oh, the history of this place! But now? And look. The young waitress who brings me an espresso is so clearly bored. And the silent English pair are not exactly overwhelmed by the view.

The photo of a kitten in a pot—which by the way could have been taken in a backyard in Trenton, New Jersey—has entirely more visual interest than the image of distant Vesuvius. Drama comes not from pretty scenery or the ghosts of history or a puerile reaction to something new, but rather from the presence of living things. Preferably in action.

As for the Fossil watch Vittoria gave me, it stopped working three years ago. It’s still in a drawer in my bedroom. There’s a metaphor here, but I don’t want to acknowledge it.

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Drama comes not from pretty scenery or the ghosts of history or a puerile reaction to something new, but rather from the presence of living things. Preferably in action.

I've wondered sometimes about the scenes you catch; people in action. Do they notice you with your camera? What's the common reaction if/when they do?

You're quite good at catching that feeling of something happening, which is one of the reasons I like your photography so.

Most of the time they don't notice me because the Nikon is in my hand, down at my side. Once in a while they hear the sound of the shutter (or more accurately, the sound of the SLR mirror flopping!), and they look at the camera then at me, curiously, but they're still not sure because usually at that point I turn my head and look away. Only once did I see a person react with anger. The rest just look surprised, but then quickly get over it. Now, there's always some anticipation going on here in the process of being on the prowl for interesting shots. Being fully alert you become attuned to subtle non-visual ques, like sound, that's involved in catching things in mid-flight, so to speak.. Footfalls, for instance. There's a rhythm in a person's gait that tells you when to hit the shutter button. And so on. I guess it can be boiled down to just BEING there, eyes open, and ready.

the vesuvio photo, .. could you admi to make it again with another light??cose blue sky doesnt help realy, but sunset or the best of all cloudy skyes or rainy ones, make greate photos i think its just a problem of lihght choose am+n hour with contrasts , etc.
the kitten is great but he is afffraid and skiny......pooor kitten , i lve cats above everything......

You're right about choosing the right time of day, etc. And the kitten wasn't quite sure it wanted to be there. I'm fond of cats as well.

bravo! That was beautiful. It's the very reason that I tend to prefer to photograph plants over houses, animals over plants, humans over animals, and children over adults.

I've always got my eye open for people involved in an argument, a fight. Or the insanity they call love.

Personally, I prefer the photo of the distant mountain. But maybe that's just me.

Well, actually the sight of Vesuvius always gives me a buzz, much more so than any kitten!

but rather from the presence of living things.

It doesn't matter where. One should be able to carry one's artistic eye anywhere, yes? I think that is partially what you meant. Well, the positive side.

For watches in drawers: he got me a watch from Paris. I wore it lovingly. Then I managed to step on it in a flurry of closing my window against the outside noise. Metaphor? Again, semiotics & I pull away, put the parts of the watch into a wooden box, deep brown varnish.

This post reminded me of Graham Greene--possibly for introspective travel thoughts, possibly for another----? As in: the English pair??

oi, too much, but as for photography: can't convey the way the air moves across the skin and into the nostrils, well, barely.


As an art form photography--the act of making an image--is as much connected to the deeply personal as a dream. There's an automatic recognition of the significance of a particular subject. The decision to press the shutter button comes when the scene most perfectly conforms to the coded message being sent up from the subconscious. Spooky. But very much worth attending to, both during and after.

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