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Beneath The Surface

“Your images are always compelling, my friend, but this one is particularly beautiful,” Harold said. He contemplated one of the pictures I took last week at Villa Arbusto.
“Thanks,” I said.
“I’m curious as to how you managed to capture such poignancy. I’ve been to Arbusto many times and I recognize the terrace and flowered vines and arbors, but I’ve never seen it look like this.”
“Well, I’d like to claim that I had a lot to do with it but, as you may recall, last Saturday was an extraordinarily clear day. You could see the mainland all the way to Gaeta and beyond.”
“I hadn’t noticed, actually.”
“The light was rare. It comes perhaps only once or twice a year. It makes ugly things beautiful, and beautiful things almost mystical.”
“Yes, of course. But it takes an artist to recognize the potential of the atmospherics, don’t you think?”
“I was there. I had a camera. And I took the shots.”
“And we are all the richer for it, lad.”
“Thanks again.”

Harold has never been one to let any given subject go. For this man there always is more to be understood, much more to be said. Which is one of the multitude of reasons I am grateful that we are friends.

He wanted to know what, exactly, happens when I raise the camera and frame a scene in the viewfinder. “In what way is that act analogous to that of the poet, who chooses words and their sequence, or the novelist who arranges sentences and paragraphs?” he asked. “To what extent does your subconscious come to play?”

“Jesus, Harold. I’ll have to think about that for a while.”
“Well, allow me to give you a few nudges.”
“Go ahead.”
“You’ve often talked about the Italian Renaissance poet Vittoria Colonna, haven’t you?”
“And you have drawn parallels between her and YOUR Vittoria, have you not?”
“I have.”
“And you’ve said that role playing is the major connection between the two?”
“Yes. Vittoria Colonna wrote love poems to her absent husband, even though by all accounts there was no love in the marriage. For her they were merely a literary topos, a useful convention. She just played the part of the loving wife.”
“And her beautiful but fictional love poems made her famous as a literary figure.”
“That it did,” I said. “But come on, Harold. What’s the connection between all that and my Villa Arbusto pictures?”
Harold smiled. “It’s perfectly obvious, lad.”
I looked at the images again, one after another. What could he be talking about? “I’m sorry,” I said. “You’ll just have to enlighten me.”
“Of the six images, three of them are of columns.”
“Come on, Harold. Spit it out.”
“Colonna is Italian for column.”
I shook my head. “You are absolutely out of this world.”
“And look," he said, "on each column flowers and vines are superimposed. These are an obvious representation of the feminine. And here, in two of the pictures the flowers and vines cast rather ominous looking shadows against the texture of the column. Verrrrry interesting stuff that mirrors your Vittoria’s struggle with the adoption thing, her identity.”

“There is more.”
I laughed. “Of that I have no doubt.”
“Vittoria Colonna’s role playing in the 16th century is a nice parallel to your Vittoria’s biological mother, the famous movie actress Maria Marrella. So perhaps all of this is what moved you to raise the camera on Arbusto’s terrace last Saturday.”

* * *

Back home I went to my photo file and dug out one of the shots I took of the frescos at the convent of Sant’ Antonio di Padova. Back then I was immediately captivated by a lovely representation of Vittoria. It was eerie, the resemblance between that Renaissance figure and the girl I loved. The painting spoke to me. I heard her voice clearly. Still hear it.

I put the picture back on the table.

A strange sensation enveloped me. I’m now in wholly alien territory, I thought. I put both hands over my face. My throat tightened. Harold had nudged me, all right. How long have I gone along, wholly unaware of the stuff always lurking beneath the surface of things?

Vittoria Colonna CU LJ

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to have your words enhancing OUR enjoyment of your photography. For instance, I did not recognize the white background as columns... I just thought it was a wall, I guess. Poor powers of observation on my part!

Good to keep one's readers guessing every now and again!

I was afraid we'd driven you away, hounding you so to give James equal time in the revealing photo department... LOL!

I really do prefer the photos integrated into the story. I guess we are into instant gratification. We want it all, right NOW.

BTW, I love your professor character's quirky mind that delves into connections that are so implausible nobody else would ever think of drawing them. He's great!

Just keep pointing the way. We'll follow along eventually.

As always, your comments are welcomed and appreciated. Glad to hear that you like the professor, because intellectuals and academics usually put folks off, don't they?

And no, I wasn't driven away by the clamor to show more of James's flesh. I'm slowing down a bit on this thing because I'd like to let it sit a while before I decide where to take it next.

Thanks again!

Perhaps the average Joe, if he/she even exists, feels threatened by those with an INTELLECT. And, possessing one, heaven forfend if you deign to USE it!

Say, I read one post where someone got the first cd of your book. I have not gotten mine, yet. Are they generally "out"?

Yes, the CDs should all have been mailed some time ago. Give it a couple more days, and if it doesn't arrive please write Paul & ask him to send you another copy.


Meanwhile, Paul is constructing a site that contains the whole thing. Most of it is up and running as we speak, here.

My agent is using the site as a backup to the CD, in case publishers have a problem running it (some MACs don't autostart and some links don't work), so it's not out there for general consumption.

(Deleted comment)
Thanks, and good luck with the job hunt!

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