Blognotes from a photographer life...

Dec 31, 2009

2010: BACK&FORWARD... FAST FORWARD


2010 is almost here... welcome! 2010 will reveal us some important news.. News about what our job will really need to become to survive. And what our life will become if we really want to follow up the news. Some guys are already opting for the way back: film, black and white, and a different job to make enough money to live. Others are decidedly going forward: photo, video, audio, mixed together and web-ready. Some keep covering news, in a good way sometimes, and wish for the world to show some interest. Many seat and wait. They wait to see where we are really heading, planning to join on the way. As usual they will not make it.
Me? Well, "me" is planning to keep doing what "me" likes, finds interesting, and hopes others will find interesting too. Mostly "me" will try to put a lot of evolution in his photographic style, in his way to show a situation and his way to tell a story.
2010 will be a difficult year. But is in difficult times that the best comes out, or disappear forever. Happy 2010!

Dec 25, 2009

VENTURA X-MAS

Many (but really many, many) years ago, feels like another life, while shooting the book on LA for Bonechi publisher, I was driving with my friend Graziano my convertible on the Ventura Highway going to Santa Barbara to visit my friends at Islands magazine. Then the radio played Ventura Highway by the America, and, gosh, the feeling for two former DJ was amazing.. like being in the real thing come true from just a song..
Yesterday I had almost the same feeling hearing the children of the Christian school just outside my window in Bangkok singing Christmas songs. Well, honestly my first reaction was "I can't escape X-mas even in Buddhist Thailand!" But then, well, I had to realize that the world is coming to this. This amazing mix of cultures and traditions that will make everybody better (??!!??)...
It's useless to escape life.. Better try to understand and embrace it with all what it takes.. After all, before Christians transformed it, this was the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, the beginning of nature rebirth after the fall.. Let's look at it this way.. I don't know how real this rebirth will be in our world, but better be part of it then consider it an alien celebration..
So, "Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence"...

Dec 23, 2009

ETHIC & AESTHETIC

I was at a documentary photography show here in Bangkok recently. Some well known photographers (I'll skip the names) are exposing some strong images of news events around the region. At first I was impressed, but then the familiar sensation of uneasiness came to me.
The photos were perfect, just too perfect. Perfect balance in light, composition, combination. Nothing against it, of course: I am a strong supporter of well composed images. But I find questionable the intentions behind them. After many years of profession, living in the photography environment, doing and seeing workshops, I know that the photo itself is the real scope of many authors. The suffering of the subjects is just an excuse, a drama addition to a purely aesthetic project.
I think a great misunderstanding has developed in the photographer's scope. The famous photos of Life magazine, the perfectly composed Ethiopia and Workers images of Sebastiao Salgado, have been seen as something different from their journalistic message. Photography has become self-referential. This is a major problem that, I think, will lead to the end of photojournalism as a real profession leaving only artists on the way.
One should be honest in declaring his own intentions. Too much talking about style and technique and no mention of the situations photographed is a clear sign of this trend. Years ago, Alexandra Boulat, while we were teaching at TPW, talked to me after my slide show. She had the same feeling I had and criticized the easiness with which a tragic moment can add strength to an image. Her photos were journalistic, she died searching stories, not aesthetic options.
Young photographers should keep this in mind. Using the suffering of people as a mere addendum to their composition is not only ethically unfair, is also the betrayal of a honest documentary photographer.

Dec 14, 2009

CALENDAR 2010.. BUT FOR YOUR DESKTOP ONLY!

Sorry guys, no printed calendar for 2010! We have to save money to keep the studio going! But I asked Walter (Manolesta) to design one for your desktop anyway.. Not same same, as they say here, but better then nothing!
You can download the images from my website at THIS LINK in different formats, depending on your screen. Only the largest are full frame, otherwise they are cropped.
If you encounter any problem let me know. Thanks! And let's wish ourself a better 2010. As Garfield says "good times are in the past, good times are ahead, one thing is sure, they are not here right now!"

Dec 13, 2009

A HOUSE ON THE LAKE

Just back in Bangkok after two weeks in Burma. I find the modern city a bit deceiving. Over the border the air is less tense then usual, and bits of openings are clear. You can have a telephone card, although very limited; you can browse most of the Internet except sensible sites; you can use your GMail account (all the others are blocked, probably because checking a single one is easier). People are also much more relaxed and hopeful: next year elections are seen as a great opportunity, even if other occasions have failed in the past. But to a more attentive look you can't miss the obvious: the menacing grim on the soldier faces; the privileges that the few in the establishment have, preserve and show-off; the sense of fear that emerges when one's feel has gone "too far".
Once again I understand that the international community may push the military rulers to release some of the control, convince China that it's control would be not compromised by a bit of freedom, but in the end only the people could change things. That people have the government they deserves is a fact. Burmese are really lacking the urge to react, the will to change for good. It's true that the country separation in major ethnic groups plays in the hands of the dictators, but every group seems to be minding it's own interests only. And the Burmese, the ruling group, are not willing to give up their control, with or without the military in power.
What will happen in this wonderful land is not easy to guess, although probably change will be slow, to avoid an inter-ethnic bloodshed. And when change will come everybody is ready to jump in. The cultural and artistic treasures, really unique, will be surrounded by fast development like in the rest of Asia, and most of the soul will vaporize. "Freedom" will be costly, right but costly.
Enlightened Burmese know this danger, and demand evolution rather the revolution. But the outside pressure will be too big to hold. China is already building a major containers port on the Indian Ocean and the road to carry it's merchandise there. Thailand is pumping most of the country gas. India is using it's oil. While in here electricity is scarce, gasoline expensive, vehicles 20 years old.
There is this house on the lake in Yangon. Aung San Suu Kyi lives here, less guarded then the houses of her jailers. She represents the contradictions of this nation, but also the right to determine freely everybody's own destiny. As far as the world will let Burmese awake and grow.

Nov 29, 2009

OFF TO BURMA... OFF THE CONNECTED WORLD

Time do head to Myanmar. Two weeks in the beloved land of smiles, of shadows, of fear. My travel plans there are not clear, and even if they were it would be better not to announce them on line. They will change daily anyway, given the punctual obstacles created...
Just to say that I'll be back in Bangkok around December 13th...
Oh, yes: Max has a new apartment here in Bangkok. This is HIS private view... Don't jump!

Nov 24, 2009

WHERE ARE THE PROSTITUTES? WHERE ARE THE PEDOPHILES?

We (me and Massimo Morello) were really enraged last night. We were told on how some colleagues, or kind of, and obviously with a larger wallet and narrower experience, on a well paid assignment in Cambodia, were asking to visit the "brothel area" in Phnom Penh (there is not such thing here, although prostitution is widespread) possibly to catch pedophiles in action..
How can a professional be so narrow minded? How can he fall into such superficial reading of a tragic reality that is not unique to this country? What is this, "pedophiles wonderland"?
Reading the Italian newspapers these days one should think that trans-gression is as common in our Catholic nation as it is in here... At least here they post large billboards advising against it: do use child prostitution and you'll end in jail.. for good!
It's the same common place I have to face every time I say I'm based in Bangkok for months in a year: smiles, chit-chat, requests of practical indications. Like if the Orient has one thing only: long strips full of brothels. And brothels full of children for sale. Come on!
Yes, this is a tragic problem (of which, by the way, our magazine refuse to talk because it's well too known, and not interesting anymore!!) but is common to many parts of the world. To our cities suburbs, per instance (see my post on Vigevano, for once).
But this problem has a different background in this part of Asia (also different dimensions, I agree) and is part of a cultural reality that deserves to be analyzed. Asia, and South East Asia are a complex reality that is more vital, both economically and socially, then the west. They are overtaking us, guys!!!
So, stop thinking of this part of the world as a gigantic open-air brothel: this is the Asia Century going fast.. with a lot of problems and contradictions yes! That's the larger story! Dear colleagues, read more and open your mind..
(By the way, for those who need indications.. this picture was taken last Friday, in remote Koh Kong. There there is a brothel alley, with huts hided in the countryside, full of young, destitute girls. They wait for Indonesian sailors, and costs 4 Euro an hour. No telephone though.)

Nov 23, 2009

HANDS ON... HANDS OFF... CAMBODIA'S UNCERTAINTY..

"Nice nails, miss... but keep that passport behind... please?" She pushes her way to the hole in the customs window, on the Thai-Cambodia border. Standing in line is not the national sport here, but the farang (foreigners) still gain some respect, or contempt... enough to keep your position anyway!
This may be one of the many growing contradictions in today's Cambodia: pink fake nails change the look, not the attitude...
Cambodia is changing, yes, but how? The hundreds of NGO, that have been creating for years now a kingdom of privileges inside the kingdom of poverty and desperation, are finally achieving some evident results. Something eventually ended to the Cambodians too. To some Cambodians, at least. Lexus and Hummers are to be seen in the jam of motorcycles and Tuck-Tuck, and elegant villas are visible behind trees, high walls and tons of barbed wire. Elegant malls are appearing, but small shops still prevail. No big names in the windows, yet.
NGO
Land has it's own quarter in the capital city: small "boutique" hotels and trendy cafes respond to the young "volunteers workers" need to feel comfortable -like modern colonialists- but not guilty, patronizing large estabilishments.
The Phnom Penh contradictions are on every corner and every street. You don't need to go in the suburbs or in the countryside (that would make an easy target for critics like myself). The fact is I don't really grasp the sense of the place: sitting on the Mekong riverside, in the French-style bistro, I feel comfortable, like in the old-backpack-smart-times. In the Silver Pagoda walls I see the frescos falling and decaying: how nice for pictures. And then there are shops, boutiques, Chinese stands, food... If it was not for the guy walking on his hands, reminding me that we are in a country where arms and legs are an optional, I would wonder... Where am I? In the heart of Asia's transition? Transition?

Nov 14, 2009

ONE VISA FOR HELL, ONE FOR NIRVANA...

Got the Visa to enter Burma, once again... This time it sounded less obvious, even if they say the country is "opening"... I really thought they would deny me the possibility to go back into the land I really love, as photographer as well as traveler..
My first time there was in 1998, and very little has changed. Practically nothing for the Burmese. This may be a photographer paradise, but represents a drama to the population. We know and understand why. I have some difficult program there: let's see what I'll be able to achieve..
At the same time we keep working on the magical tattoo practice between Thailand and Cambodia: and this is considered a Visa stamped on your body for protection, or for a straight passage to heaven!
Hard to believe how easier it is to get a Visa for Heaven instead of one for Hell..

Nov 7, 2009

WHILE MY ICE IS MELTING...

When the sun is hot (really hot) and you need a break, you seat and drink.. Here, in Malacca, the day was really hot.. They say that a Coke is as good as Polase to reintegrate your salts.. But even a Coke is no help when the heat cooks your brain. So my mind wanders as my iPhone takes pictures of the melting ice, but with little avail..
With Massimo we talk of ideas, projects, coming travels.. and then we realize the desolation of what we left home, the scarcity of stimulus, the absence of counterparts.. But, we tell ourselves, with indomitable optimism, that this is the time to chase new ways and evolve old ideas.. This is the time to put our many years of experience at work.. It's on us, the experienced, the task to trace new ways, eventually new patterns.. But is it worth, is it required, is it wished for?
And so we keep cooking our brains until they melt like my Coke ice.. And finally it's time to stand up and go back to shoot. Colonial Malacca is out here, full of the global stereotypes.. What a drag!

Nov 4, 2009

THE JUNGLE MAKES ME ROMANTIC...

Well, sort of.. romantic! Walking again in (what is left) of the original forest in Cameron Highlands, in the heart of the Malaysian peninsula, allows my thoughts to flow.. and they flow far, probably as far as they can from the daily reality..
Ok, I could talk of those buildings emerging from the trees (destruction of the environment, disappearance of the forest).. Or I could remember the desolation I find back home when I try to communicate these stories (crisis: editorial, economical, cultural).. Or, well, more empty glasses..
But I rather talk of the Dragon I found in George Town, Penang, exactly 31 years after.. Still on the tile of the Chinese Clan House, still looking with a mix of compassion and longing the other Dragon swallowed by the waves.. Still sweet and reassuring in it's kindness..
Well, we live in a age of snakes, but some are dragons, and it's worth looking for them.. Keep look for them..

Oct 25, 2009

VIETNAM WORKSHOP ON MARCH 2010


The TPW HANOI WORKSHOP is now officially planned. Below is the presentation. For more detail visit the TPW website.

The soul of contemporary Vietnam is a mosaic of histories. Those that left their mark more than others are the thousand plus years of Chinese domination, French colonialism, and the final push westward in the war of liberation against the United States. However, it is the personality of the Vietnamese that emerges intact overall: proud, indomitable nationalists, flexible and resistant like bamboo. Hanoi is the city that best synthesizes this reality: the least recent history in the Taoist temples, the charm of French architecture and habits, and the desire for American modernization. The millions of motorcycles that flood the streets are the blood of a rapidly-growing body, despite its one thousand years of life. In the semi-darkness of the houses, there are scenes of life that go from one extreme to another.

Our workshop wants to try and document this exact variety. Not the distraction of monuments that don’t exist or fading panoramas, but rather the research of human stories that are different, yet parallel. The exploration of different quarters, different souls, and contrasting cultures despite the same past and a common future.

To establish a relationship with the Vietnamese is easy. The challenge will be to go beyond, to deepen the acquaintance, gathering it in particularly conspicuous aspects and significant images. In other words, to construct a history of today’s Vietnamese, very far from those represented in post-Vietnam movies on the war (an event that, on the other hand, the young Vietnamese don’t remember at all). Finally, a “dissertation” on Halong Bay, one of the natural wonders of the world. Even the Chinese emperors considered it a tourist destination. For us, it will be a further chance to see how the modern Vietnam deals with tourism.

We will spend one day and night on a junk (small boat) and will visit small towns like Cat Ba, which have transformed into small Miami Beaches where kitsch dominates.

Oct 23, 2009

A FEELING I LIKE...

What is the "feeling at home" sensation we always talk about? Is it the reassurance of a place, a house, friends and family or familiar faces? Maybe the knowledge that such a place exists even when you are away for long periods, and that you'll find it when you'll be back? Or is just the familiarity of a street corner where you cross the road every day, have your food every night, smile to smiling faces?
To me it's difficult to say nowadays. I feel like I'm achieving that state of mind when your home is more then one. Your friends are widespread in the whole world (this was happening from a long time, though) and I thank Facebook because I can keep contacts that were long faded before..
My project for life, roughly decided when I was 18, at the very end of my first trip, was to dedicate it to discover this world. The meaning was different then: people and customs were different from a country to the other, let alone continents. What my life experience can testify is how humanity has globalized itself. Europeans are much more similar and united then their governments; developing countries are now becoming super-powers and soon will be controlling their controllers.
And so I find myself in this global environment, feeling comfortable among the food stalls of Bangkok as sitting in my Tuscan garden. Achievement or Loss? Achievement, I hope... Even in these hard times, even in the face of a worldwide crisis with deepening prospectives, I think I can cross the patterns of humanity with relative ease.
Exotic is nothing, except what we want to see as such... The tale we need to tell, to photograph, is not that of different places but rather that of common people with common life goals...

Oct 19, 2009

FOIANO FOTOGRAFIA FRIENDS & Co

Thanks everybody for the time, energy and ideas shared at Foiano. The show has a great environment and presentation, yes, but above all is all the enthusiasm emanating from the young photographers that is a beam of light in this time of darkness... keep the light alight!!!


MILIONE WORKSHOP FINAL SHOTS


Was a good, intense, working weekend in Pisa, at the Milione Travel Writing and Photography workshop. As usual the best feeling is coming from the enthusiasm of the participants, but also from sharing experiences and ideas. I need to thank all of the guys there, Alessandro and all the stuff for keeping the intense program going.. And here are some images from all of the 19 protagonists: not bad for just 3 hours of shooting..

Oct 9, 2009

BUSY WEEK... PISA & FOIANO...

Next week will be busy, and, hopefully, interesting..
Thursday through Saturday the collective workshop in Pisa (already booked out) then...
on Saturday evening the inauguration of Foiano Fotografia, with my show on China Influence among other interesting shows and events... Friends are invited..

Oct 5, 2009

PROVINCIAL LIFE

Shooting the Piazza Ducale of Vigenano (not far from Milan). I was spending the weekend contemplating the quintessence of the provincial life in this wealthy region of northern Italy. How regular, conventional, tranquil, and rich it all appears. Teenagers show-off their signed casual look and prepare for the next stage. Which is being 35 years old couples strolling with their newborn. Middle aged gentleman sips their aperitifs, read the center-right wing newspapers, talk politics. And aged ladies, in perfect attires, comment on life, gossip on neighbors, and compliment the new perfect-looking-35-years-old-couples- with babies and good jobs, even if... and gossip goes on..
Oh yes, with different looks it's the same as it is in large part of this world. This is the "regular" life... But, why I do have this amazing sensation of malaise? Why I do strongly feel uncomfortable? Why I thank "God" for my so unconventional, irregular, so much different from this, life?
Maybe it's because the feeling of emptiness is everywhere. Maybe it's because I start understanding the why of all the sex-shops hided in the suburbs and the many East-European prostitutes walking on the ring road and coming to the hotel even at 10 in the morning.. Maybe..
Where is all the good sense left us by philosophers, history, culture, tradition (or even simple proverbs) on how to give life some sense of real fulfillment? Grasping to this fake sense of wealth and tranquility is all what life is about? Protect you little garden (maybe voting for a xenophobic party) and age quickly is all they wish for?

Sep 24, 2009

RUSSIAN ELDERS

Elder people are the real victims in modern Russia. It breaks my heart to see so many of them walking like strangers, but I should say ghosts, in the streets of the city. They were educated and grown in the socialist culture: everything was planned for them. All they had to do was working and follow the rules. What was important was the social equilibrium. They liked culture, reading a lot, art, social venues. Then suddenly found themselves in a strange, out of a new world new era. Some clever guys stole the economy from them (the modern “oligarchs” in fact sustained by the political elite), and the young generations jumped into the new life system. Money and personal success, a complete new concept, are central to it.
And here they are: hopelessly trying to cope with the new world, trying to survive it for the few remaining years of their life. And this is exactly what the government is hoping for: for the old generation to disappear leaving room to the new capitalistic oriented new one.
It’s a change, ok, but a too sharp for most of them. I see them climbing on the crowded tube, shying into a seat, discomforted with their cheap clothes, their eyes lowered to the floor all the time. This was their land, their country. They fought and worked for it. And now all they asked for is to die as soon as possible. All is given them is indifference, a big nothing.

Sep 22, 2009

MOSCOW: ANGELS AND DEVILS


Moscow 17 years after... after my first, and only time here... Changes? Many, changes... But not so many, after all... The atmosphere is still the same. I feel like Socialism has gone from a short time and people are living still in a transitional era... Many poor are begging on the sidewalks while BMW and Hammers are jammed in the traffic a few steps away.
This is not just an impression: everybody is confirming that life is difficult for most of the Moscovite. For a few is just basking in gold. I wonder how is life far from the capital: some says is desperate.. And this is a super-power? A resources-rich country? So much to say, so much to criticize, still all is a deja-vu, the useless cry of an unjust world...
Angels and devils are populating days and nights in Moscow. But I think angels are turning into devils when time comes: nobody is innocent here. I would divide the city among clever guys and naive survivors...
You walk in the street, you rise a finger and a car stops to carry you anywhere you want. It’s not a taxi but all you need to do is discuss a price. Just like 17 years ago. Just like any undeveloped country.


Sep 10, 2009

SHOW AT FOIANO FOTOGRAFIA

On October 17, in Foiano (Arezzo, Italy), will be inaugurated the Foianofotografia photography festival, dedicated this year to documentary images of the world (Casa-Mondo is the title).
I'll be present with a 15 images shows dedicated to my new project on "Chinese Shadows over Asia". This is in fact, and I titled it accordingly, the starting point of the project. The images are more like "notes" of what I'll be looking for, rather then a presentation of what the work will look like in the end. I like to throw stones in the water and see the reactions, understand the feelings and interests, focusing on the path that can be too wide and misleading..

FESTIVAL DEL VIAGGIO - WORKSHOP IN PISA


On October 15-17 I'll be teaching at the Festival del Viaggio in Pisa at the workshop "Writing and Photography in Travel", an intense 3 days full immersion with a lot of brain-storming. For further details see the Festival del Viaggio website.

Nei giorni 15-17 ottobre sarĂ² tra gli insegnati del workshop "scrittura e fotografia di viaggio" tenuto da Festival del Viaggio a Pisa. Tre giorni con molti interventi, gran brain-storming, e una full immersion nella materia. Per ulteriori dettagli consultate il sito relativo.

Sep 6, 2009

FRENCH MIRRORS (& LIGHTS...)

Paris is the Ville Lumiere, we know... photographers paradise since the beginning of photography. But we have to recognize the French an incredible sensibility for underlining the value of their beauties: fashion and make up for women, labels for bottles of wine.. and of course light for photographers. Nowhere like here (well, maybe in some Chinese metropolis, but they copied) the lighting of streets, monuments, shops and homes is done with so much taste and skills that seems organized by photographers themselves. (Hei, we have a new job!)..
And now I found also mirrors! In the Convent de Jacobins in Toulouse, where the gothic roof is the main feature, they placed a large polarizing mirror on the floor so that you don't need to look up and imagine... The flower-like arches are sharp below you, and you can admire (and photograph) with ease... It's not a big thing, but shows a sensibility for vision that is rare in this image-rich imagination-poor world...

Sep 4, 2009

PERPIGNAN & FRIENDS...


Still, the real reason why to be in Perpignan is still worth, of course, are friends...

CAFE' TITANIC.. PERPIGNAN

I repeat myself, again, and again, and again... But I'm like the watcher on the Titanic that is screaming not "Iceberg! Iceberg!" (that was a while ago) but instead "water, lot of water in the ship! we are going to sink soon!!"...
And the reaction at the Grand Cafe de la Poste (the "salotto" in Perpignan's VISA) is still the same: more wine, and beer, and hidden-under-the-table-bottles-of-whiskey.. No, not to forget. On the contrary.. Still talking more of the future in photojournalism, the coming projects, the ever-under-the-arm portfolios to show at any given occasion...
But very few professionals (photographers, agents, photo editors) are in Perpignan this year, or, at least, much less then usual. Who works and lives producing images (we hope good, valuable, useful images) feels like VISA is not helping in these troubled times. What we should be talking about in here is how the future should shape itself rather then keep doing less and less of the old same..
Where would be a better place and occasion then at this world forum where all the actors are congregating for a week? And I find ridiculous that on the VISA website the very opening is declearing that "photojournalism is dead" and then is proposing no discussion and confrontation on the matter: what is this, a requiem?
I see good, strong photos in the exhibitions, and is sad to know that very few of them will find some pages where to be published (therefore being seen, fulfilling their journalistic mission..)
Where are the discussions on the new media, the new ethical parameters, the problems of accessing the real news for the ever more controlled reporters? Where?
Somebody is still asserting that the real important thing is to stick to the technical limits inherited from the chemical darkroom!!! What? Whaaaat?
The world is changing, changing fast... and the Titanic is sinking, even faster... Let's save all what is worth saving of our precious, essential part of culture and information..

Aug 28, 2009

iPhone-Summer


Confession: I love Apple! My first Apple (still not called Mac) was dated 1985. And I'm a faithful person, at least when it comes to technology..
And of course I love the iPhone, the applications and implications, with music and photography above all.
Normally I don't bring a camera with me, if I'm not working.. But the iPhone, or better, it's photo applications, changed this for me...
Now I take little "real-photos" of my simple "daily-life"... And here is a short diary of my summer.. with home, motorcycle, TPW, family and friends...

Aug 21, 2009

THE WEB SITE IS NOW ON-NEW STORIES



The web site is now definitive and on-line, with all the stories, more then 60, visible in Flash. The portfolios were updated too. If you visit it and find that corrections are needed please let me know..

Aug 14, 2009

ONLY ONE WEB SITE (FOR NOW)

Just to clarify the new web situation... Now that the new web site at pistolesiphoto.com is live, I have redirected the other two directories (pistolesi.com and andreapistolesi.com) on this site as well. I think the new design is in fact filling the need that was temporarily given to these: a lighter showcase of my work.
I plan to design an on-line gallery that will end on a new site.. But this is not for the immediate future.. Thanks for your patience!

Aug 13, 2009

NEW WEBSITE TO TEST

Hello guys, the newly remade web site pistolesiphoto.com is now live.
I would appreciate opinions, suggestions, corrections.
The philosophy and intentions of the remake are clear: less, more updated material, in a more interactive presentation (lot of Flash galleries now).
I feel like the web site is more a presentation of my work then a light box for photo editors. Therefore the portfolios have been updated with what I like to do today.
Also, I keep in mind the existence of this blog, as well as of Facebook, for news and contacts.
Your feedback will be very much appreciated!

Aug 2, 2009

AND, ABOUT MY PRESENTATION...


This was my slideshow at TPW... A selection of my work in Asia this year. What I wanted to show is really how schizophrenic my work has been: from dieing refugees in Bangladesh to the five stars night life in Kuala Lumpur in a few days.. And so on.. But if you follow this blog you know already..

TPW WORKSHOP FINAL SLIDESHOW


The TPW workshop was in fact concluded on Friday night with the students slideshow. You can see it here so you can appreciate the good work the guys did.
This year I radically changed the scope of the week. Instead of working on the making of a story potentially destined for publication, I asked the students to work on a single project of their choice. The focus was to make a gallery of images that should work as a photographic story: the results are here, and I was positively impressed. Especially because none of the guys wished to become a professional photographer (which, I think, is a great starting point: freedom of expression comes first, whenever possible!).
In other words, given the hard times, I think we should concentrate on producing good images and good stories. The publication, of any sort, will come sooner or later, if what we do is interesting (and good)!!

Jul 17, 2009

SABAH REPORTAGE ON L'ESPRESSO

If you have seen and found interesting my post on The Last Eden of Sabah, on May 12, you may like to know that the reportage was published today on L'Espresso news magazine.
Once again they did a great job. Thanks.
Waiting for their multimedia presentation you can see all the images of this work on my web site at this link http://www.pistolesiphoto.com/sabah.html

Jul 12, 2009

INTERESTED IN STATISTICS?

I don't like to give numbers much importance when it comes to professional photography... But the recent four months trip in Asia is a good opportunity to fetch some indications.. Some friends had asked how much I had shoot, how many were edited and so on...
Here are some data.
Four months were spent based in Bangkok and shooting in Bangladesh, Northern Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam, Philippines, China and Borneo.
The shots taken with Nikon D3X (90%) and D3 were around 35.000.
The final selection for what I call the core, in fact my archive, amounts to 3800 images, a bit less then 11%. What is going into major stock agency is around 1,5%.
The selection of the selection has produced 14 stories (for large or minor publications) comprising around 600 images. The first time publication will amount to around 120 images.
It took four months to shoot all this material. Around one month the post-production.
If you like numbers this can be interesting.
I think the real question will be "how many images are really good, really worth looking to, and remember.." The answer is possible only after digesting the photos, getting free from collateral images in my mind..

Jul 2, 2009

TPW WORKSHOP: ALMOST THERE...

The Workshop at TPW (see the intro page) will start on July 26th in Tuscany. If you want to participate.. nice and welcome!! But the main reason for this post is the wish to share some adjustments to the theme due to the new Editorial situation in the world.
I feel like we need to explore new ways on creativity, professional attitude, and marketing yourself in general. This means that I'll try to widen the scope of our work together in view of what is expecting all of us in the near future. The new media and photo requirements in particular will be part of our discussions.
If you are already enrolled, or planning to do so, and you wish to share more thoughts before we start, you are more then welcome to contact me.

KUALA LUMPUR FOR L'ESPRESSO - ALL THE IMAGES

The recently published reportage on Kuala Lumpur is visible in it's totality at this link on L'Espresso website http://espresso.repubblica.it/multimedia/home/6450683

Jun 17, 2009

BELFAST UNCERTAIN PEACE

Sounds like a long pilgrimage back on my footsteps, I know, but I can't avoid remembering.. I came to Northern Ireland over twenty years ago. It was the beginning of the end of the Trouble, the fight, the killings.. In fact the subject of the story I was to shoot for Atlante magazine was the idea of going back visiting this region, open it to international contacts, help healing the wounds.. The reality was still tense: I was stopped on a country road at dusk by English soldiers who checked my passport. The officer told me "welcome to the UK!".. I said "It's a warm welcome to Ireland.." he looked at me and said "..a very warm welcome indeed!"
Well, it's a different story now. No border crossing with the Republic, flocks of Irish coming here to shop thanks to a weaker Pound, and many tourists visiting the region. And visiting even Belfast that in those years was not even worth a few hours stop. The city is improving, offering services and sightseeing. The Titanic construction dock has become a tourist attraction itself.
But, more surprising on how history redefine itself, there is even a tour to the political murals that signed the territory, and were in fact a warning to where you could go only if you belonged to a certain group. The community just sponsored a project for new murals, this time dedicated to history and peace, to disguise the wary message that the old images keep reminding.
A need probably stronger then what it looks at first sight. The divisions where, and still are, in the poorest areas of the city. The feeling is that a crisis could easily restart a fight among these guys that still shows loyalist and republican tattoos on their arms.. And the economic crisis of these times, badly felt in here, could be a dangerous ignition..

Jun 13, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR REPORTAGE ON L'ESPRESSO

This week the Kuala Lumpur reportage was published on L'Espresso news magazine. The guys did a great job, and I feel is worth praising them in this time of superficial, low quality publications.. Thanks!

DUBLINERS


Years back, well, several years back, I came to Dublin on the James Joyce footprints. The project was to shoot a story based on some of his sentences from Dubliners and Ulysses: few, abstract images, with a strong link to the mood of the poetry rather then to faces and places. I found what I was looking for, the story was published, and sow the first signs of the re-evaluation of Joyce as a national hero. But today.. God.. I see his face on postcards, his sentences on biscuit packages, illiterate students eating McDonalds on his statue.. Not really what was in his mind, in his dreams, in his literary and cultural intentions, that's sure! But Dublin has gone the same way as the rest of the World is going: global, flat, obvious.. Pub music is for tourists, Guinness in for look and not for taste, Temple Bar is for trash drunks and not for fun.. The crisis has struck hard and deep, freezing all the enthusiasm, the illusion of a booming society growing without borders and limits.. The crowd has in fact turned multi-racial, but limits have shown themselves, clearly..
"Introibo ad altare Dei" says Mulligan at the very start of Ulysses, on top of the Sandycove Martello tower.. This is what his view would be today: not really an "altare Dei" environment anymore..

May 12, 2009

THE LAST EDEN OF SABAH

Orang means Man, Utan means Forest. The Orangutan is therefore the Man of the Forest. He is in fact the closest ape to the human being. While I was looking at the feeding time in the Rehabilitation Center in Sepilok, near Sandakan, I couldn't help reconsidering what I was really seeing. On one platfom were 6 Orangutan and countless Macacos being feeded. On another little less then a hundred tourists agitating cameras, videos, binoculars. Eating ice cream and chips. Who made the real attraction was not clear to me anymore. For a moment I felt the lucky ones were the Oragutans who were getting a free meal with show included. But I noticed they were not interested at all in the crowd facing them: the same everyday oddity.
I have to clarify to myself this duality I have toward humanity. Sometimes I love to see (and photograph) what Man is doing, but most of times I wish for a large pandemic to swipe us (or the most of us) from the face of the Earth. What I don't stand is mass stupidity, and this seems to be the common caracter of this globalized world. I have bad feelings for the future of mankind if we don't correct our trends.
Sabah, this portion of Malysian Borneo, is showing well what we are doing to Earth. Very few patches of land are left to the forest, enclosed in the horrible concept of Park. Horrible because a Park is mainly the good excuse to do whatever you want outside of it! Most of the state is now covered with vast plantations of Oil Palms.
Yes, the question is where are we going. But, even more important, how badly we are going there..

Apr 23, 2009

SHAOLIN SHOW

25.000 martial arts students in a school alone. There are over 20 schools around the Shaolin Temple in Henan. Plus trainee in the various temples, institutes, private institutions. There are over 12 Kung Fu shows per day in the Shaolin School theatre, and one spectacular, gigantic evening open air presentation involving over 700 actors at the feet of the sacred mountain.
Chinese numbers, of course, for Chinese people: not a single foreign face around. What this country is becoming is clearer when we consider what it is doing even with it's own culture, besides the assumption of foreign influences. Masses are getting interested in the commercially evolved tradition. Some see the Shaolin martial art as a form of identity, of national pride. Others as an option to search for fame and money. The most are just curious consumers, travel by the thousands and tour around.
China is changing fast: faster then the words to describe the change..
What is disappointing to me is the disrespect for the old real thing. Everywhere in China old building are demolished to make space to fake new ones. The word restoration is ignored, except with very important monuments. Whole cities, like Lijiang, are the Chinese version of Disneyworld.
But it's their land and their history, and they don't like to be criticized. Sometimes I think at President Mao, still appearing on the Yuan notes (when I was sixteen, in the flumes of ideology, I called myself a Maoist), and see him more imprisoned then glorified in his mausoleum..

Apr 18, 2009

DIWALWAL: FREEDOM IN HELL?

Diwalwal is... what? A mountain, a village, a mine? Lost in the forests of Mindanao this is possibly one of the latest gold-mining area in the world where people work without heavy machines nor open gigantic holes in the earth. And this is really the point today. On one side are the small miners that want to keep this community as it is: a remote village that may have overcome the years of lawless violence but is certainly a social inferno. On the others the multinationals that want to push them out, open large open-air mines and employ them as "workers".
Is the clash of civilization, or the the "global" war taken to the borders of the empire.. It's difficult to take a position though, when you see a community of 40.000 living in such difficult conditions, with basic standards of health and education. But they are fighting for it: the Barangay (City Council) built a school, a clinic, and promised to the government that taxes will be paid (sic!). Franco Tito, the Captain, a local sheriff with a gun on his side, took the fight to the road: blocked bridges, confronted Governor and government..
Now they may leave them this central area of Diwalwal, the richest probably, and open large mines around. They would become an island of human history: an interesting evolution to observe in the future..

Apr 9, 2009

THE WORLD IS CRACKING....

Back in Manila, in a trash hotel facing a brothel crowded by over-sixty expats surrounded by young girls.. a perfect spot for reflecting on how fast this world is cracking under it's mistakes..
Tragic news are arriving from l'Aquila, with many dead people and many others deprived of a house and proper shelter. Can't imagine how hard it is in this time of crisis, when everything is becoming uncertain, to see the few solid things you have crumbling after an earthquake.

This is the right time to think what my profession should become, what images is still worth to take, what stories are really interesting to be told. But I miss an important element of confrontation: if photography is communication, it is such only if it gets published by the media. Whatever media. Unfortunately that part of the cycle is in total confusion. Many magazines are struggling to survive, others don't know which way to go. And the "new" media don't know if they are really worth something, and how they should evolve..
It's really the chaos of a radical transition..

As difficult as it is, I still think this has a positive side. We have been complaining for years of how poor (in money and quality) the media market was. Of how precarious it was. It's time for a clean up, for a fresh starts. New media, new photographers, new languages. Creativity should be the evaluation of what is new. Will it be? Or will be only value for money? Cheap and of scarce quality?

More to say.. My connection time is over (150 pesos an hour) and the brothel is noisy..

Mar 25, 2009

HA NOI

Nga is running a nice clothes design shop in Old Town Hanoi. She is the designer, the owner, the business oriented, contemporary woman that incarnates the modern Vietnam. The first thing she says is "I don't design for the masses!".. Odd enough in a socialist country with communist flags on every public building.
But this is only the most obvious contradiction in this continent. Philosophy and ideology are flexed in ways that to us, the westerners, seems at odd with everything. Probably this is the main reason for the vitality in this part of the world: no fixed rules, logos, labels mean free mind and endless opportunities...
I love Hanoi: classic and contemporary lives side by side on every street, always with elegance and equilibrium. The true capital city, far more charming then the contradictory Saigon. And beauty is a constant presence, something that is helping a lot..

Mar 16, 2009

THIS AGE: HAVE TO THINK, HAVE TO THANK..

I just turned 52. The same age when Frank Zappa left this universe to move somewhere else. Besides the mustache logo, he left much more inside of me. The freedom of thinking, expressing myself, living without fixed schemes, and talking straight. He had the genius that I miss, but was good enough to share it, and defend it from the common, the mediocre, the cleric.

PHU QUOC: GOING, GOING... GONE?


Very few people know where Phu Quoc is, right? Very few think of this Vietnamese island as an holiday destination, a backpacker retreat, an alternative to Phuket or Bali. Very, very, few.. Or many too many? PQ is a classic story that mirrors the dangerous, yet interesting Asian trend. Things are unknown and backward until a moment ago, then they start running like hell and in a second they find themselves crashed into the wall of mass-global-anonymous world.
PQ is still border-line. Because Vietnam is not Thailand, connections are slower, tourists are fewer, options are less... Yet the island, still a place to discover, is half attacked by developement projects (165 in 50 km!!??!!) and concrete condos.. The other half is still natural, worth visiting: now, right now!
The Far-East is acquiring this (terrible) Chinese attitude to grow fast without caring for nature and history. Old buildings are razed and replaced by condos, skycrapers or, at best (best?) by fake reconstructions destined to attract mass-tourism. I hate when our historic cities are transformed in living museums (Florence, my city) where to move a stone is a sin. But this is the opposite extreme. Humanity seems to have lost the soft touch for the good old half-ways..

Mar 6, 2009

SCHIZOPHRENIC

If you see my previous posting and you see this image of Kuala Lumpur you can easily understand why I feel schizophrenic.. One week before I was shooting in hell on earth, with people starving and suffering (really suffering) all around me, and now.. here I was.. Lights, glamour, overfed crowds shopping, five stars hotels and malls. Yes, I know very well that the world is like this, but adjusting in this bit of time is not that easy!
This brings me back to my thoughts on how air travel has made everything too short, too easy. How my flight from Rome to Bangkok takes me here in 10 hours, how nice, but also how I skip Turkey, Iran. Pakistan, India, Burma, therefore missing the sense of distance and travel. Therefore skipping the passage of cultures that explay why here is so different. But, as I keep saying, the global world is making this a souvenir of my early trips..
But, back to KL.. the incredible thing is that this is Islamic, is no far from Bangladesh, but is just another world.. If you think that the Rohingyas refugees dream is to get here because they can send 100$ PER YEAR back to the camp..

Feb 22, 2009

ROHINGYAS HELL

Rohingyas are a Muslim minority stranded and persecuted in Myanmar by the army junta, and certainly not loved by the majority Buddhist population. So they have escaped for 30 years to neighboring Bangladesh, counting on faith solidarity in spite of the country poor conditions.
But most of them are not accommodated in the two UNHCR camps and find themselves in makeshift camps where life is as hard as possible.
This man, reduced to skin and bones, had gone searching for firewood, an illegal activity, and had fallen breaking a leg. We found him like this, with an infection giving him a high fever, with no possible cure at all. All his wife could do for him was washing is body to offer some relief. I wonder if he is still alive after few days..
No wonder most of these people try to escape by see toward Malaysia: an impossible trip, still better than starving and see your family die in here.

Feb 16, 2009

THE SHIP BREAKING YARD

In Chittagong the ship breakers work goes on. After the great images of Sabastiao Salgado gave relative fame to these poor workers, nothing is changed. Hundreds of gigantic, rusting ships lay in the sands, cover the horizon, await to be demolished piece by piece. And thousands of workers do the job, walking in a mud full of oil and chemicals.. I went in shooting, after some difficulties, and went on for an hour.. before a severe manager realized I was there, and told me to show off. They resent the press criticism on the working conditions: I wonder why...

OH YES, DHAKA IS CHAOS...

Dhaka is a mess! It really is! Wild, crowded, noisy.. the traffic is the worst I've seen, with thousands of rickshaw mixed to the cars in an incredible confusion.. In other words it is a photographer's paradise as much as it's the inhabitants hell. Then you get to the river, at sunset, and the traffic moves on the water... After all this is a gigantic delta..

Feb 11, 2009

PISTORIO FOUNDATION: A NEW SCHOOL...

Me and Massimo had the privilege, a few days ago, to participate the inauguration of yet another school financed by the Pistorio Foundation. Pasquale Pistorio, here shown between a group of fellow Sicilians (I guess), is supporting mostly the education in disadvantaged countries, rightly asserting, I think, that schooling is the essential way out of many difficult social environments. We had the occasion to talk and listen of his long life and work experiences, and his preoccupation that the economic crisis we are entering may produce an even greater, and badly dangerous social divide. Something all of us should worry about..

MYANMAR IN FOTOlogie...

Italian news.. Sul sito di FOTOlogie, al link http://www.fotologie.it/pistolesi.html potrete adesso trovare la galleria di immagini dedicate alla situazione in Birmania/Myanmar.
Colgo l'occasione per ringraziare gli amici di FOTOlogie per la vetrina offertami e sottolineare il bel lavoro che stanno facendo per valutare il nostro lavoro!

Feb 3, 2009

CREEPING IN THE SOUL..

Chiang Mai is a city really difficult to define today.. Modern, yet with spots of religious tradition. Crowded with Thai and international tourists, but with many local faces strolling in the streets. And thousands of kids going to school. Or visitors having their Sunday dinner in the courtyards of the Buddhist temples, while loudspeakers transmit the evening prayers. Is this the coming reality of the world? Modern, tech, cosmopolitan and yet molten in an ancient soul?
Take as symbol the glasses on the nose of this Monk sacred effigy.. Probably my limit, but I had never seen this before: modernity is creeping into the soul?

Jan 29, 2009

BLADE RUNNER'S STREETS


As I walk through the streets of this city that I know well enough to find my way, I keep thinking at my Blade Runner project. From several years I'm planning to find those scenes that in many World's metropolis resemble so much the movie forecasts. As George Orwell's 1984 has become a reality perfectly on time, so the Ridley Scott's images have become almost actual to our life. At least in certain parts of the Earth. Old street-food vendors below modern skyscrapers, crumbling buildings lodging the outcasts, cars, well, not flying, just yet... I think is time to start working on this project seriously... This can be the starting concept for that Global New World that will be the logic sequence to NAG (Not Yet Global), the collection of images with wich I have saluted the finishing time of cultural differences.

Jan 24, 2009

ESOTIC BANGKOK

Just Arrived in Bangkok that will be the base for the next three months in South East Asia. With Massimo Morello we are planning to shoot stories in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Philippines as well as in Thailand. So we'll be staying in this residence, a home away from home, with this beautiful view on Saphan Taksim. Looking outside my window I remembered the accusation I received during my presentation at Fotografica 2007 from a guy that thought I have an "esotic" eye for things and situations I photograph. I should have answered that esotism is most of the times in the eyes of whom's looking rather then in those of the photographer, but I love idealism too much to be hard against it. And here I am, looking at what has become of this oriental city that I first sow in 1978, my first impact with Asia, from which I remember the noise (still increased, as you can well imagine) and the unknown odors, transformed in the well known smog, and I wonder how can I pull something esotic out of it.
It's time of thinking, brainstorming, searching and evolving for me, and I think this urban, blade-runner-like situation, is really what I need today. New stories and new language, this is the challenge I give myself. With a profound doubt: for whom to publish, therefore for whom to see..

Jan 14, 2009

NEW CONCEPT FOR PISTOLESI.COM WEBSITE

We just renewed the concept for the http://www.Pistolesi.com website, the showcase version of the web presentations. Rather then showing the whole of my production this is a flash based presentation of portfolios, recent stories, projects. There are still some minor problems in the layout, and any feedback will be appreciated.