I believe that the love of sunsets is something that most human beings share. The emotions one feels when watching a sunset may vary; happiness, relief, melancholy, sadness… Emotions that differ from each other but are all united by a particular beauty. It is rare that people do not stop to observe the beauty of a sunset. As I have already mentioned in this article that is a kind of homage to the art of photography, I started taking pictures as a child and the camera has always been my faithful companion, whether it was a simple disposable Kodak, a standard digital camera, a Reflex camera or a smartphone with an advanced camera (and it should be pointed out that I was also taking pictures with early models of flip phones of about 2 megapixels). However, sunsets began to be a consistent subject of my photographs only when I received my first SLR as a gift (just a couple of years after the first iPhone model came out), and over the years I have photographed hundreds of sunsets. The richest period of sunset shots dates back to the outbreak of the pandemic; at the time I was living in Bordighera, a town on the Ligurian Riviera that offers breathtaking sunsets, especially in the winter time. I had a balcony overlooking the sea so it was a prime location to observe sunsets and capture them on camera.
For this article I have decided to create a top five of my favorite sunsets photographed over the years; each sunset comes from a different location and I have assigned poetry excerpts to each picture because I believe that every sunset has something poetic about it. Also, I just realized that all the photos I have chosen were taken in Italy; this is probably due to the fact that many places in my country are famous for golden hour beauty.
1) Lignano Sabbiadoro and the Countryside (North-East Italy):
Beautiful Evening – Mary E. Nealey
I love the beautiful evening When the sunset clouds are gold; When the barn-fowls seek a shelter, And the young lambs seek their fold: When the four-o’clocks are open, And the swallows homeward come; When the horses cease their labors, And the cows come home.
2) Milano Navigli (Northern Italy):
In Gold Lacquer by Bliss Carman
The air is flecked with filtered gold, — The shimmer of romance Whose ageless glamour still must hold The world as in a trance, Pouring o’er every time and place Light of an amber sea, The spell of all the gladsome things That have been or shall be.
As I have already mentioned in the article where I reviewed some Milan Fashion Week looks, one of the few moments free from work that I had in February was the afternoon that I visited the retrospective of German photographer Vincent Peters at Palazzo Reale. I was very excited to be able to see his work live, partly because in the preceding weeks I had read the enthusiastic opinions of friends and acquaintances who had already visited the retrospective. Vincent Peters is known for his fondness of black and white, which I personally love very much, in fact I often apply black and white to my own photos. He was perhaps one of the first to recognize how inspiration from the outside world influences the photographs he takes; he once said, “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring into the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
His images always tell a story, which can be felt even from a single shot. Alessia Glaviano, the curator of the Timeless Time retrospective, said, “Each element that converges and condenses in each of his single shots forms a layer that never loses its own identity and distinction. And in the coming together of these singular layers, here is where each of Peters’ images comes to tell a story. [Vincent Peters] is one of the great masters of telling a story even through a single, individual image.”
A photographic style reminiscent of Italian neorealism is evident in the portraits Peters has taken of film personalities such as Emma Watson, Scarlett Johansson, Matthew McConaughey and others.
Rarely I have seen portraits that trigger a whole range of emotions in me; undoubtedly his photos are incredibly glamorous also because of the nature of the people photographed. I chose this series of images of Emma Watson as the opening of the article because Vincent Peters has photographed her several times over the years; all of those shots are wonderful and bring out the personality of Emma, an actress and activist who I also included in my article on inspiring women for International Women’s Day. Vincent Peters gives each of his subjects a depth that manages to reveal their inner selves. The dreamlike atmosphere of the images makes the subjects almost take on the characteristics of a deity, and we can perceive not only their charm and beauty but also a kind of fragility that shines through. The unforgettable elegance of every single picture can also be seen in his homage to Italy through the photos of the Ferrari Trento (sponsor of the event together with Boglioli Milano), symbol of Trentodoc bubbles for 120 years and part of the series of shots that close the retrospective.
A retrospective that I have truly enjoyed and of which I have gathered the five photos that I loved the most; they render better in person because of the size of the prints and it was difficult to capture them on camera because the halls were very crowded, but I hope you will appreciate the photos I have chosen, which constitute only a small part of Vincent Peters’ magic universe:
As you all probably know, March 8 is International Women’s Day. Conceived in the early 1900s, it has always been understood as a remembrance and reflection on the political, social and economic achievements of the female gender. There is still a lot of work to be done in this regard, but it is also an occasion to remember the political movements to claim women rights, which date right back to the beginning of the last century.
I grew up having my mother and grandmother as role models; strong, resilient women with innate charisma. They taught me to fight for what I believe in, to overcome my limitations, and to have confidence in myself, even at times when I had less self-esteem and when I felt most discouraged.
In addition to them, I have had various female role models among the famous ones who have been a source of inspiration for me over the years; they have inspired me not only in terms of style and attitude but also in terms of what good and positive changes they have helped bring to the world.
On the occasion of this International Women’s Day, I have chosen five women in history who influenced me in my formative years (which still last today, because I think you never really stop learning):
1) Audrey Hepburn : I think Audrey was one of the most charismatic actresses of all time. I was about thirteen years old when I first saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s, probably the film for which she is best known worldwide. I spent my teenage years reading books about Audrey and copying her style, supported in this by a high school friend of mine, who also loved Audrey very much as an actress and style icon.
What is most striking about Audrey is that certain “je ne sais quoi” as the French say, meaning an unintentional and completely natural charm, devoid of any construction or falsehood; Audrey always conveyed her inner beauty not only through all the roles she played but also in her civic commitments off the set. Born in Belgium but raised between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, she lived under the Nazi regime and studied dance and theater before beginning her film career. After a series of successful roles (which also earned her an Oscar for Roman Holiday), she later preferred to devote herself to her family and toward the end of her life she became an official UNICEF ambassador, committing herself full-time to humanitarian work and the less fortunate (perhaps partly because she remembered all the suffering she had endured firsthand during World War II). Even thirty years after her death, she is remembered primarily for her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and her style on and off the set is still an inspiration today (even for the character of Blair Waldorf in the book-series-turned-TV show Gossip Girl). Many of the items worn by Audrey Hepburn (who was also a friend and collaborator of Hubert de Givenchy) have now become wardrobe staples, such as the ballet flats and the trench coat. Not forgetting her iconic short haircut, which my mother also sported recently; she looks a bit like Audrey because of the dark colors and thick eyebrows, and I still remember when a guy who was carrying one of my Audrey paintings when we were moving out asked my mother, “Excuse me ma’am, is this a picture of you when you were younger?” In addition to the paintings, I also have some magazines with Audrey Hepburn covers, many coffee-table books and a DVD box set of her most famous movies inherited from my grandfather; Audrey is and will always be a great inspiration to me.
2) Annie Leibovitz: I have loved photography for as long as I can remember, like I wrote in this post that is a bit of a tribute to the art of photography. As a child I would take a lot of pictures with the disposable Kodaks that were in vogue in the late 1990s/early 2000s, encouraged also by my father who has always had a passion for videography and photography. At that time he was among the first to buy the new digital cameras available on the market and always filmed our family vacations with a camera. The art of photographing and documenting everything was partly influenced by him as well. As you can see from some of my work on my Flickr profile, I’ve always been the “official photographer” in my group of friends, both with the Canon EOS cameras I have owned over the years and with my smartphones. I have always loved photography of all kinds and admired the work of the world’s most celebrated photographers; Annie Leibovitz has always been one of my favorite photographers especially for her portraits and editorial shoots done for Vanity Fair and Vogue. She has a special empathy that allows her to tell stories through every photograph she takes, and this is particularly evident in her portraits of celebrities. Although she is now recognized as one of the world’s greatest masters of photography, it strikes me how everything she does is preceded by a thorough study of the subject and the story she intends to tell through her work. In 2011 she told the Italian online photography magazine Sguardi: “I always do my homework. For example, to prepare to photograph Carla Bruni, the new wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, at the Élysée Palace, I looked at many photos of the palace. I got pictures of other people who had lived there. I looked at several pictures of couples in love, as well as all the pictures of Carla Bruni taken by other photographers. She was immortalized several times, but I think Helmut Newton saw something in her that no one else ever caught. Finally, knowing that she was also a singer, I listened to her songs. Of course, I always carry with me a large “memory bank” made of the images taken by the photographers who came before me, a kind of hard drive that has its seat in my head. I am a photography enthusiast. Or a scholar, if you prefer. I collect photographic books. It happens that some element belonging to the history of photography contributes to the style I choose for my shots. And the style of an image is certainly part of the idea.” I love the self-taught way she learned and her ability to find sources of inspiration on her own; I have not yet purchased her photography volumes but I am very interested in Wonderland. One of the editorials I love most by Leibovitz was made for Vogue US in December 2003; starring model Natalia Vodianova, it was inspired by Alice in Wonderland and it is truly something unique and never seen before.
In my previous article, where I reviewed Silvio Soldini’s Bread and Tulips, I also mentioned my new subscription to MUBI, a streaming platform that hosts thousands of movies from different decades, with a particular attention to cult movies; I really appreciate this because I have been watching movies since I was very little thanks to my grandfather’s video-library (he was a huge cinephile who owned plenty of movies on DVD and would also record films to VHS tapes whenever they were broadcast on the Italian television).
MUBI also includes a series of movies from the 1990s and I truly love movies from this decade because I was born in the ’90s, which was a particularly prolific period for cinema, thanks in part to the popularity of home video; Taschen’s volume on the films of the ’90s reports Scorsese’s thoughts about the potential of the VCR, which led to a renewed enthusiasm for cinema, allowing audiences to see films as often as they would like. These films are worth studying and appreciating, and nowadays they are also being rediscovered thanks to streaming (in Italy I have had difficulty finding some sought-after films on DVD, such as the iconic 1988 black comedy Heathers, which is only available on the second-hand market at high prices. I have found some of these movies on the European marketplace and I now have the chance to stream them again thanks to MUBI).
The 1990s cemented cinema’s belonging to universal culture, making it a common good. I have selected five films from this decade that I love very much; they are all included in the Taschen series curated by Jürgen Müller and I hope you will enjoy them as well:
1) Goodfellas (1990): I must have been fifteen years old when I first watched Goodfellas. It was one of my grandfather’s favorite movies and I watched it on DVD, which I once borrowed from his video-library. I fell in love with this gangster movie; as a young girl it was almost considered strange because it’s part of a genre that teenage boys generally like. I have always enjoyed watching this type of movie and am also a big fan of the 007 series. Goodfellas is a quasi-biographical chronicle of the life of Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), an Italian-Irish gangster in New York, and it is based on Nicholas Pileggi’s 1985 bestselling book “Wiseguy – Life in a Mafia Family.” The story begins in Brooklyn in the late 1950s, when 13-year-old Henry observes the neighborhood mobsters from his apartment, all dressed in expensive suits, and longs to become like them. He then neglects school and begins to be a messenger for the boss, establishing himself in the neighborhood and also becoming “a good fella,” as the mobsters like to call each other. Over the years, he becomes inseparable friends with Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito, played by Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci respectively; however, some signs emerge later on that crumble the façade of their seemingly perfect gangster world.
The film is told like a novel thanks to Martin Scorsese’s love of detail and historical accuracy in filmmaking; the soundtrack is wonderful (I own the CD), with pieces from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s that follow the various stages of Henry’s life, from simple Brooklyn guy to mafia criminal. It is one of the finest films of the ’90s and it won many awards (including an Oscar to Joe Pesci for Best Supporting Actor). It is at once comic and brutal; truly one of Scorsese’s best.
2) Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994): this is a little gem from British director Mike Newell (some of you may know him as the director of the fourth Harry Potter movie). It stars Hugh Grant as Charles, a staunch monogamist incapable of stable affection, who is invited to a wedding every week along with his friends, who one after another all get married. However, he meets Carrie (Andie MacDowell) in a love-at-first-sight situation; although it seems to end there, the two meet again at the next wedding. The series of weddings is interrupted by a funeral following the death of a close friend of Charles. Hence the title of the film, which is a satire of behavior and relationships in the British high society and shows how in the film the only couples truly in love are those who will never marry. The film has excellent writing and the screenplay was in fact edited by Richard Curtis, one of the most talented British writers. Made on a limited budget, it was probably the most successful British film of the 1990s before Notting Hill came out. A Time Magazine review wrote that: “Mike Newell’s film takes as its starting point one of the smallest realizations of modern life: exemplary of the yuppie species, the man spends most of his earnings on clothes to attend his friends’ weddings.” The director reveals very little about the characters’ daily lives, giving the viewer a chance to review these festively dressed people on their way to all these weddings and dwelling on the ones that are most interesting in terms of dialogue and mannerisms. The film is a perfect blend of comedy and melodrama to watch possibly on an evening with friends.
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