It is coincidental that I was recently enamored by the black and white of Roma, and that Dean for Christmas happened to gift me a 36 roll of black and white film for my little automatic Olympus Mju. Dean is sweet: he knows something about photography and saw me playing around with the camera. He wanted to encourage the hobby I had been enjoying for the past months. I’d never tried a black and white film before and wasn’t expecting much, especially given my poor focus skills and the slight unpredictability of the Mju. And yet, here I have gathered some of the photos from that film, and I am happy with them. They convey the spots I visited in the first days of January, where I walked, and the persons and creatures I walked with. Although some are lacking in the sharpness of pixel, they are warm and delicate and, perhaps, worth a share.
On all of my rolls of film, Molly and Paddy, the faithful dogs, always make an appearance. Here they are in their element, one black and one white, running down their daily path in the brief sun of noon. It is a path that runs alongside the river, just below our garden. It is beautiful when the light is right and Molly likes to take a swim there.
I made a brief appearance at Ned’s birthday lunch, when the cake was being cut and people were having coffee and cigarettes. There is an unfortunate grain on the first photo, but the shadows in the faces of G and C are deep and beautiful. They look handsome in mid-conversation, attentive and playful. Ned cuts his own cake in the second photo, with a strong sunlight coming through the window. His big sister next to him looks proud and happy.
These next photos were taken on a walk in Rosano, with T and my mother. T is looking very cool in her loose coat, and happy from the sun. In the last photo, the camera clearly couldn’t really take the light, but I still like it, her silhouette moving deeper into the olive trees with a sort of mysticism.
My mother is and will always remain elegant and enormously photo-friendly. She poses here among the sharp greens of a winter morning, translated in the photo as strong contrasts of black and white. In the second photo, she walks at a distance next to her sweet girl Molly, seemingly in harmony, but it is a rare photographic anomaly I suppose. Molly rarely follows instruction and she is mostly in misbehavior, rarely standing side-by-side with her padrona. Even on a wintry walk in the mud hills, my mother is able to embody grace and style, and yet she does not look out of place among the prickled Rosano hills.
I save my favourites for last. In the first, you can make out the theatrical pose of K, standing triumphantly over the city’s valley, in conquest or in mockery, one of the two. Again, the detail is missing and her face is invisible, but I remember the moment I took it and I had a big smile at the time. She is perhaps the queen of the entire valley and yet she does not know it.
In the second picture I do not have such a smile. K saw the photo and said I look like a lost child. Maybe that is how I felt at the time, alone and confused, missing her and not exactly sure when she would return by my side. That day I wore a jacket and a tie, and my least abominable shoes, not because I had to attend any particular occasion but just because I thought I would try out a bit of formality on a day when no such formality was required, just like people used to do. The tie wasn’t very comfortable by the hours of the afternoon, but throughout the day I had an artificial sense that I was going somewhere, doing something. I might try it again.
It is in this last photo that I am the happiest, and I think she is happy too. We look natural, just as we wait for the self-timer to take our picture from its carefully engineered platform on the grass. Our legs are outstretched and parallel, pointing in the same direction. Two little love-feet that might be part of the same body, who knows, except one leg is quite a bit longer than the other. But I think my feeling is clear from the photo, even from within its absent saturation, that we are smiling and happy and this as a function of our sitting together under the private tree of our hearts. It is a love that even a monochrome has no difficulty in expressing.