• Street People: Part One

    • Posted on Jun 20, 2017

               Getting good at photography requires making choices. I didn’t do that for a couple years—I just snapped whatever pleased me when I grabbed the camera—friends, parties, animals, landscapes, portraits, macro, black and white, “art” photography, app-generated amazements. All fun.    

                Because I was so unfocused, I never got very good.  I have good gear and a fair amount of experience and knowledge, but seldom took photos worth serious attention. I was shooting snapshots.

                Now I’m focusing on to street photography.  That is, unposed shots of strangers—often homeless or poor people asking for money in Charleston, SC, where we live part of the year.    Either they’re sitting on sidewalks around the city with signs passively asking for money, or they actively panhandle, approaching shoppers on the street with their hands literally out. 

                Why street photography? Over the years my favorite photographs—both my own and others, tend to be windows on the world—documentaries in film and news photographs keep my attention and stay in memory longer than posed and art photographs.  Spontaneous, lightly edited, and full of humanity that posing often excludes.

                Here are two I’ve taken recently.  “Shelly” (June 12) sits in the heart of Charleston, on the big fountain at the corner of King and Calhoun streets where Marion Square begins. She always appears with her six-year-old dog, and the dog always seems asleep.

                Just down King street—maybe two blocks from Shelly, sat “Dirty Dan,” (June 18) on the sidewalk, holding his cardboard sign, “Why lie?  All proseeds (sic) used for marijuana research. Please help with 2$.” 



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    • Travel
  • Happiness in Italy

    • Posted on Jun 11, 2017

    Today's (5-11) Waterloo Courier column.  We toured Italy mostly with the Gary Kelley "Story of Os" group from May 18 to May 30--Florence, San Gimignano, Rappllo, Lake Como--and continue to admire Italy and Italians.           

    Photos are from May 27, at one of the "Cinque Terra" resort towns on the Ligurian sea--a portion of the Mediterranean.  Jammed with tourists but still worth visiting.


               My wife Angeleita and I just returned from Italy, our fourth visit.  We still felt like strangers in boot-land, but now we’re getting comfortable with getting around, ordering meals, and avoiding seeming like stereotypical Americans, though that was a challenge. 

                Side note:  Italians immediately identify Americans: Brand name tennis/walking shoes.  Laughing, joking, nonstop talking.  Bright colors.  Baseball hats and team t-shirts, or souvenir hats and slogan t-shirts. In a hurry. Obsessed with shopping.

                All these details shout “American.”  Not ugly, just obvious. 

                But I digress. This trip, I was struck mostly by happiness.   Not ours so much as Italians’.  From our cooking class teacher to shopkeepers, waiters, street musicians, and wine sellers, mostly they embodied contentment, and it wasn’t faking for tourists. Not all Italians all the time, but enough to notice. 

                Some did complain about their economy, their government, threats of terrorism, even (when asked) our own President, since they suffered through Silvio Berlusconi, a similar buffoon.  And though Italy as a country sits lower on the World Happiness Report than America, Italians we met seemed well-connected to joy. 

                Indeed, Italians seem better at happiness than Americans. How can that be?

                After four visits, an answer emerges. 

                It begins with leisure.  Italians take more leisure time, and spend much of it relaxing and eating with friends.  And not just eating, but savoring great home-prepared pastas and salads and desserts and gelatos—these people know their way around kitchens. And wine, of course. Wine, friends, and food go together seamlessly, and for hours.

                The Italian afternoon siesta is legendary, and most shops shutter from around 12:30-4:00 weekdays, tourist shoppers be damned.  Might as well take long lunches.  

                Americans work hard, even when traveling, and always have places to go, so our lunches were short. Our waiters had to be chased down to bring checks. Italians watched us run off with wonder. 

                Then there’s Italian history.  Italians are surrounded by centuries upon centuries of history.  Their buildings, streets, and landscapes tell them they’ve been here through Neroes, Caligulas, Caesars, Borgias, Medicis, Savoys, Mussolinis, Berlusconis—for well over two thousand years.

                They’re confident that life goes on, so they enjoy being as much as doing.

                And beauty.  There’s so much beauty in Italy, from landscapes to public art to architecture, that you spend whole days gaping in wonder.  We ooohed and ahhhed like children. 

                Of course there’s Renaissance art in Florence which leaves humans all but breathless, as do the rolling hills and vistas of Tuscany, the ancient, cavernous cathedrals in every city that Italians rightly showcase.  If you’re not happy among all that beauty, you’re a hard case.

                Americans, in contrast, live in a young and still experimental country, so we feel obliged to advertise our goodness and rightness. We get tiresome, I’m afraid, as we protest life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness a bit too much.  We certainly didn’t invent the pursuit of happiness.  

                From my recent Italian travel experience, Americans might pursue happiness, but Italians find it. 







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