A story from our time – La folla

There are days I fear the sun will never set and I will find myself trapped in a never ending loop of fears, boredom, despair and nostalgia, but some days are on the contrary too short for all the things I would like to do. I suppose these are feelings we are all having while isolated at home with the world outside fighting the invisible enemy.

When I wake up in the morning, I take a few minutes to reflect on how to spend the hours ahead, if working on my photography business, in the way I can, if reading all the books I could not finish in these past months, if studying all the things I have not even studied during my University years, or if writing, collecting present impressions, reviving past ideas, and letting my imagination free, which means to create just for the sake of it, and to be happy in the moment. Well, the short story I am sharing with you today (I am very sorry, but it is just for the Italian readers!) was not something I had thought about for very long, but rather something I used to contain the emotions of the time we live in.

Below are also some recent photographs done in collaboration with fashion designer Bianca Elgar and with beautiful model Opor Kunk.

La folla

  L’uomo aspettò che la folla si fosse dissipata prima di rimettersi in cammino. Così qualcuno incrociato per strada gli aveva detto di fare, e lui, senza porsi alcuna domanda, aveva seguito il consiglio.
La piazza fumava di sole, e la luce che rimbalzava dalle finestre dei palazzi rendeva abbagliante anche l’aria. Seduto all’ombra di una grande statua il cui volto brunito e consumato dal tempo appariva ormai irriconoscibile, l’uomo seguiva con gli occhi la scia d’ombra lasciata dall’ultimo gruppetto di donne che gli era passato davanti. Erano in cinque, tutte vestite di bianco, ampi cappelli di paglia stretti sulle tempie, e sandali slargati, di quelli che alleggeriscono la stanchezza dei piedi e danno sfogo ai gonfiori delle caviglie. Dal modo in cui si guardavano intorno, fotografando con gli occhi, laddove prive di altri mezzi, la bellezza che si lasciavano alle spalle, si capiva che quella fosse la loro prima volta in città.
Senza fretta l’uomo si mosse dal suo angolo d’ombra dopo averle viste sfociare rumorosamente nelle stradine intorno alla piazza. Casa sua non era molto distante; poteva vederla, spingendo lo sguardo attraverso l’arco di mattoni che dalla chiesa dei gesuiti, costeggiando un sentiero fitto d’alberi, portava a un cortile raccolto e da lì al quartiere in cui aveva sempre vissuto, in cui erano nate sua madre e sua nonna, e in cui entrambe, sotto i suoi grandi occhi verdi, se n’erano andate diversi anni prima.
Aveva ormai quasi raggiunto la chiesa e l’arco, quando un nuovo gruppo, misto di uomini e donne, gli sciamò davanti. In realtà, non si capiva neanche esattamente da dove venissero tutte quelle persone; pareva uscissero da ogni anfratto della terra e calassero insieme a ogni raggio di sole scoccato dal cielo, moltiplicandosi una volta raggiunto il suolo. Di colpo, la porta della chiesa si aprì, e pure da quella ne sgusciarono una trentina, forse di più. L’uomo cercò di contarli, ma perse il filo. La sua bocca secca faceva fatica a scandire anche un solo numero, e la sua mente, silenziata dallo stupore, ne era altrettanto incapace.
“Tieniti lontano dalla folla!”. Le parole udite poco prima da uno sconosciuto gli risuonarono alle orecchie.
Pur non riuscendo a immaginare la ragione che stava dietro a quel monito, l’uomo sentì improvvisamente di essere davvero in pericolo. Fu come una premonizione, qualcosa a cui la sua mente e il suo cuore reagirono in contemporanea. Allora spinse gli occhi oltre la folla, verso quei rari, sfuocati punti in cui il cemento della città tornava a vincere sul brulicare dei corpi molli, pigiati tra loro, gonfi di sole e risate incontrollabili. Se avesse aspettato di capire in che direzione ciascuno dei gruppi si sarebbe mosso, forse avrebbe potuto precederne gli ultimi passi e trovare una via di fuga nel mezzo di quelli.
Solo che l’attesa, quella volta, si dimostrò più difficile di quanto avesse sperato. La folla raddoppiò, triplicò in volume. La gente prese a calarsi dalle finestre, dalle terrazze, urlando come scimmie, per poi atterrare sul marciapiede senza neanche un graffio e con sul viso l’espressione serafica di un bambino che si è appena risvegliato da un sonno ristoratore. Anche le saracinesche delle botteghe chiuse si aprirono, e donne statuarie, rotonde, talune flaccide, iniziarono a sfilare sul marciapiede di fronte. In braccio ad alcune c’erano neonati che i loro ventri molli sembravano aver partorito da poco; altre, invece, stringevano filoni di pane come mazzi di fiori, facendoli odorare alle compagne intorno.
In men che non si dica, l’uomo, stordito dal frastuono e confuso, si trovò circondato, e capì che evitare la folla fosse non solo impossibile quanto pericoloso. Avrebbe dovuto andarle contro, remare in direzione opposta alle onde, quando l’unica scelta possibile, a quel punto, sembrava di seguirla o addirittura abbandonarsene. Spinse dunque lo sguardo verso il cielo, come per prendere fiato, e quando una raggiera di visi gli si parò davanti, sostituendosi alle nuvole, allora iniziò a correre, a scansare le braccia che gli calavano addosso, i petti che lo spingevano, i piedi contro cui i suoi talloni si trovavano a sbattere, e a schermarsi con un fazzoletto di stoffa dagli spruzzi di saliva che lo bagnavano e offendevano. In pochi minuti il rumore dei corpi ammassati, il caldo emanato da quelli che si sommava al caldo della giornata, l’aria rimbombante di parole incomprensibili, forse attinte a lingue diverse, sovrastò del tutto l’assediato che così cadde.
La folla, proprio quella da cui avrebbe dovuto tenersi lontano, lo travolse, e non ci fu modo, per lui, di rialzarsi, se non a sera, dopo che il mondo intero gli fu passato addosso, egoista, cieco, irrefrenabile. La prima cosa su cui i suoi occhi andarono a posarsi allora fu la chiesa, poi l’arco di mattoni, e giù in fondo la sua casa. La luce dello studio era accesa. Ebbe la sensazione che dall’altra parte ci fosse la moglie che, come ogni giorno, ordinava i libri che lui aveva lasciato sparpagliati sulla scrivania. Avrebbe voluto chiamarla, pur sapendo che non sarebbe mai riuscita a sentirlo, ma la sua voce, già prima fioca, gli rimase intrappolata in gola. Si alzò; respirava a fatica, e anche il suo respiro non produceva suono.
Costeggiati i negozi chiusi, si specchiò su ciascuna delle loro vetrine, e in quel momento lo vide. Vide, in carne ed ossa, il motivo per cui avrebbe dovuto evitare a tutti i costi quell’orda senza controllo. Un uomo che non gli somigliava più storceva la bocca sul riflesso del vetro; sembrava quasi avesse una maschera cucita sulla carne, impossibile da togliere. I suoi capelli erano passati dal grigio al bianco candido, la sua pelle si era raggrinzita, rughe profonde, spesse, avevano allentato le sue guance, e tolto mobilità alle sue mani. Il sangue affiorava già alle sue labbra.
Pensò allora alla moglie, ed ebbe paura che lei non lo avrebbe riconosciuto, o che addirittura non avrebbe fatto in tempo a raggiungerla, a dirle addio. La luce accesa nel suo studio si era fatta più fioca; sembrava lontanissima, lontana la casa, lontana la città stessa. Restavano una piazza vuota e un cielo insolitamente stellato.

©2020 Flavia Catena

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Female photographers: Joceline Allen

Bodies seem trapped behind a veil; delicate young women trying to escape from the dream they move inside. Hands, faces, melancholic eyes are in and out of the frame, between lights and shadows.
I immediately fell in love with Joceline Allen’s photographs, when I found her page on Instagram, and I could not stop looking at them. My first though was: “this girl must really love what she does!”. On a daily basis, browsing around social media, I keep seeing so many works alike and images unable to instill any emotion. This is not the case with Joceline’s work. That’s why I have decided I had to meet her and include her in my series about female photographers.
And we did meet, one day in February, in the beautiful location Gunnersbury park. Joceline appeared to me as I had imagined her: kind, passioned about her work, honest, humble. We had a very long and pleasant conversation, during which Joceline told me about how she entered the photography world. She was still at school, in London, dreaming to be a fashion designer, when she moved her first steps towards this new media, and her love for it must have grown day after day so much that she decided to attend Falmouth University, in Cornwall, studying fashion photography.
Her style developed with strength during and after those years at University. Her romantic and fragile women got a voice in her images. Photography itself became a kind of therapeutic process, Joceline said, a way to deal with all the doubts, the heavy or disorientating thoughts each of us have to face while moving from youth to adulthood.
She is strongly inspired by a variety of artists among which Todd Hido, and by the theatre and film photography industry (I can see that from her dramatic use of lights) towards which she is dreaming to move one day. I really wish her dreams come true, and most of all to keep creating with passion and enthusiasm what we will recognise as the special signature of her heart.

Thanking you Joceline so much for working with me on this project, I invite you to look at her work online. Website: http://www.jocelineallen.com; Instagram: @jocelineallen.

@2020 Flavia Catena

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Admire below a selection of Joceline’s photographs!

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Silence

The world, these days, is so loud, rushed, caothic! I was thinking about it this morning, still curled up in bed, and suddely I remembered the day when I was travelling to Etna – the Sicilian volcano – with my parents, and the moment we went out of the car for a few minutes to admire the landscape. No one was around, not a human being, not an animal. Birds were not chirping as there were not trees or bushes. The silent, in that black, desert space, was so perfect, so complete, that it seemed like Earth itself has stopped spinning. I could hear my own breath like when underwater; each of my little steps was echoing. I almost feared like, by just being there, I was destroying the harmony of the place. And so, for a moment, I stopped moving, I stopped breathing, and I became part of that marvel.

I was away from the blog for very long, I know! The truth is that I have been feeling the urgent need to keep myself hidden in my own little world; I have been looking for that perfect silence both outside and inside of me. Does this feeling ever touch you as well?

Sharing now some of my most recent favourite photos, I wish you a Merry Christams and Happy New Year!

©2019 Flavia Catena

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On Renaissance and daily melancholy

“Il mio segreto è una memoria che agisce a volte per terribilità. Isolata, immobile, sul punto di scattare, sto al centro di correnti vorticose che girano a spirali in questa stanza dove i miei cento orologi sgranano battiti diversi in diversi timbri. Se alzo il capo li vedo fiammeggiare, e ad ogni tocco di fuoco corrisponde un’immagine. Sempre sono trascinata fuori di me dalla tempesta di vivere. Che cosa è il tempo, e perché deve considerarsi passato? Fino a quando viviamo esiste un solo tempo, il presente. Una forza struggente mi prende alle viscere: costruttiva o devastatrice non mi è dato di sapere; è senza regola, almeno apparente.” Rinascimento privato, Maria Bellonci

Images from last spring photo-shoot with the lovely Leonie as model and the talented Meg Wakefield as make up artist.

©2019 Flavia Catena

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Ciera and Abigail from M+P Models

I can still feel the sun on my face, I can hear the word “summer” beeing repeated by countless people on the loud streets, on trains and buses, in every house whose windows are wide open, and I can breath the trepidation all around me, the promise of a new holiday, a new adventure, another beautiful long day to get inspired and be optimistic again. Autumn is approaching quickly, though, and as it happens every year I find myself wishing for the gold, youth-smelling, vibrant season not to go away yet!

Before I start planning new shoots, repeating to myself that for a romantic person as I am the autumnal landscape is even more beautiful that the summery one, let me share with you these images taken in July to the lovely and talented Abigail and Ciera from M+P Models. I like how candid and natural they look; do you agree with me?

©2019 Flavia Catena

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Conversation with Female Photographers – Kat Terek

I met Kat on a Saturday winter morning. The dark clouds were hiding the sun which tried to sneak out at times, while we were talking, seated at a coffee shop nearby Farrington station. I had asked Kat to choose a location she had a sort of connection with, where to take her portrait.
It took me long to give consistency to a series of thoughts I have been having for months, and then, one day, I woke up thinking to shoot a series about female photographers, in order to describe the strength, the passion, the perseverance of being a mind and a soul behind the camera, and of showing both the mind and the soul in the images that camera helps taking.
Kat was then the first photographer I decided to approach, and I was so happy she accepted to take part into my project. We have been following each other’s work for quite some time. I immediately loved Kat’s style, the warm colours giving depth to her photographs, the light enriching them and the stories she was telling through them. This is what she loves of being a fashion photographer: the possibility to work around an idea and to develop its narrative in a clear but personal way.
Kat discovered her passion for photography a few years ago, when she was studying Audio Video Engineering at Glasgow University. It was thanks to a Film project she got involved into that Kat bought her first camera, an analogue lens to go with it, and started capturing what her eyes could not stop to look at, from people on the streets, to friends and all the little things which sometimes go unnoticed in our daily life.
Soon after moving to London, Kat developed her interest for fashion photography as well. During our conversation, she stated how important is finding a good team while working on a creative project. Respect, trust and especially kindness are very important, essential, when communicating with someone, whether they be a make up artist, a stylist or a model. The fashion world is like a big ladder – she described it – that one needs to climb step by step. And for this to be an ideal world – or anything close to it – there would need to be more interactions between photographers, without a feeling of competition, and more empathy and consideration for everyone who is part of it. This is not a job we can do on our own: giving and receiving emotions is what makes it real, what makes it special.

I want to thank Kat so much for sharing her experiences and opinions, and for the hours she spent with me, taking photos and chatting. Don’t miss to have a look at her work visiting her website: http://www.katterek.com, and Instagram: @katterek. You’ll also find a few of her beautiful images featured at the end of this post.

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Here below some of Kat’s fashion shoot!

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End of summer

She walks in the wood, bare feet and her hands open to capture the shadows of the hours which are fading away. So, like the summer, and its memories, young and cheerful. Light seems to lift her soul; her eyes rest on a far away lake, and the day is already close to its end.

My last fashion story of the summer, in collaboration with model Morgan Black, stylist Bethany Anne Kelsey and make up artist Francesca Quagliatti.

©2018 Flavia Catena

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Rue

“There was something awesome in the thought of the solitary mortal standing by the open window and summoning in from the gloom outside the spirits of the nether world.” Arthur Conan Doyle

A few portraits of the beautiful Rue for D1Models. Make up by the talented Micaela Congia.

©2018 Flavia Catena

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Thread Tales Co. S/S 2018 Campaign

I am delighted to share with you these photos taken for Thread Tales’ Summer-Spring collection!

Model: Kim Nhung; make up and hair: Laura Onea; studio: Two Mag Pies Location, London

https://threadtalescompany.com/

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Heather

“In a world that grows more and more rigid, industrialised and concrete-paved every day, the sight of a sunny field teeming with wildflowers can almost feel like something from a fairy tale.”

These are the words that introduce my fashion story “Heather”, published on Whim Online Magazine, and that entirely describe what I felt that day in August, while shooting in those beautiful summer fields in Buckinghamshire. It seemed like to be back in a glorious romantic past and so far from the modern world that for a moment being lost sounded like a new exciting adventure.

Thanks a lot to my beautiful model/stylist and make up artist Martina Sukupova Davidson, and again to Whim Magazine! Here is the published photo-shoot: http://www.whimmagazine.com/2017/10/photoshoot-heather-flavia-catena/

©2017 Flavia Catena

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