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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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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Model: Jade Van Kooten

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Model: Dovile C.

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Model: Lauren Walker

Jen – Natural beauty portraits

I haven’t post in a while, as busy with work first and then happily distracted by the sun, the blue sky, and the sea! I have been in Berlin for a few days, and in Italy for two weeks. I still can’t believe holidays are finished already! Could summer repeat itself again and again?

I have so many photos still unpublished, so I will start from a test done at the end of last spring. Jen was stunning without make up; I feel her natural beauty and bright personality really stand out from every image we took! Do you agree with me?

Model: Jen White

©2019 Flavia Catena

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Leonie

“We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm – yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.” E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

©2019 Flavia Catena

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Spring is here! Elizabeth’s portraits

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” Rainer Maria Rilke

A selection of photos from a test shoot done in March with the lovely Elizabeth, a Canadian model who was in London for LindenStaub’s agency. We explored Holland Park whose trees and plants were showing their best colours and flowers with the arrival of the spring!

©2019 Flavia Catena

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Hanna – Dancing in the light

I had the pleasure to work with Hanna Lyn Hughes again a few weeks ago, in Oxford. She is a very talented dancer and an amazing person and we spent a few great hours playing around a small black backdrop, some beautiful light, and a couple of dresses from Bianca Elgar’s collection (www.biancaelgar.com) and personal wardrobe. Happy with the result of our shoot, I’ll share these photos with you. Any favourites? Feel free to comment, and follow Hanna’s work on her Instagram: @hannalynhughes.

©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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Photo-shoots back in Milan

Last month I was in Milan to meet up some old friends and breath the fresh Italian air for a few days. That is the city where I started dreaming to be a photographer; among its streets I walked hoping to see the miracle, the perfect image to capture, even just with my own eyes.
It was indeed an emotion to be back in Brera, after more than five years away, to take photos to the lovely Sofya. I used to go to the library, inside the Brera’s Pinacoteca, to read and study, when my future was still unsure but strong my desire to give it the right shape. Following the same memories, I had my second shoot with the beautiful Alexandrina at Indro Montanelli’s Gardens. I lived just a few minutes away from the park, then, and I spent so many spring afternoons walking on its paths, and experimenting with my first camera. I can still remember a day in March when a bunch of children were playing among the trees and soap bubbles were flying in midair. That was one of my first picture. My style has changed and I grew as a photographer since then, but the amazement for beauty has remained the same.

Models: Sofya Berezhko, at Wonderwall Management; Alexandrina Graur, at Brave Models

@2019 Flavia Catena

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Jessica – Beautiful little things

Precious is the flower that stays hidden in a corner, unseen, but yet beautiful, when the sun makes it shine at the end of the day. Precious is the flower that has no name, the one shown and sold on the street, the one offered as a present, the one kept inside a book, dried, as a memory. Precious is your heart which remembers this all.

Some lovely photos from a test shoot with the gorgeous Jessica Fuhrmann, from Linden Staub. Make up: Ceci Wu.

©2019 Flavia Catena

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Fana

Back to a fashion story shot last autumn with the beautiful and sweet Fana, from Linden Staub. In the amazing location of Richmond Park, we played with vintage and dreaming clothes while the sunlight started fading on the horizon.

Model: Fana Dade, Stylist: Yuriko Hiratsuka; Hair and make up: Ceci Wu; Hats: Elena Shvab

©2018 Flavia Catena

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