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

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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The Photographers Series: Madara Freimane

A lilac summer dress, long blonde hair, porcelain skin and a sweet smile, Madara Freimane welcomed me on a warm spring day in the colourful neighbour of Notting Hill, London. We walked around Portobello Road looking for a place where to sit down and have a chat about her work, and we ended up in a lovely cozy cafe with beautiful windows facing the busy street.
Madara is a great freelance photographer and a strong, independent young woman promoting sustainability in the fashion industry through her successful platform What’s your legacy (WYL).
Originally from Latvia, she started taking photos while still living in her country. After a short period of time spent in Vienna, she then moved to London where she attended the London College of Fashion. It is during those years at University, immersing herself in a world which often shows us only its shining side, that she became aware of what’s behind the high street brands, of how clothes are produced – exploiting people and the environment – and of how depersonalising some trend can be when forcing us to buy and wear certain outfits due to their popularity.
The shining world then became dull if not even dark, and Madara decided to look more into sustainable brands whose clothes were both beautiful and ethically made, saying goodbye, with no regrets, to the high street ones.
The idea to offer other people the right tools to make their own decisions also when it comes to fashion, brought What’s your Legacy to life.
Madara now shoots for ethical brands, take videos interviewing people whose talent has been dedicated to the mission, and fill the online platform with amazing contents.
Also as a photographer, she looks for honesty and simplicity. She likes a portrait taken outdoors, with natural light; she loves working with trusted creatives and with models who are confident with their own bodies, who are guided by their personality, not by set rules. Her photos are candid, fresh and yet captivating, as the brands she works with and she promotes.
It is our responsibility, in the same way it is theirs, to make a difference, to show our unique faces and to work together for the world we value.
I thanks Madara so much for working with me on this project, and I invite you to have a look at her work at https://wylstore.com/ and to follow her on Instagram @wyl_store.
©2019 Flavia Catena
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Here below some of Madara’s photographs:
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Freckles and flowers

The purity of youth, the candid beauty of flowers, and the perfection of the painted freckles make this beauty shoot one of my favourite work so far! Thanks a lot to my team, to the talented make up artist Micaela Congia, to the great hair stylist Giulia Piras and to the sweet model Bella Ford, from M+P Models, for helping me taking these honest, natural and romantic images!

©2019 Flavia Catena

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Conversation with Female Photographers – Karolina Wisniowska

While in the process of planning my next conversation with a female photographer, my path luckily crossed with Karolinaʼs. She saw a post I had shared and she wrote me a lovely message saying she was interested in collaborating. I was very excited as I had been following Karolinaʼs work for a few months and I really liked to see her photos leaving a trace of melancholic beauty on my Instagramʼs home page. I felt we had lots of things in common, so we planned a shoot in Bristol, where she is based.
Karolina Wisniowska is an amazing photographer, originally from Poland, working on portraiture and fashion. She started experimenting with self-portrait when she was only 15, as a way to look at herself with more confident eyes, and decided to attend a photography school after graduating. She already knew she wanted art to be part of her life. After a short time in Aberdeen, it was in Bristol where she started her career. Working first as food photographer, she soon went back to her main passion which is photographing people, and she had the chance to shoot with local brands and magazines, while being also a mum of a beautiful young girl.
While chatting, seated in a nice café in the centre of Bristol, I could feel how shy, humble, but at the same time how enthusiastic Karolina is. She did not just talk about her photographs, but about all the feelings, the emotions, the connections that bring each of those photographs to life. Images are stories, she said, and here is where fashion comes. It helps developing a concept and makes an idea, even the most dreamy one, tangible.
And for a good story to work, great characters are essential. And if you look at Karolinaʼs work, you will see how naturally and beautifully she lets people talk in front of her lens. You can almost feel their nostalgia, their timid joy, their silent words. Her women are delicate and strong at the same time, elegant in a natural and simple way, the only way, I believe. This is what I enjoy when I see one of Karolinaʼs images: the beauty of reality, its authenticity.
Thanks a lot, Karolina, for sharing all that with me and for the time spent together!
Please, donʼt miss to follow Karolina Wisniowskaʼs work visiting her website http://www.karolinawisniowska.com and her Instagram @wisniovsky.
©2019 Flavia Catena
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Here below you can see some of Karolina’s beautiful photographs!
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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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In Conversation with photographer Katt Webster

Finn, a black, curious cat, jumped on the couch where I was sitting, ready to start a new conversation about fashion and photography. He smelled my face, as a way to welcome me, and then started wondering around the bright room. Katt Webster is Finn’s owner, and the second artist I decided to portrait for my new series about young women behind a camera.
Katt is a very talented photographer whose style captured me since when I first had a look at her work. The beautiful pastel colours of her images, the harmony of the poses and compositions make her pictures really captivating and pleasant to the eyes.
Katt’s adventure with photography started when she was 16, and she was living in a small village in the surrounding of Oxford. Some fine art and photography courses make her interest in the field grow (one of her teacher was interestingly Norman Parkinson’s nephew!), and she began experimenting with shooting fashion, something that had fascinated her since she was a teenager. She then moved to London and worked for some time as social-media manager before becoming a full time freelance photographer.
Photography can be definitively a difficult path to walk on, sometimes, Katt reckons, but those around you really make the difference. She feels lucky to collaborate and work with emerging designers, brands and creatives. Although a certain luck of communication and the difficulty – sometimes also as a woman – to be recognised and supported can be draining, meeting new people, people to share a passion and an inspiration with, and doing something different everyday make her feel free. And freedom is what gives every artist a reason to live with their art!
We had just finished talking about this when Katt introduced me to Teddy, her youngest adopted cat, only one month, that I decided to photograph with her. Of course, we included also Finn in the session, and had what every creative should have when working: a lot of fun!

I thank Katt very much for her time and for what she shared with me about herself and her work. Do not miss to have a look at her website: https://www.kattwebster.co.uk/, and follow her on Instagram: @kattwebsterphoto. Here below you’ll see also a selection of her beautiful portraits!

©2019 Flavia Catena

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Katt Webster’s photos:

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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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