Tag Archives: Italy

Roman Panoramas – Miniature Platinum Prints

After printing a few of these panoramas from Rome, I was so taken by the intimacy of the miniature format of the 2 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ contact print, I went and made a whole series of them. I’m at fourteen of them now, but that number will fluctuate a little as I finish printing and edit down from there. I’m going to go out shooting this weekend and make some more images in the format and perhaps build a full show’s worth.

Columns, Marble Floor, Trajan's Market
Columns, Marble Floor, Trajan’s Market

I took the portfolio to the Sunday morning critique we have at Glen Echo, and instead of presenting them as raw prints, I matted them with 8-ply mats with oversize margins (11×14 inch mat boards, so roughly 4-6 inch margins around the 2 1/4 x 4 1/4 inch window). I also cut the windows such that all the mats could be viewed in landscape orientation regardless of whether the image was in portrait or landscape orientation.

Trajan's Column, Via Fori Imperiali
Trajan’s Column, Via Fori Imperiali

Presentation is very important when considering your work. It should be the first thought on your mind when planning a show – of course you need to edit the body of work, but how it will look on the wall is just as critical to successful reception as the work itself. Good presentation will focus the viewer’s attention on the work and block out the distractions of everything else going on around it.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

Also, if you’re at all concerned with selling your work, makes a huge difference in the sales price – poorly presented, someone would pay a poster price for an original Ansel Adams, if they bought it at all. Properly presented, your work will fetch premium prices even though nobody has really heard of you outside your own city.

Column Fragment, Imperial Forum
Column Fragment, Imperial Forum

This webpage is a prime example of the issue of presentation – showing these images here in this size on this medium is a complete and utter failure to represent the scale, quality and impact of the images. You’re looking at them on your monitor, in a size well beyond their actual physical size in reality. And because they’re scans of the prints, the paper texture is exaggerated as are any minor flaws due to the handmade nature of the prints.

More Tiny Contact Prints

Here is the continuation of the tiny prints series. All of these are still from Rome, again the Lomo Belair X6-12 as the camera of choice. I was having a conversation yesterday with a friend about these and while sharing them online is great, seeing scans of them at what ends up being a much larger size than the actual print, they lose some of their impact.

This is a statue of the Archangel Michael, in the Castel Sant’Angelo. His body is stone but the wings are bronze.

Archangel Michael, Castel Sant'Angelo
Archangel Michael, Castel Sant’Angelo

The umbrella pine image is one of those that when I scanned the negative and worked with the image in Photoshop, all the “flaws” of the negative become quite apparent, and you start thinking it’s not a successful image. But contact printed, it cleans up nicely and really sings.

Roman Umbrella Pine
Roman Umbrella Pine

St. Peter’s Basilica Facade. This is one of the images that made me respect the Belair and its results more than I did initially. It’s still not going to ever match a serious panorama camera like a Horseman 6×12 with a highly corrected glass lens, but it does a great job for what it is, and certainly it scores extremely well in the value-for-money proposition – I got mine used for $200, whereas a used Horseman would set you back closer to $2000.

St. Peter's Facade
St. Peter’s Facade

The plaza in front of St. Peter’s was set up for a Papal Mass when I was there. The sea of folding chairs made for an interesting composition, leading your eye back to the obelisk and beyond.

St. Peter's Plaza
St. Peter’s Plaza

These are the famous three remaining columns of the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum. This one really strikes me because of the simple, graphic nature of the subject. It’s another one of those images that everyone photographs when they’re at the Forum, and everyone knows it, even if you haven’t ever been to the Forum. Printing in platinum/palladium takes it somewhere new and different and it doesn’t feel like just another tourist image.

Three Columns, Temple of Vesta, Roman Forum
Three Columns, Temple of Vesta, Roman Forum

All these images are platinum/palladium prints, in this case all are a 50/50 blend of platinum and palladium, on the new wonderful Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag paper. I’m going to have to try a pure platinum print with it next and see how it behaves.

Beginning of a new series – tiny contact prints

When I was in Rome last year… (no jokes please!) I shot a bunch of panoramic images with my new-to-me Lomo Belair X6-12. My just completed session of the Intro to Platinum/Palladium Printing class I teach inspired me to dig them out and see how they would fare in the medium. I’m really loving these tiny prints – 2 1/4 by 4 1/4 inches! They make you get up close and intimate with the print. I’m matting them in 11×14 inch 8-ply mats for extra measure.

ColosseumPanoPtPd

ColosseumVertPanoPtPd

TiberPanoramaPtPd

Sometimes you have to walk away from a process or a practice for a while, which happened to me with platinum/palladium. I was on a kick of doing other stuff, shooting my travels with the Rolleiflex. Then it was the Fuji rabbit hole with digital and the X-T1. Then this class came along and I needed something to jumpstart my printing. These images were just the ticket. Photographers in general have an obsession with how big they can make their prints, and even the general public too. But there’s something to be said for tiny prints. I still remember the Andre Kertesz show at the National Gallery where they had a lot of his early work on display – in his youth, he could only make contact prints off of small negatives from roll film cameras because he was poor and didn’t have space for a dedicated darkroom. Getting up close and personal with his images, like “Underwater Swimmer”, which is all of 1 1/2 by 2 1/4 inches, really makes you think about the image itself instead of being awed by its size. Not that I have several million dollars to spare, but I’d much rather spend that kind of money on a print of “Underwater Swimmer” than on Andreas Gursky’s “Rhein II”. Fortunately, the Kertesz would be a lot cheaper to buy than the Gursky anyway.

On a separate note, I’d like to give a shout-out to Carol Boss at Hahnemuhle papers. All three images above were printed on the new Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag paper. She has very generously become a sponsoring partner of my Intro to Platinum/Palladium class at Glen Echo Photoworks, and is supplying us with our paper. It is a wonderful new paper- very easy to coat and print on. It may well displace my old standard Bergger COT 320.

Panoramas of the Colosseum, Rome

Photographing the Colosseum was one of the primary reasons I brought the Belair X/6-12. I knew already that I wanted to take panoramic shots of the building, as just about anything else aspect ratio-wise was not going to do the place justice. I think (I hope, anyway) that these give you somewhat of a sense of the scale of the building – it sits in a large open plaza and is every bit as large as a modern American Football stadium, seating somewhere in excess of 50,000 people. A testament to its architectural genius is that the entire stadium could be emptied in a matter of minutes.

Colosseum Panorama
Colosseum Panorama

These views depict the outer curtain wall, of which only a fraction remains. In fact, almost 2/3 of the original stadium and its decorations are gone – the columns, marble seats, wooden flooring and doors and bronze and gold decorations are all lost to the ravages of earthquakes, vandals, fires, and architectural re-purposing.

Colosseum Panorama
Colosseum Panorama

An astounding fact about the outer curtain wall – there is NO mortar used in its construction. The entire edifice was assembled and held together by iron bow-tie shaped clamps interconnecting each block.

Colosseum Panorama
Colosseum Panorama

Roman Panoramas – Pines of Rome

So I was busy and didn’t get around to developing the last few rolls from my Italian adventure until a couple days ago. I’m working through them now – they’re all panoramic shots taken with my Lomo Belair X/6-12. I’m still on the fence about whether and how much I like it.

Umbrella Pine, Via Fori Imperiali
Umbrella Pine, Via Fori Imperiali

In this case, it worked. Quite well in fact. This is one of the famous “Pines of Rome” – the umbrella pine – that are ubiquitous throughout the city and the region. They’re the source of the pine nuts used in making pesto. The umbrella pine is such a signature emblem of Rome I needed to take a photo of it by itself because now having been there, I can’t think of the city without thinking of the pines.

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere

The Piazza Santa Cecilia is one of the focal points of my part of Trastevere. It is named after the eponymous church and convent that borders its west side. The lantern on #21 Piazza Santa Cecilia casts a long shadow in the light of dawn:

21 Piazza Santa Cecilia
21 Piazza Santa Cecilia

The Piazza dei Mercanti abuts the Piazza Santa Cecilia. In this view as the sun sets and the street lamps come on, there’s not much to see of the piazza itself from all the cars parked in it, but a very large restaurant faces it that does a bustling business on a warm fall evening. A neighborhood resident is out for a stroll, perhaps on their way to the coffee bar up the street.

Piazza dei Mercanti, Evening, from the Piazza Santa Cecilia
Piazza dei Mercanti, Evening, from the Piazza Santa Cecilia

Santa Cecilia’s courtyard remains open quite late into the evening, and the public can come and go through the gates. There has been a church on the site since the 3rd Century AD, when it was built over the location of St. Cecilia’s house. The main body of the church dates to the 13th Century, and some 9th century mosaics are preserved within. The facade and the courtyard are 18th century renovations, however.

Exterior, Gates to Santa Cecilia, Night
Exterior, Gates to Santa Cecilia, Night

This cherub keystones the arch over the main gate to the courtyard.

Cherub, Santa Cecilia Courtyard
Cherub, Santa Cecilia Courtyard

Inside the courtyard you can view the 18th century facade of the church, ancient mosaics and an ancient cantharus or water urn that now is the centerpiece to a fountain. The bell tower dates to the 12th Century, and looms over pretty much the entire neighborhood. Here young couples sit on the edge of the fountain to canoodle while admiring the church before wandering off to dinner or perhaps a more appropriate intimate location.

Santa Cecilia Courtyard, Twilight
Santa Cecilia Courtyard, Twilight

Trastevere Alleys

I rented an apartment at 38 Via Dei Genovesi in Trastevere for my stay in Rome. I wanted to get something of a more authentic Roman living experience rather than stay in a touristy hotel or b&b, without giving up the convenience of a central location. I got that in Trastevere – narrow cobblestone streets, populated with neighborhood restaurants frequented by locals and tourists alike, a little grocery store and bakery across the street, a coffee shop downstairs, and boutiques with interesting merchandise in the alleyways surrounding the apartment. Two blocks away was the street car that would take me to the Piazza Venezia, or the Trastevere train station in the other direction. Dante’s house in Rome was across the street from the street car stop.

The downsides? Well, the first one wasn’t so bad – I was on the fourth floor of what may well have been a 15th century building, so walking up and down it was. I wanted and needed the exercise. The second, that was my downfall, pardon the pun – there were down pillows on my bed, and as it turns out I am hyper-allergic to them. As in couldn’t really be in the same apartment with them, let alone use them. Also, for whatever reason, the apartment despite being four stories above the street, was exceptionally noisy. Pretty much twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Trash trucks would come rumbling through at 3 AM. That kind of noisy. I could deal with the people spilling out of the restaurants at midnight – that would be easy enough to sleep through for me. It’s the inorganic noises that get me. I would still highly recommend Trastevere as a fantastic neighborhood to stay in for all the above mentioned reasons – location, ambience, food – just not the apartment I stayed in.

How could you resist the charms of a neighborhood where THIS is a street? It makes you feel like any minute Robert Langdon is going to step out of a doorway and implore your assistance in solving another Renaissance Art code/murder mystery.

Twisty Alley, Trastevere
Twisty Alley, Trastevere

Street parking being somewhat at a premium, and garage parking extremely so, lots of people ride vintage bicycles around the neighborhood. Here’s one that belongs to a neighbor…

Chained Bike, Trastevere Alley
Chained Bike, Trastevere Alley

This flowering vine has been allowed to grow for possibly centuries until it has turned into a tree, swallowing the downspout and enveloping the wall, leaving room for the mailbox and its door just beyond.

Tree, Mailbox, Trastevere
Tree, Mailbox, Trastevere

Here a late-opening book shop is perused by a customer as night envelops the neighborhood.

Nuove Edizione Romane
Nuove Edizioni Romane

Ordinary Objects, Italian Edition

As you may well know if you’ve followed my blog for some length of time, I like taking portraits of ordinary objects- things we see in daily life and ignore and/or take for granted, like pay phones, water fountains, traffic cones, and trash cans. I’ve photographed them in Paris, Toronto, New York, Washington DC and now Rome and Florence. They all have a common denominator of their base functionality. I think though that the Italian ones seem to have just a bit more flair and style to them – take a look and see what you think.

This fire hose connector is probably the newest thing I’ve photographed in this series – the copper connecting pipe has only just begun to oxidize!

Fire Hose Connector
Fire Hose Connector

In contrast, this trash can in Florence with cigarette butt receptacle is quite well-used, but still has style.

Quadrifoglio Trash Can, Florence
Quadrifoglio Trash Can, Florence

… as does this Roman bin across from the Capitoline hill.

Trashcan in the rain, Rome
Trashcan in the rain, Rome

The poor mailbox in Trastevere has been graffiti’d and stickered and it still soldiers on.

Mailbox, Trastevere, Rome
Mailbox, Trastevere, Rome

Don’t you wish all payphones were this glamorous (and as easy to find)? Here in DC when I went to find a payphone to photograph, it took me several days of looking before I ran into one. I saw this one on my first day in Florence.

Payphone, Florence
Payphone, Florence

I’ll include this because it has a very utilitarian purpose – it’s a street lamp. Granted, a 15th century street lamp attached to a palace, but a street lamp nonetheless.

Torch Holder, Palazzo Medici-Riccardi
Torch Holder, Palazzo Medici-Riccardi

A public drinking fountain. These were ubiquitous across Rome, in very much the same form, some in better and some in worse condition. But they worked, and the water was sweet and clean, always flowing, and free.

Water Fountain, Trastevere, Rome
Water Fountain, Trastevere, Rome

A lowly door handle – this one in particular is attached to a palace, but there were plenty to be found of similar quality on middle-class residences in both Rome and Florence.

Door Handle, Boboli Gardens
Door Handle, Boboli Gardens

And last but not least, a traffic cone. Well, in this case, a red granite bollard some four feet high and three-ish in diameter, in the entrance courtyard to the Palazzo Barberini.

Red Granite Bollard, Palazzo Barberini
Red Granite Bollard, Palazzo Barberini

Theater of Marcellus

Today, the remains of the Theater of Marcellus are visible beneath the fortified palazzo on top. At the time of its construction in 11 BC, it could hold 14,000 spectators. If the structural design looks familiar, it’s because it inspired the design of the Colosseum some 60 years later.

In the 1300s it was acquired by the Fabii family who turned it into a fortress. Later the Orsini family acquired it in the 16th century and hired an architect to convert it into a palazzo. The residential structure you see on the top three floors is that conversion. Today the palazzo has been divided up into multiple apartments. How cool would that be to live in a 16th century palace built on 1st century BC foundations?

Theater of Marcellus and Apartments
Theater of Marcellus and Apartments
Apartments over the Theater of Marcellus
Apartments over the Theater of Marcellus
Arches, Theater of Marcellus
Arches, Theater of Marcellus
Apartments over the Theater of Marcellus
Apartments over the Theater of Marcellus

Under the heading of “who wears it better?” – Which works better, the black-and-white or the color?

Theater of Marcellus, Detail, Black-and-White
Theater of Marcellus, Detail, Black-and-White
Theater of Marcellus, Detail, Color
Theater of Marcellus, Detail, Color

Immediately behind the theater is the ruins of the temple of Apollo Sosianus (so named for the man responsible for reconstructing it in the style we see today). There was a temple to Apollo on this site since the 5th century BC. It was originally outside the main city boundaries because it was a foreign cult, imported from Greece. It sits directly across the Roman street from the Theater of Marcellus. Because of the proximity to the city walls, the Senate chambers and the theater, many backroom political deals were struck in its chambers.

Temple of Apollo Sosiano
Temple of Apollo Sosiano

The three columns you see today were re-discovered and re-erected in the 1930s after the demolition of an apartment building to re-expose to view the Theater of Marcellus. The columns’ pieces were found in the arcades of the theater. While they have been placed on the pedestal and re-topped with their capitals and frieze, it is highly unlikely that they are in their actual original positions.

Peace Memorial Fountain, Capitoline Hill

In the Piazzale Caffarelli on the Capitoline Hill, there is this small fountain dedicated to those who have died in the cause of peace, both civilian and military. The little park is a quiet pause from the hustle and bustle of the city of Rome.

Peace Fountain, Capitoline Hill
Peace Fountain, Capitoline Hill