I think this was a newsstand kiosk, but it’s painted to advertise San Angel Moving, in a very old-school style. One of their trucks was parked right next to it.
I couldn’t help but photograph this bright yellow cafe/restaurant – what a cool building!
Another building that cried out to be photographed – if it were stone and not brick, I would assume this was in Spain or Italy, not Mexico. It has a dance school inside, as well as a residence. Who knows how old it is?
A typical street in San Angel – those cobblestones could go all the way back to the 17th century. The neighborhood, today, is one of the most upscale in Mexico City, with many of the Viceregal compounds and ex-convents/monasteries converted into extremely private residences de luxe.
I just loved the old-school barbershop interior and the “Abierto, Pase Ud” (Open, Please Come In” sign on the door. It reminded me of the barbershops in the town I grew up in.
The last time I was in Mexico City, this fountain wasn’t running. So nice to see it operating – it really brings the plaza together and makes it feel more alive, even when the Saturday artists’ market isn’t running.
Part of the reason for my trip to Mexico City was to see Victor. It’s a developing thing – we haven’t placed a label on it but whatever it is, it’s good. And he’s a willing subject for the camera, which is a nice change of pace from my ex.
It was also an opportunity to test out the portrait lens on my Mamiya RZ67 (the camera is new to me, but the lens’ quality is known far and wide – I just needed to see for myself what it would do and if I liked it. I do).
We spent an afternoon wandering around the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) campus when I shot these.
This last one was taken with the 110mm f2.8 lens. It’s an equally good lens for portraits when you need something that gives a bit more background and/or a closer working distance, like this shot.
All images made on Kodak Tri-X 400. I really like Tri-X for the tonality it has, and the just-a-little-bit of tooth.
This very last image was made with the 50mm lens as an example of environmental portraiture. The film was Kodak Ektar 100, which I love for the color saturation and sharpness.
I’ve noticed that as the series continues, my style of shooting it has evolved, which is a good thing. The photos are becoming more consistent, especially in terms of composition. The camera is placed on a level with the object, which usually means much lower than eye or even sometimes waist level, and more frontally square to the object.
The hydrant is in a suburban Florida cul-de-sac where the tallest things around it are date palms, and they’re not massed together to form a giant wall, so the lighting is direct sun, not a diffused sky. I’ve been looking at it and trying to decide how well it fits the series – I think it does on the subject matter and the compositional level, but until I shoot more objects in suburban or rural environments it feels weird because the background isn’t walls or windows or passing traffic, but grass and trees.
Back in November I taught a studio lighting class at Photoworks. This was my first time offering this class, so the curriculum was a bit of a gamble – I started with foundations of studio lighting, working from hot lights on still life setups and a single light source, and built my way up to electronic flash systems with multiple lights. In this case, my students had the burning itch to jump straight to portraiture, as that was their primary interest. I had a wonderful bunch of students in the class and everyone brought something to the table.
The portraits here are taken by me of my students. The portrait of Joe was done to demonstrate side light with a large diffuse light source, and a reflector. For demonstration purposes I moved the reflector in and out to lighten and darken the shadows, and shot it with both high and low contrast. This is my favorite of the bunch – there’s three-dimensional modeling of his face with the light, but the shadowed side of his face is not lost.
Geraldine was lit to show soft, flattering light. This was the classic “butterfly light” with a large diffuse light directly above and in front of the subject, a reflector below to open up the shadows a bit, and then hair light and background light applied to create separation of the subject from the background.
The shot of Matthew was done to demonstrate that “edge lighting” look you often see in sports photos of young athletes in shoe commercials. Obviously Matthew is no longer a high-school football player, but the look is very masculine and rugged and it works well on him. This was accomplished with two equal-powered heads in soft boxes, placed behind the sitter, at 45 degree angles to the subject-camera axis, and then adding in a little fill in the front so his face wouldn’t get lost.
The final photo of the day is our group shot. That’s me in the center, if you’re wondering. My fourth student in the class was Leslie, who is the one hiding behind Matthew’s shoulder.
All individual portraits were done with a Tele-Rolleiflex and the Rolleinar 0.35 close-up adapter, on Kodak Ektar 100 color film. The two black-and-white images were converted from Photoshop. Ektar is a good portrait film in natural light, I’ve decided, but for studio portraiture, Portra 160 is better.
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!
In contrast, this trash can in Florence with cigarette butt receptacle is quite well-used, but still has style.
… as does this Roman bin across from the Capitoline hill.
The poor mailbox in Trastevere has been graffiti’d and stickered and it still soldiers on.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Under the heading of “who wears it better?” – Which works better, the black-and-white or the 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.
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.
I spent almost half a day wandering around the Castel Sant’Angelo, poring over every vista, nook, cranny and fragmented rock. I was in photographic heaven. There’s everything inside it to point your lens at from Roman sculptures to fanciful brickwork to Renaissance paintings. The Castel Sant’Angelo is one of the most recognizable structures in Rome. The foundations of it date back over 2000 years to the reign of emperor Hadrian, who had it built as his mausoleum. In the Christian era, the proximity to St. Peter’s and the Vatican palace made it useful not only as a source of marble for construction of churches and apostolic palaces, but as a fortification. The drum-like structure was originally Hadrian’s tomb, and was covered in white marble. A succession of popes built on top of this, had walls with gun emplacements built around it, corridors cut through it, had palatial apartments added on top of it, and used Hadrian’s burial chamber as a dungeon for their most valuable/most hated prisoners. An elevated, sealed corridor with defensive structures runs atop a wall connecting the Vatican apartments to the Castel, enabling the pope to flee to the safety and security of the castle in times of siege. The castle has wells of its own and storage enough to keep its garrison provisioned for up to six months at a time.
This bastion overlooks the entrance gate of the castle that faces the Tiber river and the Angel bridge. Quite the fearsome looking structure, isn’t it?
Here is perhaps the most famous view of the castle. The statues of angels were added to the bridge in the 16th and 17th centuries, but three of the five arches of the bridge are contemporary with the original construction of Hadrian’s mausoleum. So you’re crossing a 2000-year old span over the Tiber when you use the bridge.
This is a view of the bridge from one of the outer bastions over the main gate to the castle. During the Jubilee year of 1450, so many pilgrims crammed onto the bridge that the railings gave way and many plunged into the river to their deaths. Starting in the 1530s, the angels that adorn the bridge began to be added.
Looking down onto the footings of the bridge in the Tiber, we can see some interesting graffiti, particularly the figure of the man holding a woman’s prone form.
This young man was playing his guitar for tips on the bridge. I think he was consulting his dog as to what to play next.
Moving inside the fortification, these steps emerge from one of the bastion towers to the courtyard that encircles the central drum at its base.
Looking out a gun port in the fortifications of the castle, you can see the bridges over the Tiber in the distance.
A newel post topped with a stone sphere on the stairs leading from the inner courtyard toward the Papal apartments:
These stairs lead to a structure that probably housed Papal guards. The stone lantern atop them is one of several around the fort.
A close-up detail of another one of the stone lanterns:
At the level of the upper courtyard, a statue of the Archangel Michael dominates. Opposite is one of several wells that keep the castle in fresh water in case of siege.
The fortification is crowned by a bronze statue of the Archangel Michael, drawing his sword. Modern additions have also placed radio aerials on the roof, overtopping the archangel. Technologia Omnia Vincit, as it were.
I went to the Forum on a bright and sunny day, thinking I would pass the time until I could get in the Colosseum. Little did I realize that the two-plus hour delay on entering the colosseum was for timed entry tickets, not general admission, even with my Roma Pass, and I would still have to wait in line for two hours to get in. It all worked out in the end – I enjoyed the Forum and wandered the periphery of the Colosseum and got some good shots of the exterior, and took a pass on going inside. Now that I know better I’ll go back the next time and get timed-entry tickets or book a tour in advance. Do NOT get suckered in by the tour guides touting skip-the-line access on the plaza around the Colosseum – the guides who give the tours are of questionable expertise and foreign language skill, so about the only plus you’ll get from going in with them is skipping the line.
This column is one of the few remaining columns of a loggia across from the Basilica Julia.
The temple of Vesta is a small circular structure, with a few columns and a fragment of a wall jutting up. This would have housed a flame kept burning by the Vestal virgins, women who pledged celibacy for some thirty years of service. They would have been too old to marry or have children by their retirement, but if they were able to wait that long, they were richly rewarded and retired to lives of considerable luxury and comfort. If they couldn’t wait, well… they and their defilers were sentenced to death.
I caught this school group in the Forum, one student presenting a topic about the place to his fellow students. I suspect it was a project for a history course. Made me wish I had gone to school somewhere in Europe that we would have taken field trips to the Forum, instead of to the American History museum to look at displays of Revolutionary War muskets.
Two of the major surviving structures of the Forum are visible in this view – the Temple of Romulus (now part of the Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damiano) and the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. The temple of Romulus is the cylindrical structure in the foreground. Because of its early re-use as a Christian church, the temple of Romulus is, after the Pantheon, the best preserved Roman temple in the city. The Roman Senate structure is also quite well preserved, and the main Senate chamber retains is marble steps and the black marble slab that supposedly marks the tomb of Romulus.
A striking rarity are the doors of the temple of Romulus – they are the ORIGINAL bronze doors, over 2000 years old. Many other temple doors have been either removed and melted down for re-use or, as in the case of the doors of the Senate building, moved by Bernini to Saint John Lateran. You can really feel the patina of the ages when looking at these doors.
The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina was originally built in honor of Faustina, the wife of Emperor Antoninus. She was deified upon her death, and Antoninus had the temple erected in her memory. When he passed away, he too was deified and added to the temple’s namesakes. The colonnade survives in its current state of preservation due to the later conversion of the structure into a Christian church. You can see the former entrance to the church a whole story above the top of the steps – at the time of the conversion, the Forum had infilled to the level of the door.The columns also owe their survival to this infilling – you can see the diagonal gouges in the columns from where ropes or chains were wrapped around them in an attempt to pull them down. This may have been because of an anti-Pagan movement during the early Church, or it may have been by marble scavengers trying to get the columns for their stone.
Most of the temples of the Forum are ruins – a few scant columns remain of them, or in some cases only foundations. The temple of Castor and Pollux is one survivor with a few columns to mark its location. Their losses are due to various anti-Pagan movements and repeated use of the Forum as a low-effort quarry for marble to be used in the palaces of popes and cardinals.
The original altar from the spring of Juturna was on display inside the temple of Romulus as part of a temporary exhibition when I was there. This side depicts the twins Castor and Pollux, who supposedly visited the spring to water their horses. The temple of Castor and Pollux is directly across from the spring. They have a replica in place at the spring itself.