Jingles Bell

Last night as I was walking home after spending all day rephoto-graphing, I passed an Italian Santa who was singing:

"Jingles Bell, Jingles Bell, Jingles all the ways..."

He was working for a bakery giving out samples of the usual stale Italian bread that you can easily get at a number bakery's here. As I walked away from him, smiling, I felt contented and happy after a hard, but very successful day of work.

Most of day I was on Piazza Maggiore making photographs from scenes passed many Christmas' ago. I thought because it was Sunday there would be just a few people on the streets because most everything would be closed. Ya! Right! The last shopping Sunday before Natale and all the stores would be closed! Think again my consumer society, some things are the same all over the world. It actually worked out to my advantage to have all of the shops open and the streets full of humans with lire in their hands ready to spend it on some useless gift for their beloved. I went to the centro, right on the town square. There were mobs.

It was great! I realized something important about my project. I am working from the vision of someone else (I knew that). I am going back to, if you will, 're-visit' their vision and to make a contemporary version of it (I knew that also). I am interested in changes, both architectural and cultural. I actually consider myself to be a (visual) cultural anthropologist. OK then, once I am set up and all the tech stuff is done, I want to make an interesting photograph. That means something that will attract and keep the attention of the viewer. I kind of feel like Max Yavno must have in San Francisco in the early 60's, setting up the view camera and just waiting for something interesting to come into the frame. So my interaction with the old photographs is to find them and set up and wait for the action (visually and culturally) to become interesting.

I rephotographed a scene which will be a triptych in the show. The scene is in the center of the Piazza where a statue of Vittorio Emanuale once stood with him proudly on his horse. He was a leader of the kingdom until the war when he basically just lost his leadership. His punishment was to have his statue moved to a corner of Giardini Margherita, a garden just outside of the centro. The three photographs will consist of the original, the same composition of the monument in Giardini Margherita with no one around, and the Piazza without the sculpture. The interesting aspect to rephotographing the scene on the Piazza was that where the sculpture used to be, there was a Santa with his reindeer and a photographer hoping to make your portrait with Senior' Claus. To me that was ironic. Failed leadership replaced by commercialism (ho ho ho).

The holiday is upon us. The hustle and bustle of crazy shoppers in the street can be felt more intensely as the day gets closer. I have observed many people walking the streets with 'spend-worthy eyes' and bags full of wrapped gifts. The streets are also alive with street people wishing that you would share the gift of giving with them. I've seen many musicians, beggars, gypsies, and a few actors. I always feel inclined to give to the ones that work for the money.

This man was great. He was not a good actor, but very dedicated to his work. It was a cold afternoon and having been outside all day I felt a chill. As I approached he was talking to a man and I stopped and waited for him to get back to work. I noticed as I waited that he was cold to a point were his hands were shaking. I really felt for him. He was really putting in a hard days work. I am curious how much he can make in a day.

His method was interesting. He would freeze in a position until someone dropped something in a box sitting at this feet. He would then move in a slow fluid motion (when he is warmer) and do a small gesture and always move his eyes to see who would contribute. He would not say a word, but his eyes would say it all. I really felt for him. He actually was not good, but he had the integrity to stand up there and do it.

This time of year Piazza Maggiore is full of visitors. The church doors of San Petronio are covered by paintings of the arrival of the man to show its festive spirit. Tourists still fill the area and document the fact that they were, in fact, there.

The night before I went to a Natale (Christmas) dinner party, partially put together in my honor. It was my first Italian Natale dinner. Not unlike those that I have had in the states, but very warm in the sense that it was my Italian 'family' that was having it for me. I was there early teaching Alberto to print as Carlo and Theresa were getting the house ready. Theresa was preparing a wonderful meal.

With the festive spirit all the preparations were made. It was the first time this year I have really felt the spirit of the holiday season. It made me happy that I have friends who care about me and want to share the feelings of the season with me. It warmed my heart. I feel that I have a family in this country. What a fortunate feeling that is. I have come here as a stranger and now have a family.

This experience has made me appreciate how difficult it really is to move to a different place (let alone a different country) and feel at ease with friends. This experience has made me realize how I take for granted what I have. In a place that is known to me, I know I have friends and can always be with someone. On Christmas if we are in Rochester we will get many invites for parties or dinners. Even if it is 'the day' itself and we are alone, we will always have someone inviting us over. That is such a comforting feeling.

Just the fact that the preparations were made with such care shows that there is an aesthetic to gatherings. That special touch that shows that someone cares. 'La Bella Vita!'