Sicily On Focus

Sicily on Focus was something I had envisioned as similar to Lusitanus on Focus: nice horses, nice clothing and nice backgrounds. And the skies in the island are to die for…

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The complete team that helped us at Corleone

My idea was to have a small group of 5 or 6 people with open minds and good traveling experience, to share together the Sicilian culture and art as well. Sicily is close to Africa, so close that a good swimmer can cross to the other continent, and yet Sicily is in Europe, no vaccinations needed, no traveling virus, no weird currencies.

I had made a budget calculation for 2.500 to 3000 euros, all included, even the wine, the clothes, the minivan, the driver, just everything. A nice proposal, for 12 days in Sicily.

The food here is yummy, homemade pasta with seafood and creamy goat cheese

I am often afraid to advertise my shared-trips because I am rather selective about who I travel with, so when some people of those choosen 5 backed off , I decided that the project was so interesting that I would do it just for the three of us: Margreet Schouren, Elly and myself. It was a great idea 🙂

The fact that there were only 3 of us enjoying the trip had a great POSITIVE impact on the real budget, as we didn’t need anymore a van nor a driver and we were invited to stay at the farms and houses nearly everywhere. And some great hosts we are having ( we are still traveling in Sicily, now driving to Aidone). We even got to shoot in some places where a bigger group wouldn’t be allowed.

Shot with my phone, one of our locations

I am sure that this happened for a good reason, and the three of us are returning here soon to continue a project we have in mind, inshallah, and probably next year there will be another project in The Netherlands 🙂

For the moment I have decided that three is a good number for my shared trips, except India where we will be five.

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I love sharing my trips with other photographers but it is a privilege not a commercial business, so I select carefully my traveling companions, now even more strictly than ever ;-).

Clothing, make up and good mood can make a difference. Giuseppe  Cimarosa collecting the clothes for the shoot while Noemi checks her make up

Sharing knowledge, skills and ideas is what I love in this kind of trips. Developing concepts, having good food, being free to think outside the box, discussing together a story or a whole shoot.. not babysitting tourists with a camera.

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Studying three classical painters was one of the challenges, it took us three days to complete the project, long discussions till late at night, long tests for the best moment to shoot (natural light), good wine to help the creativity and good mood to help us be confident and creative

We even did a sèance of boudoir indoors, with a medium zoom (70/200) and a few other situations like a sort of “engagement” shoot, inside a XVII century house, only natural light, only one short lens to be used. Big challenges when only one lens is allowed, but nice results.

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Designer and stylist: Elly Schraven, model Giulia Arancio

 

 

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A treat

That afternoon in Maremma I was with my friends Simona and Raffa, and Renzo guiding us, he knew the area very well and he was a great guide.

We left the car at the top of the hill, and carrying the (heavy) equipment backpacks we started walking down to the river to see the light there and to take some photos of two riders. Renzo is a real gentleman and offered himself to take my backpack. The path was narrow and stony.

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At the fountain. SCreenshot of my monitor.

Well, it was quite a difficult walk, specially returning to the car. On our way back we stopped ten minutes to shoot a few photos of a couple on horse back, before the sun left and the night covered the hills, then we loaded everything and we started driving back “home”.

Suddendly at the very top of the next hill we saw the most beautiful sunset, and two horses by some Roman ruins. It was there for us. The whole thing could’ve happened only once in a lifetime, the film Director up above had set everything so perfectly.

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Luck is a very big component of our kind of photography, and we believe it was kind of a reward for the long, tiring walk we had done before. We felt blessed. We went silent the rest of the way to Renzo’s house, as we were moved by such a treat.

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screenshot of the FB page a few minutes ago

A pie sitting on the anvil

Maremma, in Italy,  is a country of strong emotions. My scouting trip there was full of great moments, and we were quite a team: my friend Simona, who was born there and knows everyone and everywhere, fellow photographer Luca, who only joined us for the first day, and Raffaella, our problem solver for everything big and small that needed to be fixed somehow.

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A fruit pie made by Simona, sitting on the anvil after a photo session, like a sort of treat for the models and us.

We worked a lot, walked a lot, shot a lot and laughed quite a lot. Our days started at 4 a.m and ended at 11 p.m, because I needed to do as much as possible in two and a half days. The weather was great, the light perfect, and the temperature acceptable ( quite cold in the early morning but nice and warm during the day).

We met lots of “butteri”, people who are keeping alive the traditions of cattle work from horseback. We had different people and horses modeling for us every day, I will not mention names because there were many of them and I would forget someone.

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Group of butteri moving from one location to the next

I advise you to check this site, where you can find the whole story about the horses and the men, the land and the traditions.

http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/riding-maremma-tuscan-cowboys

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Fake-Macho man

I believe that one of the most disgusting things for me to witness is a guy showing off by abusing or mistreating an animal. Unfortunately that can often be seen in the horse world and I am surely not very popular in some equestrian environments, because I can’t keep quiet and watch a poor horse or any other animal being mistreated.

If you are one of those photographers who think that we are in this world to document and not to judge, believe me, you are ethically an accomplice.

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Macho man thinks this is a heroic example of courage

BTW, the above photo was found in the Internet, no idea of who is the author or the rider on it.

Macho man believes that nobody is able to spot his spurs digging on the horse’s side while pretending to hold the horse still by pulling up the horses mouth in a wry smile from eye to eye . The poor horse has no idea of what to do: the spurs ask it to go forward, the rough hands on the reins ask it to stand still or to stop. The horse gets nervous, throws its head up, and the photographer gets a whole series of images of the inside of the horses throat, while terrified equine eyes ask for mercy. MERCY! Macho man has no idea of the meaning of that word.

“I am powerful, I can teach this horse manners, I am macho man the one who can ride this difficult horse” – he thinks

Dear Macho man, you are an idiot. You are not a good rider, in fact you would not be able to ride a REALLY difficult horse. If it was for me you would be sitting on your a… in the ground and not allowed to ride a horse ever again.

Macho men believes that the “rodeo-kind-of-training” of young horses is a sign of courage and good riding. Dear idiot, wake up, a century has gone since REAL MEN were forced to ride REALLY DIFFICULT horses.  Those were men without any education, men who didn’t have any idea of a different way of doing things, men who had to put together the two meals a day,  working in extremely hard working conditions. YOU ARE NOT THAT MAN, dear Macho Man, you are a degenerated fearful idiot, and you ride horses as a hobby, you went to school even if your vocabulary is very restricted and you misspell 1 in every 5 words, and you only dare riding the easiest horses, which you turn into nervous wrecks to be able to show off to other ignorant people. You should know better.

No, you don’t deserve to have any photos of you riding, because other stupid people might emulate you.

You don’t deserve a single LIKE in your Facebook photos, because “liking” your misdemeanors is a sign of lack of love for animals and ethical blindness.

You are not a macho, you are a FAKE MACHO, on a horse. That horse puts up with you because it is a good horse, and it  has a heart. You don’t.

 

 

 

 

Sicily, can’t wait to go back (Margreet Schouren)

Last september I fell in love with Sicily, taken by the beautiful landscape and the familiar smell of Italy, but a somehow different culture . I loved the food and the rough nature of this beautiful island.

Makes that I am counting the days to go back and take full advantage of the place and the scenery.

I hadn’t realized how different Sicily was from Italy. To me that Island is THE place to be and to experiment some photographic ideas we struggle  with for a long time but never take the time to truly explore all the possibilities. It is a place for creatives and for visual artists.

When we traveled in Brazil for example the driving between our locations was a challenge I enjoyed a lot, but the downside was that there was not a lot of time to think and plan some shoots and ideas. The lovely thing about Sicily is that it gives the adventurous feeling without the long  drives, so it leaves us a lot of time to explore our minds and abilities.

As we grow in photography and age we realize there is so much more to explore, and so many challenges to create for our selves in order to make us grow as photographers.

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I am looking forward to work in Sicily on more themed photography with expositions and publications on mind. How to create a series of pictures to be able to use in many different ways. Being able to travel with other experienced professional photographers makes it so much fun to explore and trigger each other to think out of the box stimulate to even bigger creativity.

In Sicily we will be shooting the lovely Sicilian horses and people but we also have time to visit the lovely UNESCO places and catch the real Island historic mood, the melting pot of cultures, and be so close to Africa and at the same time so European

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Sicily On Focus will be held in the end of April, for a small group of 4 selected photographers and it will last 10 days. Paula da Silva will lead the photographic tour of one of the most beautiful places in Europe: Sicily.

The people who traveled with me

 

2016 is nearly over, and I wish to thank all the people who traveled with me to Morocco, Sicily, Iceland and India.

It was a wonderful year, also thanks to each one of you.

I learned a lot, I dared a lot of times out of my comfort box, and I laughed a lot. I made some photos that I am very proud of. I made new friends, I enjoyed the company of old friends who I don’t meet often, and I really enjoyed traveling, with all pros and cons.

We  stayed at an ecolodge to respect the environment, at a secret bay and it took us hours to find it, so secret the bay was, ahaha. We walked naked in a hammam full of other women. We danced in the car at the sound of berber music. We bought carpets, we bought drums, we bought spices.

Some of us ate rotten shark in Iceland, some of us were attacked by Artic terns, and we all enjoyed those long days with no nights. There was not much contact with the locals, but we were there for the landscapes and the horses.

In Sicily we had the best wines, ever. We got to shoot historical reenactments, we slept at the base of a volcano, we learned how to shoot stories that we created ourselves, we drove through closed roads where no cars are allowed because we got lost, we fought the GPS lack of logic in the mountains. We made lots of friends.

We helped a cats and dogs NGO in Morocco, we held a workshop for donkeys owners, we visited several international charities. We stayed at women’s cooperatives for a few days, we visited schools, we had meals using our fingers instead of forks and knives, we walked in beaches that have changed since due to the extreme power of nature. We loved every single moment.

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We are again collecting medicines for a charity in Morocco, please let me know if you can help

In India we stayed at beautiful heritage hotels, we had tea in a remote village in the dark, while women fed the water buffaloes and we sat there, sipping the tea and enjoying the moment. We were invited to visit houses, we laughed with our guide Shiv, we felt overwhelmed at the Taj Mahal, we talked with camel owners, we got surrounded by cattle in the road, we shot from the top of a water cistern and from the roof of our bus; we walked over a dam’s narrow wall for miles, we visited Old Delhi in the back of a rickshaw.

We are still in contact with many of the people we met, models, guides, drivers, hosts…

I will hopefully meet some of you again next year, 2017, in Sicily ( April), Morocco (April)  or Iceland (September).

My next photo trip to India will be in February 2018.

 

 

Body jewelry

Piercing and the use of body jewelry is a practice that has a very long story. It is believed that in India it started from the time of the Mughal emperors in the 16th century. Many married hindu women wear a nose stud in the left nostril, due to the association in the Ayurvedic medicine of the nostril’s with the reproductive organs.

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quoting Wiki about anklets: ” Rajasthani women wear the heaviest type of anklets, which are silver and signify tribal adherence. The women wear these as costume jewelry, but also to show their bravery as a tribe against other rival tribes. The fashion for heavy anklets is declining in India now, but is still common in rural areas.

In the eastern Indian state of Odisha, which is famous for its traditional jewelry, there are varieties of anklets known as Paunji Nupur, which are worn by women. Another variety, which covers the entire foot, is known as Padapadma. In ancient times men also wore anklets. Traditionally, only Kshatriya (Royal/Warrior caste) people can wear gold anklets, and other castes wear silver anklets.

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Also men wear jewelry, for instance earrings. I did a search to understand more about it, and it seems that Designer Ana Singh said “Earrings in India have long been associated with the Rajput clan and royalty in general. If you happen to go to any one of the parties in Jaipur, you will see many Rajput men wearing a bandhgala with big earrings. Since Rajputs have been warriors, earrings make them look all the more macho and handsome, so it depends how well you are able to carry it off,” she explains.

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