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Milan

April 16th, 2006

Monday, April 10 – MILAN. There’s something to be said about familiarity. Or maybe about knowledge which can lead to familiarity, comfort, efficiency. There’s also something to be said for good maps and good directions. More on this later.

Transport to Milan was a bus ride through the Mt. Blanc tunnel to Courmayeur where I transfered to a bus leading down-valley to Aosta where I transfered again to a bus to Milan. We drove through rain and fog, the valley walls with their ancient castles and manors disappearing into the grey murk above. The bus served all the towns between Courmayeur and Aosta; it would squeeze through impossibly narrow streets walled with slate roofed multi-story homes stacked high up the hillsides.

When I arrived in Milan at Porto Garibaldi, after nearly five hours of bus transport, it was still grey; an indication of the deluge to come. I managed to get lost at the Pagano stop on the red Metro line because with my poor map and no sun to figure out north and south (yeah, I still do that) I wasn’t sure how to get to D Magazine (la Republica della Donne). That and the thing about Milan is the scale is a lot smaller than you’d think. The city blocks really aren’t that long.

My meeting went well; I’m always surprised at how comfortable magazine offices are. They are much less sterile than most offices I’ve been in (remember, I’ve never held a ‘corporate’ job) with pictures, clips, other magazines, and books lying around. A treasure trove of information and art.

I worked with Alice Croce when she published some of the college work from the FEAR Project and she introduced me to Alfredo Albertone who expressed interest in a couple of story ideas (and current projects) and was quick (kindly so) to give me no’s on some other ideas. For one ‘thank you no’ he pointed to the stack of blue folders on his desk with proposals in them and said “Tony Suau proposed that and it’s done, right there.” But there’s a few others and I’m kind of itching to get working on that research. I also met Tiziana Faraoni, a good friend of my host, photographer Giovanni del Brenna who I know from the Lightstalkers website. All of a sudden the world grew a lot smaller.

(Giovanni) Giovanni is a man of opinion. He’s much more versed in the analysis of photography than I, having actually studied in the field and assisted some of the better known photographers based in New York including James Nachtwey. It’s this exposure to ideas through words and pictures that I find lacking in my Seattle community. What I mean by the next morning Swiss photographer Igor Ponti stopped by Giovanni’s for a coffee and we spent the next two hours discussing photo projects. In particular was Igor’s work from his home town about a parking garage from which suicidal Swiss youth jump, usually once a month. At the top is a phone booth with a direct line to a crisis center, just in case the youth is wavering.

(Igor) I had the amazing opportunity of editing Giovanni’s images from Hong Kong and Singapore; he shoots only film and the day we met he had just picked up the proofs. I found Igor’s work on the parking garage similar in that it spoke of the human condition through spatial emphasis; he was representing depressed minds through objects, graffiti, and signs. Giovanni and I agreed upon the need for more people in the work, but who and how became a discussion with poor Igor in the middle.

(outside Giovanni’s door) I haven’t discussed stories like that for ages or looked through a complete story like Giovanni’s work on Hong Kong. It was refreshing, considering that my usual photo conversations are about rates, contracts, clients, and the business of photography.

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