Friday, 17 August 2007

"So we fall asleep clutching a Leica"

I came across the following recently quoted in Ferdinando Scianna's lovely book "Perchance to Dream":

So we fall asleep clutching a Leica,
To impress our dreams on its lens
And recognise ourselves in a photograph,
Awakening to a longer life.

-- Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

I wish I could find the rest of it but I don't have a collection of Brodsky's poems. I must get one.

Scianna is a marvellous photographer and unusual amongst Magnum's membership for the volume of fashion work he has done - especially photographing Marpessa, the model who has become a kind of muse to him.

But my favourites are his pictures of religious festivals in Sicily, taken during the early 1960s and published in 1965 as "Feste Religiose in Sicilia". These austere, grainy, crepuscular black-and-white images are haunting and powerfully atmospheric. Many have a kind of mythic quality. That they also seem to belong to a simpler and more innocent time in which obscure, elemental passions are being played out adds to their mystery.

"Feste Religiose in Sicilia" is currently out of print and copies of even the 1987 reissue change hands at over £150. It seems a great shame that these images can only be seen at present in small low-res scans on the internet – grateful as we must be to Magnum for this. It's a book which really ought to be republished.

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