A Note from Rome

14 May 2023


I write you a short note from the Eternal City, where the rain — when it falls — is not hard enough to keep me inside.

I’m here in Rome leading a study abroad trip with 13 eager students. But when the students set off to do student things on their free time, I slip away into the drizzle with my camera.

They want nothing to with an old guy like me anyway.

No matter.

I float around. I watch people. I follow people. I try to make photos. I hesitate a lot. I follow them again. I get closer. I stand in the sillage of their perfume. I hear their words. I understand a few.

I pretend to be a tourist looking at something else; it’s not hard, because I am a tourist looking at a lot of things. I pretend to fiddle with my camera, the fussy thing. It puts them at ease — I’m just another tourist with a camera.

An unrelated idea comes to me. This time, it is something pretentious about a piazza being everything and nothing. I scribble it down in my notebook.

By now, I’ve become invisible. My presence has become part of the environment. I’m not a threat. I approach. I bring the viewfinder to my eye.

The deed is done.

I disappear. I’ll check my photos later. I need to find another scene.

That is my process. That’s one of them at least.

Sometimes it works. Most of the time it doesn’t. I make a lot of photos, but most of them get away from me.

A sharp focus and a good composition isn’t enough.

The most interesting thing (to me) is human-interest.

On a good day, I might make one or two photos I find interesting.

On most days, I just take snapshots.

The Pantheon, Rome