Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Art of Stealing Souls

Jennifer at Crane Beach (April 14, 2007)

It is said that ancient Maya cultures revered mirrors as magical objects, capable of opening portals between this world and the plane of their ancestors. As such they kept mirrors hanging in front of their sacred statues, to reflect back their images and allow the spirit of gods and saints to return. The dark art of photography, now capable of trapping the living souls in the one-way mirror of the camera obscura, is still strictly forbidden in the churches of some traditional areas in the highlands of Chiapas.

Martin Harwit
At Juan Antonio restaurant
I rarely do steal souls, however, these days. Mostly for lack of willing subjects, I would say, if you don't count the furry companion of my morning walks (also unwilling to pose still for more than a few seconds, regarding the abundant rabbit more interesting that my "stay"). In the end the portraits I steal belong to the occasional friend, like Jennifer in the photo above, that shared with me many photowalks on the sandy expanse of Crane beach. Or sometimes a colleague or two, in the sparse occasions when I am asked to document the speakers in a symposium, temporarily shedding the astronomer's hat for my camera bag. The photo on the left portraits Martin Harwit talking at the 2009 Symposium in honor of my mentor Giovanni Fazio. Harwit is a Cornell University astronomer that from 1987 to 1995 was also director of the National Air and Space museum, and promoted a famous exhibit on the Enola Gay (the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima) including for the first time testimony and photographs of the Japanese victims (the controversy that ensued led to his resignation). And then of course there is family, like the photo on the right showing our cousin Juan Antonio and the wonderful cook that was working with him in 2004 at his restaurant, in the Andes in Venezuela.

A final note: the title of this post belongs to the name of the website of Kaya Fesci, a fine art photographer that definitely deserves your visit.

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