“Salve, posso farti un ritratto?” The man with a pipe in his mouth was brought out of his thoughts by the question of me taking a photo of him. He seemed perplexed by the idea, but kindly agreed after a moment. I was nervous as I brought the old Canon that I had borrowed from my sister-in-law to my face and took some poorly composed shots.
Feeling simultaneously satisfied and energized with nervous adrenaline by my uncharacteristic approach to a stranger, I sat next to the man. With ease, we discussed the day, the state of things in the world and the people around us. I was ecstatic that this stranger would open himself up in such a way to me. I got the feeling that both of us were analyzing and enjoying the world around us in our own way: one with a pipe, another with a camera.
In 2015 after returning to the Central Coast from Tennessee and after ending a long relationship, I found myself looking for adventure in my newfound freedom. I wanted to do all the things that are a challenge to pull off while paired with another person. Call me a millennial, but getting a full-time job was not on my list of things to do. I went backpacking in Europe.
I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to travel. My compassion for and knowledge of the world beyond our borders grew tremendously during this trip. My love for people unlike myself also grew. In addition, I happened to fall in love with an Italian.
I won’t bore you with all the sappy details of traveling back and forth over the Atlantic and trying to figure out a way to be together. The following year we got married and I found myself in the middle of a foreign country without the knowledge of the language yet, but with a curiosity about this new world around me that couldn’t be satisfied. It was then that I took up photography.
To me, the unexpected result I found to bringing a camera with me everywhere I went was the contrary of what you would expect. Instead of confining my eyes to viewing through the lens, I found myself in complete awareness of the world around me like never before. The man sitting on the fountain in the piazza-who is he waiting for? The woman in the cafe standing behind the counter-what does she think about her job? What does she enjoy doing? Photography became a way for me to connect with those around me and to help bring a piece of my experiences to those I cared about back in the States.
I think the greatest challenge that coming back to the Central Coast presents to me is the lack of stimulation of a new location, a different language or customs. It is easy to find inspiration on the streets of Naples or the gravesites in Sarajevo, but to shoot your hometown presents quite the challenge. The beauty of it is this: with these eyes now trained to be more curious and observant than before, I’ve found that I can experience the familiar with a freshness that I would have never found otherwise.