The art of sharing things

My blog posts are slowly transform into a journal where I share my photography together with my thoughts. It’s great to share my creativity, and it is becoming quite therapeutic to get some things out of my head. It gets crowded in my monkey brain filled with random ideas.

I’m happy you are here to read along. It’s like unburdening yourself to a friend. Not only that, the more you write, the more space you have for other things. Getting a thought out into the page liberates your studies, and other ideas shuffle to the front of the line.

As an expat of now some twenty years living in Sicily, I can say I’ve become accepted as a local. Apart from little comments about my accent and a general awe at the fact I’m from Australia from people that I meet I can say I generally blend in.

But as the restless person I generally am, I think I will eternally be an outsider, which is fine, I relish the role, it means I see things differently and it makes me a better writer, my persistant struggle for meaning leads me into interesting places.

I used to get sad when friends and family never found the time to come and visit. At times I used to crave to bring my friends with me on an adventure, have them with me to experience whatever I am. But then I slowly realised everyone has their own paths in life and you really can’t expect them to follow yours, especially when it entails running off to a Mediterranean island.

Instead of craving my old companions, what I do is use it all for my writing. And sharing so many things here is like bringing my own friends along with me. I have a rich internal monologue which I use as my writing voice.

All of my pictures are linked hand in hand; as I write, one another comes up from behind, from wherever ideas come from. So thanks for your lovely comments; I think these words are beginning to flow quite nicely.

We seldom print out photographs; they seem to accumulate on phones and SD cards. When I first discovered photography just out of high school, developing rolls of film was a big deal. I’d found taking photos and thought it was important to record events (yes, before social media, the internet and smartphones, which are all very new technology).

It costs time and money to print out photos. Albums were bought, and more time still was spent sticking images in them, sometimes with quirky comments and captions. I miss this tangible analogue way of preserving photos. Apart from special occasions like weddings, birthdays or births, most things are digitally stored.

 It’s essential to have something tangible, so I’ve begun printing out some of my photos. There are many online printers with special deals, so why not. Seeing my images in print is exciting. It’s as if I’ve got a roll of film back from the lab all over again. Perhaps I’m beginning to show my age, but many millennials are discovering the joys of analogue film processing, which still has its appeal.

I took the time to go through the hundreds of photos I’ve taken in Sicily. I can recall how I began with my traditional DSLR camera; then I bought my first Digital camera, an Olympus that lasted a good stretch; it allowed me to take endless photos without worrying about the cost and time to develop. Then over the past decade, the technology has just taken off; these days, smartphones take better images than my Olympus did.

Self portrait in a window at Taormina with my old camera

Since then, I’ve been happily exploring the Canon universe of cameras, which has adapted so well (they also had beautiful film SLRs, my first camera was a Canon). I like how you can have all of the manual functions of a professional camera in a bit of body; it’s perfect for street photography because so many of the older models were quite clunky and hard to manage.

 Today there are endless choices on the market, and photography is accessible to everyone, which is a marvellous prospect. Art and self-expression should be open to everyone, as we should all be flexing our creative muscles; this brings so much joy into the world.

I recently read about Vivian Dorothy Maier’s American photographer; her story was heartbreaking. She worked as a nanny for about 40 years while pursuing photography as a hobby. The images she captured of the people and architecture of Chicago, New York and LA and her journeys worldwide are all so beautifully iconic, depicting a lifetime of human history.

 Maier took more than 150,000 photographs during her life. The unfortunate thing is that she never shared them with anyone. Her photographic work was discovered after her death. A collector acquired some of Maier’s negatives by chance. After being unable to find anything about her, he googled the name on the boxes of the negatives and prints. The search led to Maier’s death notice in the Chicago Tribune of April 2009. Since then, her photos have become a viral sensation on Flickr.

 It’s so saddening that Vivian Maier never thought her art was worth sharing. It’s a poignant reminder that art and creativity should be shared. Creativity is generous by nature; it speaks freely to others and constantly creates new conversations based on shared emotions and experiences. Share your art and connect yourself to others.

The idea of keeping photos stored in a hard drive is like holding a completed novel in a draw; a new creation’s place is out in the world.

Vivian Maier’s story has inspired me to share more because my photographs are the fruit of my experiences in Sicily. Each photo is a moment, a memory preserved from an individual point of view and time.

Like this shop sign from Taormina. Since we haven’t been to visit this beautiful ancient, suggestive hilltop town that is usually swarming with international tourists, it seems poignant to see this signage again. I still feel the heat and humid confusion of the crowded streets.

I felt frustrated that I couldn’t get a photo without anyone walking in front of me. I wanted a little personal postcard, different from those tacky ones they sell in the souvenir stands on the side of the streets, like taking home a little tray of candid citrus or almond biscotti, sweet reminders that you can savour later.

So I looked up above all of the bobbing heads and noticed the strange snake-shaped ornamental dragon holding up the sign for Pasticceria Gelateria Etna. It was perfectly iconic with the Taormina arena, without having to buy a sun-faded postcard.

I can still hear the two elegant French tourists chatting over cappuccino as I negotiated between the alfresco tables on the side street off the main drag of the busy historical centre. I cannot wait to visit Bar Etna, sit and have a coffee with a pasta da mandorla. I promise I’ll never complain about the tourists or the heat again as long as I get to go back to Taormina.

Speaking of missing things, I miss the eclectic world of Sicilian markets, from the chaos and confusion of farmers and agricultural markets to the unexpected finds of the weekly Mercato del paese.

There have been endless protests all over Italy from travelling salespeople who need the markets to make a living. I hope they get help or can sell from a physical store.

It would be dismal to see the end of open-air markets in Italy. Food-based markets have remained open during the pandemic with reduced capacity, but big bustling fiere and festas have been suspended for the rest of 2021. It’s incredible how the world has changed, and freedoms become memories for a while.

I’m holding onto this moment and remembering the banter with the stall keeper, the joy of tasting a new cheese, buying olives, sotto olio and bread for a picnic in the nearby mountains.

My favourite Sunday markets are at Randazzo on the foothills of Etna. The market takes over the city streets with a hum and buzz like the energy of a beehive, everyone walking past and rummaging through the stalls—vendors spruiking and screeching while rhyming in their dialect, trying to get your attention.

I can’t wait until Corona is a memory and we can get back to the sights, sounds, tastes and fun of an excellent old Sicilian market.

I haven’t been home in Australia for two years, which makes me nostalgic. But the truth is, even though I live in Sicily, I haven’t been able to see much of my adopted home either.

I miss being able to take the mountain road through the Nebrodi mountains up through Floresta (the highest townsite in Sicily at 1,275 meters above sea level) to Santa Domenica Vittoria, the last town in Messina province, before stepping over into Catania province and the series of cities heading towards the baroque Catania, Randazzo, Bronte, Adrano and Biancavilla.

I have people to meet and many places still to see.

We’ve heard and seen the t.v images of Mount Etna’s magnificent eruptions, but we haven’t seen the mountain in the longest time.

I like to hold onto the last photo I took of Etna from my Zia’s house at Biancavilla. Mamma Etna is like an old friend I can’t wait to see again.