In the shadow of Vesuvius…

I have just returned from Naples.  I was surprised by many things.  The first was that it is a filthy, rundown, graffiti-stained city unlike any other that I have seen.  True.  In many ways it is a real dump.  Garbage everywhere…rotting, pollution blackened buildings in need of repair and restoration…Spray-painted graffiti on practically every surface you can imagine, including churches.  UNESCO should step in and put a few 100 million Euros into the place.  Or maybe the Camorra could use some of their influence to do something to improve the city at the heart of their criminal organization…Hmmm…

On the other hand, the place is chock-full of photo-ops.  It is an old, old city, dating back to the 2nd millennium B.C.E.  It has withstood the Greeks, Romans, the Bourbons, Napoleon and two world wars.  The most recent left the city all but razed.  Naples was the centerpiece of some of Mussolini’s greatest urban works, his arrogant attempt at a re-invention of the “empire.”  No wonder it looks broken.  It is.  The people, on the other hand seem to be taking it all in stride, as if to say, “we were here first and we will be here when you’re gone…”

Then there is Vesuvius.  Living in the shadow of a constant and active threat does something to a person, let alone a culture.  The volcano is everywhere, looming over Naples, a momento mori :  eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we could all be covered in volcanic ash (Pompeii) or liquified rock (Herculaneum).  I think the Neapolitans are a race all to themselves.  They have an element of piracy about them, an independence romanticized in the buccaneer, the privateer, the mercenary freebooter.  They are a swarthy bunch.

The museums were stunning.  Roman frescoes, mosaics…Caravaggio, Bruegel, et al…Pompeii was amazing.  The food was really superb.  The weather in late January is changeably mediterranean.   There was sun, clouds, rain, wind…Pretty much what one would expect from one of the oldest and busiest seaports in the world.  I will post some images on my Flickr page tomorrow so you can see some stuff that I saw.

Now I am back on Paros and the scirocco will be blowing most of the week.  Warm air out of the Libyan desert, full of yellow dust, microscopic sand in the air like jaundiced fog.  A sandstorm.  I feel terribly out of shape and need to get back on the bike for some serious work.  I have some printing I must address in the darkroom and the digital lab, both neglected commitments that I must fulfill.  In a few weeks, the gods-be-willing, I will have surpassed the half-century mark.  Busy month.

Detail of a Roman fresco.  Note the chiaroscuro...

Detail of a Roman fresco. Note the chiaroscuro..

 

a wood panel detail by Polidoro da Caravaggio

a wood panel detail by Polidoro da Caravaggio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–JDCM

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