The stories behind the images

The stories behind the images
chairs, rome

Thursday, August 16, 2012

photographing la madonna

The story behind the images:

If there is one thing that unites all Italians, north to south, it is their love of la Madonna (the mother of Christ). Statues, chapels, tabernacles, altars devoted to la Madonna can be found everywhere. Likewise, framed pictures or simple cards, large and small, are ubiquitous.

This tabernacle above was tucked away on a stairwell in Positano on the way to my hotel. When I first came around the corner and saw her, it was love at first sight... perhaps it was my heightened sense of mortality (if you have ever stayed "up the hill" in Positano you will know how it feels to walk up ALL THOSE STAIRS!); or perhaps it was the play of light, shadow, illumination and colour that got me; or perhaps it was the serenity and beauty of la Madonna, even with her chipped nose and hands... whatever it was, I was officially smitten.

When photographing la Madonna remember these shrines are of religious significance and are maintained by the locals whose house, restuarant, shop, boat, bar she protects and should be treated with respect. I have seen photographers re-arrange flowers and pictures and other items that may be placed around la Madonna in order to improve the composition of the image. I do not feel that this is appropriate and would walk away and look for an alternative image. Trust me, you will have no problems finding another Madonna to photograph. 

Here she is in Rome, high up above a restaurant in Campo dei Fiori:

In fact, in Rome, you should walk around looking up - she is normally found above the streets on building corners and facades. As I spend more time in Rome than any other Italian city I think I may embark on a new personal project - photographing the Maddonas of Rome. I'll keep you posted.

Here she is again in Rome:

A technical point when photographing la Madonna if she is above you - you will need to tilt the camera and the moment you do that you will get converging lines/distortion. You will need to allow plenty of room around your subject to enable you to straighten her later in post-production.

Here she is a courtyard in Venice:

Whilst not la Madonna (I believe this is Saint Catherine), this is a beautiful alter overlooking the peaceful ancient Roman Baths in Bagno Vignoni, Tuscany (I imagine she is behind the grate to protect her from overzealous admirers): 

Irrespective of your religious beliefs, the deep affection and love the Italians have for la Madonna (and in fact all their saints) can't help but touch you. I think the appeal of la Madonna for me photographically is the variety of representations of her - every Madonna is unique and has her own special beauty and significance.

Equipment and settings used in top image:
Camera - Canon EOS 5D
Settings - f2.8, 1/160s, ISO 1000, auto white balance, neutral picture style, shot in RAW
Lens - Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM LENS
Focal length: 51mm

Camera - Canon EOS 5D
Settings - f2.8, 1/80s, ISO 1000, auto white balance, neutral picture style, shot in RAW
Lens - Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM LENS
Focal length: 48mm

Happy Shooting from Lisa and Dianne at Capture Italy