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narrativa e di portafoglio

narrative and portfolio of Ian Siegel

I’ve decided to enter my favorite photo from this summer in a photography contest held by AIA St. Louis.

The photograph was taken on Ponte Vecchio in Florence, looking west up the Arno River, with my Canon PowerShot SX210 point-and-shoot camera. What I’m really excited about, though, is that tonight I finally decided on a title for the photo: “strizzata di Vecchio.”

It’s a pun on “strizzata d’occhio,” one of the two Italian ways to say the word “wink,” which translates literally to squeeze (or squint) of the eye. For a while I had been kicking around the idea of naming the photo after something like a wink; lighting flashes are in many ways similar to a wink. Both happen so quickly that by the time you notice it, it’s over — yet the power of the gesture outlives the moment of its execution. Both can be exhilarating, both can be beautiful, both can be menacing.

This photo was almost titled “Wink of God,” because of the juxtaposition of a man-built, artificial environment that has survived for centuries alongside a natural entity that embodies a brute enough force to bring a city to its knees.

I didn’t title the photo “Wink of God” because it would equate this image (as well as the image of God) to a scheming Hollywood villain’s menacing wink right into the camera at the audience, just as he begins to carry out his evil plan. I prefer not to think of God as a scheming Hollywood villain.

Replacing “occhio” (eye) with Vecchio, which means “old” (Ponte Vecchio translates to Old Bridge), the meaning of the phrase becomes “wrung out of the old.”

“strizzata di Vecchio (wrung from the Old)” – a title that shifts focus off of the lightning and onto the city, onto the architecture. The energy of a lightning flash is temporal. It happens so quickly that by the time you notice it, it’s over. But the energy of a space, or the energy of a series of spaces organized into building, or the energy of many buildings that have aggregated into a city: at the time you notice it, it’s a beginning. As years turn to centuries this energy charged and accumulated slowly, patiently waiting for an engaged mind to walk these historic streets and explore its spaces firsthand, waiting to be wrung out of the old and released all at once like a flash of lightning – this kind of discovery is an energy that this image only begins to capture.

How much more perfectly appropriate could this photo’s location be, of all places in the world to capture such an image than in the heart of Florence, the jewel of the Renaissance? Was this coincidence? Perhaps this is, after all, a wink of God?

This photo was previously published in Make No Small Plans II: A Different City Every Night, a narrative of my travels through five Italian cities in one weekend.

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