Posts Tagged ‘country’

Overcoming Fears


Shoppers from the Hip, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

A man walked into the therapy office of Viktor Frankl and his associate. For years he had writer’s cramp and was about to lose his job because of it. When this writer wrote he focused on perfect penmanship, the most elegant handwritten script. The therapists suggested the next time he wrote to scribble his words so they were nearly illegible. He was told to say to himself, “Now I will show people what a good scribbler I am.” When he sat down to write in a scribbled script he couldn’t. Within 48 hours his writing cramp was gone.

It was a writer’s cramp, only with photographs, a photographer’s cramp lasting weeks.

My delay before going out to make photographs for a project has been a period of neurotic anxiety, what Viktor Frankl might call a time of “hyper-reflection” where fears become inner realities. If I reflect too long I begin to question my intentions, my adequacy, as well as the meaning of life. “Am I a fake? Do I deserve to even own a camera? Can I make a photograph? Why are we here?” I freeze. Sometimes for weeks.

Normally I drive places to make photographs. In a foreign country it’s easy to make excuses of why I should not stop the car. There is not a good place to pull over, the person won’t understand my broken attempt of the language, they will think I am out to abduct their children. I drive without making an image.

My solution for this recent cramp was simple, a bicycle. In the morning haze I strapped my tripod to the back fender, put one camera bag on the back rack and one in the front basket. The cramp is gone.

No Power


Train Station, Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy © Jim Korpi

Wind from the storm blew branches onto the power lines. The electricity is out. Internet stopped.
They sit on the couch and notice this inconvenience, each with a computer in their lap, staring at unloading websites. For the past two hours they drifted through news stories about horrible things happening in the world and volleyed back and forth, “…Did you see the…?”
It won’t last. Power will return. It always does. The answering machine will beep as soon as it does. It doesn’t.
After an hour of fidgeting and aimless wandering around the house, they look at each other, and half state and ask “I wonder when it will turn back on.”
The sun sets. No power. The house darkens, but they can still see the warm, muted shapes of the interior of their home, familiar but in some way foreign. They both smile inside. There seems a relief in the detachment, an ease.
The candles on the mantel, more for novelty than utility, collect dust. They light them for some semblance of order. The occasion calls for wine. Glasses are poured until full and they toast to “Making the best of it.”
A guitar stands neglected facing the corner of the living room. He picks it up with a free hand and declares a needed move to the porch, where twilight and a cool air coat the outside in honest hues. A blue is blue.
He plays softly. Unplugged from the world, they both look at each other and take in a question unspoken but understood.
“What are we doing with our lives?”

Could Have


Store Fronts, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

“We used to only have Worcestershire sauce in the house,” Kent said recalling the condiments in the kitchen. “Then all the commercials came out for A1 steak sauce and my parents bought it. I can still remember the ads, ‘Why have just a burger when you can have a steak burger!”

cultural cross


Lake House with a View , Lake Como, Italy © Jim Korpi

“Food and art are the only two things that make me proud to be Italian,” an acquaintance admitted over a beer at an American-style bar with its menu in English. The bar sits outside the ring road of a small agricultural town in Italy.
“I like to travel to places where people appreciate what they have,” he continued. “Even something as simple as a rock. They build a monument around it, admire it, and are proud of it.”
Years ago I sat in a crowd of Dutch at a cultural event in the Netherlands where the music hired for the event was a Johnny Cash cover band. Those around me sang along in English to Folsom Prison Blues. Did they know they were singing, with their children present, about shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die? Do they know where Reno is?
Recently, in the courtyard of an Italian villa, I listened to an outdoor concert. The band played only eighties rock in English. The crowd sat in white plastic chairs, still and seemingly confused.
My conversation at the bar, combined with the setting, reminded me of a story told by Thomas Friedman in one of his books on globalization. The story goes something like this:
A Chinese woman and her young daughter board a plane in Beijing bound for Los Angeles.
After the plane lands in LA, and they go through the processes of arrival, they pass a food court area where the daughter sees the familiar logo of McDonald’s. “Mom!” the daughter says as she tugs on her mother’s shirt. “They have McDonald’s in America too?”

home sweet and bitter


Repairing Street Sign, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

“Home is where the heart is.” It’s a catchy slogan for a doormat, but home and heart are not so easily pinned down.
My new home is familiar. There is comfort in familiarity, a comfort in the familiar faces of the neighbors you walk by every morning, a comfort in knowing the names of the streets when giving directions. There is a comfort in having a coffee at a familiar café served by a familiar waiter.
My present familiar is what it must be like to have a summer home in a cooler place, or to winter in a warmer state. Seeing people when I return, they say things like, “It’s been so hot this summer,” and I feel simultaneously guilty and fortunate to have been somewhere else, another familiar.