Italy

Posted by Ellen

Three lights in the night create this image: firelight, starlight, and a glowing streak of human brilliance.

The human-powered light is the silvery streak at lower left, created by the photographer's brother, who was cycling along a mountain-bike trail in the high prairies of central Italy's Appenine Mountains. Either the cyclist wore a headlamp, or his bike was outfitted with a headlamp. The camera lens stayed open for almost half an hour–27 minutes–to preserve the track of the route.

The firelight near the lower right of the picture was from the village of Tornimparte, in the valley far below the hillsides we see here. The photo was taken in mid-August, on the night following the Feast of the Assumption, when bonfires mark the end of the summer harvest.

The starlight notably features the Milky Way, which the photographer said he'd never seen before. The reason he'd never seen it before might be visible in the part of the sky just over the horizon behind the village bonfires. The night sky looks pale back there, with fewer stars visible to the eye–perhaps because of distant light pollution emanating from the Roman metropolis about sixty miles to the northwest. 

If you click on the photo and study the enlarged version–yes, life is short, but go ahead, waste a few moments fussing with a pretty picture–you may be able to see that the stars are not pinpoints of light but short little line segments, almost like tiny bits of the bicycle's light trail. In this case, however, it's not the stars so much as the earth that's moving; 27 minutes is such a long exposure time that the earth spins through almost 2% of its daily rotation, leaving little streaks of starlight as the camera and the mountains and the bicycle all move through the night.

Posted by Ellen

Women washing clothes circa 1900 in Alatri, Italy, 100 kilometers southeast of Rome.

Posted by Ellen

Suspendu, says the caption. In Napoli.

Posted by Ellen

In the year 1212, the woman who became Saint Clare of Assisi founded the Poor Clares order of nuns.  From the beginning, Poor Clares sisters were entirely cloistered and took vows of poverty much more extreme than those of other nuns of the time; they owned no property whatsoever, individually or collectively, and depended on alms for survival.

For the past 700 years, Poor Clares in Naples, Italy, have lived here, in Santa Chiara, a church and monstery complex built for them by Queen Sancha of Majorca and King Robert of Naples. The complex was extensively remodeled in the eighteenth century, with the addition of exuberant ornamentation, especially in this garden, that seems difficult to square with the nuns' professed poverty and simple life apart from the world.

Indeed, the tiled benches illustrate decidedly non-religious scenes, from masked pageantry at Carnival to peasants chasing after pigs. The tiles on the columns are garlanded in flowers and fruit: lemon trees, grape vines, figs and bananas. The designer was Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, an architect and sculptor known for imposing a personal stamp on every project, no matter what the client might have had in mind.

For two more centuries, the Poor Clares stayed on in Vaccaro's fanciful cloister, until 1995, some years after they had downsized to a smaller monastery next door. For the first time, their garden was opened to visitors from outside the order.

Posted by Ellen

She sits by the waterfront in Trieste, Italy, apparently texting or checking her Facebook, but actually sewing, or maybe knitting.

Not seen here: the other seamstress of Trieste, sitting and chatting alongside her.

Posted by Ellen

Portrait de la la Repasseuse, by Laura Corrado, from the 2015 Royal Photographic Society International Biennial. 

Posted by Ellen

Through the window glass in Venice.

Posted by Ellen

The cold and the storms both showed up in Philadelphia this week, but somehow the effect we see here in a high mountain valley in the Tyrolean Alps is a little more dramatic and astonishing than it is out on the streets and sidewalks of Brotherly Love. Pretty much all we've got in town right now are slashing rains and chill.