GAZA is Wonderful

all photos © Alessandro Gandolfi

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Gaza is an open air jail. Isolated from Israel, occupied by an extremist party, forgotten by
the rest of the world. But who lives inside – almost two million of people –  dreams about
a normal life. A family, friends, a decorous job.  He wants to have fun, make sport, surf
on internet,  listen to music.

From the outside, Gaza is a hell. From the inside, Gaza is a place of dignity and hope that
nobody wants to describe. Because the international journalism shows only pain and suffering,
destruction and poverty. But luckily it is not only like this.

The book “Gaza is Wonderful” it is a provocation, but just to a certain extent. Because the
project has the goal to show the other side of Gaza. The one that is ignored by the media,
that only a few think it exists indeed. The Gaza of the new generations, who don’t forget the
tragic political context and yet they look ahead, they dream the peace, they imagine a better
future and they try to build it every day.

See te project at www.gazaiswonderful.com

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AMATO OPERA house – BEL CANTO on the Bowery, New York

 

Only 103 seats and all with a perfect view and acoustics, hand painted scenery and originally design costumes, singers and actors that perform for the great passion of music and bel canto, not for money.

Amato Opera house has entertained opera lovers for 61 years of uninterrupted production. Founded in 1948 by husband and wife team Anthony and Sally Amato, grew to become not only a must-go theatre where to appreciate opera in NYC’s cultural scene, but also a reference point for theatre students and singers, thanks to the enthusiasm, creativity and energy of Mr. and Mrs. Amato.

The Marriage of Figaro by Rossini, was chosen in May, 2009, as it started 61 years before at the auditorium of Our Lady of Pompeii church on Bleecker and Carmine Sts., to end an uninterrupted production. Last permanent home was at 319 Bowery, in the East Village.

colorful DIA de los MUERTOS – cemetery in Mexico

 

It was a day of heat and humidity, the clouds were high in a blue sky which they were slowly overcasting: a thunderstorm was approaching. Then, on the way to Merida, in the Mexican State of Yucatan, I met Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchior.

I was looking for a shady spot to rest, and two benches in front of a cemetery fenced with light mauve painted walls seemed a nice idea. But there were people on the other side of the wall: there they were. Leaning on a light mint green wall that felt cool to the touch, chatting, considering what to do and about the unusual surroundings, they invited me to join the conversation.

A cemetery, undoubtedly, but neither a tear nor a veil of sadness emanates from the hand painted angels or from the poor christs in cages. How could it be, perhaps it’s due to the turquoise that mingles with the horizon or the innate happiness of the people from the Caribbean Sea?

The Three told me about a special day, el dia de los muertos, when all the family, and I also mean the ones who come back from nobody knows where and on this day only, meet to have a riotous time amidst crosses, pinnacles and domes.

The ones that remained bring hand embroidered table cloths, candles to light up at night time, the preferred meals of those who left and kids who play soccer and run around the little temples that remind me of Legos. The ones who left wait until sunset to come back, if they’ve mistaken the address and end up at home they won’t find anyone waiting for them but the dog and a cold soup, but if they make it here … here is the party. The ones that remained drink and stuff themselves with food, laugh at the stories and the tales and pray for grace, sing and dance until morning.

Now you know why this not an ordinary cemetery, but a cementerio mexicano, a place where memory brightens up.

HAPPY hours – street DRUNKARDS in New York

I used to live in Hell’s Kitchen, NY, before the New Times Square induced cleansing. Drunkards below my windows and drugs dealing at nighttime.

FIGHT club – PEACEFUL Sunday afternoon

They look like you and me: harmless. But you don’t want to get into a fight with them for just no reason. They know boxing, wrestling, kicking, judo, karate and you name it. They’re nice, ordinary guys, they do business and smile, chat and shake hands and like to be photographed, outside the ring. But once they’re in the ring, the hidden beast surfaces, feeding on your blood and the crowd’s roars at the smashing sound of fists hitting your face and breaking your nose. You eventually give up and the fight is over. Winner or loser, it doesn’t make any difference since there’s no money to win, but a sort of inner relief. Yes, because finally you felt alive, away from the supermarket aisle wanderer, from the cubicle dweller, from the diaper changer. And tomorrow is Monday, a week away from another peaceful Sunday afternoon.

Fight Club – the movie, with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.

I left HIM in the BATHTUB

 

He wasn’t keeping up his promises and making too much fun of me, so I said stop and poisoned him.

I cooked a nice meal and invited him over for dinner. Maria Bethânia was on when he arrived, late as usual. I poured some Côtes du Rhône than suggest a romantic relaxing bath: “I just bought some new salts, you should definitely try ’em. You go first”, I said. He called me once, “Bring some more wine and come over”. That was the last time I heard his voice.

Roast beef with pork liver flavored gravy was superb, but asparagus not as tasty as I wished.

Too bad he couldn’t have a bite. I had twice.

THE FIRM – a photo book by JOCELYN BAIN HOGG

 

THE FIRM

Jocelyn Bain Hogg

 

“I met a few of them while I was taking fashion pictures, they were always around the models. But the truly big chance to widen my contacts was in Tenerife, Canary Islands: there were 140 of them, taking a vacation.” It seems like everything happened by chance, but Bain Hogg’s idea to talk about the English Underworld isn’t new. Since back in the 60s the Krais Family, one of the Firm pillars, a criminal organization, rose to the glossy and glamorous Vogue’s pages.

Bain Hogg found them again in the 90s, the criminals from the London’s East End, the same ones that inspired movies as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. He was taking pictures for Elle when he met by chance Dave Courtney, who at the time was fully dedicated to lecturing at conferences on his past life as a murderer. Jocelyn quickly understand that there’s an entire unknown world behind this man, a hidden society many people have heard about but that only a few had a chance to peep in.

“The project grew on its own. I’m a photo reporter, and while chatting, drinking and having fun I took pictures and told the life of these criminals.” Jocelyn and his camera had to be accepted in the underworld, his sincerity was the key. “I never denied myself nor tried to be different from what I’m in my world. I gave them a chance to be seen but, and that’s fundamentally important, I made them understand that I would never betray their secrets. If I had shot one of those bloody outlaw bare knuckle fights or worse, talked about one of those encounters that I witnessed but that never happened, I may not be here to talk about.” Jocelyn kept his mouth shut all the time, and so doing was richly rewarded with a continuous flow of situations and images that depicted a tr ue life in front of his Leica. “After a while everybody knew about me, but many times they weren’t even aware of my discreet presence. That’s how I gave my images such a intimate feeling.” The project lasted two years, it was mainly a good time even if some accidents happened: “Not everybody wanted to be photographed, and seeing me around with a camera was enough to start a quarrel.”

All that time and hundreds of Tri-X rolls didn’t change Jocelyn. “Maybe I’m a bit more cynical now, but I surely kept those people outside of my life: they’re criminals. Someday I might want to have a beer with some of them, but none are my best buddies. Many of my friends have been scared about my frequent interactions for the time I worked on the project, even though some saw a glamorous side. My mother, whom I dedicated the book to, never asked me a thing, but I’m sure she would have preferred me to be a fashion photographer.”

Now that The Firm is published, Jocelyn Bain Hogg is not considering going back to fashion to pay his bills. He has a couple of new projects that he is working on. The first one is about daily life in London and the second one is on women, the sweetness of women. “I don’t think I’ll invent a new way to pictures women, but I’d like to talk about them and their lives. If I approach them close enough, which I proved I can do very well, soon you’ll see something about women that you never realized existed. And from the intimacy of the picture you’ll recognize an authentic Bain Hogg”.

Michele Molinari

all images © Jocelyn Bain Hogg

 

Buy The Firm.

Buy Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, with Guy Ritchie and Jason Flemyng, DVD.

Buy Snatch, with Brad Pitt and Guy Ritchie, DVD.

 

 

DEATH ROW – Angola, Louisiana State PENITENTIARY

The world continued to move toward abolition in 2009. The number of countries that have removed capital punishment entirely from their laws rose to 95 as Burundi and Togo abolished the death penalty for all crimes. While 58 countries retained the death penalty, most did not use it. Eighteen countries were known to have carried out executions, killing a total of 714 people. The United States came fourth in rank, after China, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, with 52 executions.

However, this figure does not include the thousands of executions that were likely to have taken place in China, which again refused to divulge figures on its use of the death penalty. In fact, since the outcries of the international community has become more fervent, certain countries still mantain the executions secret. This mostly happens were the press is muted.

Many humanitarian associations fight daily to abolish a nation’s right to decide the life, and the death, of their citizens. Among the most important are Amnesty International and Hands Off Cain. To help make change is easy, sometimes it’s enough to spread the word to open the eyes of those whom do not want to see.

More information about humanitarian organizations: The Moratorium CampaignDerechos.

Many more links: 1000+ Death Penalty Links.

Some reading suggestions:

– The Green Mile, a novel by Stephen King

– Dead Man Walking, a novel by Sister Helen Prejean

– Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House, by Scott Christianson, Director of New York Death Penalty Documentation Project

– Against the Death Penalty: Christian and Secular Arguments Against Capital Punishment , by Gardner C. Hanks

– Cell 2455, Death Row, by Caril Chessman inmate; an insider view.

FLOPHOUSE – a photo book by HARWEY WANG

FLOPHOUSE

Life on the Bowery

photography by Harvey Wang, text by David Isay and Stacy Abramson

“This book takes you places you don’t want to enter, to people you don’t want to meet, to lives you think you don’t want to live – and makes you rethink all your assumptions. It reveals the tremendous strenght and humanity ot those who are usually ignored. And as you pay attention, your own humanity expands.”

Susan Stamberg, special correspondent, NPR

Flophouse is not a place where you want to live. You might get a Manhattan address for something like 10-15 bucks per night, but it’s not glamorous at all. You’ll be on the Bowery, with no A/C, with bedbugs, with a cubicle as a bedroom and chicken wire up above your head to give you privacy. But you’ll still hear farts, burps and nightmare’s screams from your fellows: the flop mates.

So, why do you want to live in a Flophouse? I don’t really want to go there, but, was it that your lady kicked you out of the shack ‘cause you were drunk all the time, or you couldn’t stand the Midwest any longer and then found that New York fucking City is too much for you, or you want to feel totally free since nobody gives you a damn on the Bowery.

Come, come on here, come to rest on the warm and soft belly of the City, come to where you’ll be yourself, time stands still and life get suspended.

And be nice, pose for the photographer. He’s shooting faces, places. He’s shooting souls throught the eyes, he’s telling your life in a pic, he’s making it rich and interesting. Because, you know, you might be a flop, but you have full hands of humanity to give.

Michele Molinari

all images © Harvey Wang

Buy Flophouse.

LYMPHOMA and not being IMMORTAL

At the age of 30 you think you’re immortal. Cars, girls, boys, beach, whatever … sometimes a school book. Then, one day, you emerge from the booze related cloud and you’ve a swollen lymph node on the left side of the neck. What the heck is this? You go for a series of medical checks and, the day before Pope John Paul II is declared dead, somebody with a white coat makes you sit and then opens you the door to an unknown, unexpected, unpleasant, parallel, grey world. It’s called disease, and from now on you’ve an Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Congrats.

Days pass and the grey gets darker. But the ever classic light switches on at the end of the tunnel when the moment for the bone marrow transplant approaches. Hold your breath, you’re almost done, soon life gets back to its technicolor magnificence.

Living with Lymphoma: A patient’s Guide.

Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Treatment and Research.

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