Photo reportage: the yoga master

I got to Varanasi by train, at night.
I was thrown into an ocean of chaos, dirt and humanity.
It’s not up to me to explain what Varanasi is: its complexity is so tremendous that it would be presumptuous of me to give you a comprehensive picture.

But I want to tell you another story, that has little if nothing to do with it.
One afternoon in Varanasi I decided to stay away from the temples and the ghats, to avoid the tourists, the beggars and the boatmen asking if I wanted a boat ride. I got lost in a labyrinth of narrow streets and small houses that look all alike.
Around sunset, as I was still wandering in the streets, I was lucky enough to step into a yard where some boys were training. With them there was who I believe being their guru.
None of them could speak any English, unfortunately, so communication was based on instinct and hand gestures. They tried to teach me some yoga positions that I couldn’t possibly repeat, and laughed at my clumsiness. Then I made clear that I wanted to take some pictures of them, and as soon as they saw the camera they all started posing and showing me what they were capable of. Their pride and skills were undeniable, their joy contagious. Then, as the sun set below the horizon, they all left me for the evening prayer ceremony by the ghat.
This is, by far, the best set of photographs I took during my journey in India.

Venice, the femme fatale

A malarian swamp, hit by the tide, seems like the worst place ever to lay the foundations of a city. Unless you have to escape the axes of the Barbarian warriors, come to burn, steal and kill. It’s the 5th century, the Roman Empire is on its knees, the system is collapsing, everybody’s on their own. It’s chaos. 
That swamp doesn’t look so bad now, does it? 

Those few miles of shallow water between Venice and the mainland are the very same reason why the city has grown into one of the most fascinating places in the world. Far from the mainland’s politics and schemes, Venice has always been different from any other place.
A city built from fear turned into a diamond embedded along the Italian east coast. 
By walking aimlessly in the narrow streets of Venice you can feel the great beauty of this timeless and unique city: the signs of its decadent splendour and its glamorous past leave you breathless at every corner. The dream of every photographer. Then suddenly the thought hits you: this is not just a city, just a location, just the venue of some events in history; Venice is itself the main character of its own story, where people and wars and events are only temporary elements of its own personal tale.

If Venice was a person, it’d be a woman. It would be the femme fatale that stares at you across a crowded room, she’d be the mysterious lady that grabs your soul and conquers you by charm. The embellished facades of the buildings become her embroidered gown, the Byzantine architecture is her jewellery, the perfume of the incense her seductive scent, the vivacity of the markets her impudent laugh, the Canal Grande the spine along which you want to run your fingers. 
Venice is the irresistible sin you want to get lost in.

The mountain calls you

“Guhkkin davvin Dávggáid vuolde sabmá suolggai Sámieanan”
(Far up North 'neath Ursa Major Gently rises Saamiland)
Sami national anthem

I have spent perhaps the most beautiful days of my life exploring the area around Lyngseidet, in the north of Norway.
I had never been in the Arctic, and I was expecting merciless cold and thick darkness.
Found neither: the full moon reflecting on the snow and the sun teasing from below the horizon gave enough light to take good photographs, and the clothes I got were so warm that the cold and the wind were soon forgotten.
I had already heard locals talking about their lands, and got very curious by the fact that in their stories the mountain was a vivid presence. “The mountain calls you”, they said. Like a person, something alive. A sort of spirit. Now that I’ve seen it with my eyes I can understand what they meant: the constant presence of these high mountains, with their big vertical slopes that make them so close to you, is a reminder of how small and insignificant we truly are. For centuries people here have lived and died at the foot of the mountain, depending on the weather, adjusting their daily life according to the elements. If you want to survive, you will have to adjust to the world, not the other way around.
There is no escape, there is no mercy.
And yes, the mountain does call you, to show you how magic nature can be. It gives you everything if you’re willing to embrace it. It shows you the slow relentless passage of time through the rocks split by the ice. It shows you its silent strength through the cracks over the icy surface of the sea, broken by the tide. It shows you all the shades of pink through the clouds in the sky. It shows you its rage, by smacking the ground with the sharp wind. It shows you the spirit of the ancient gods, evoked by the northern lights.
Never in my life I’ve felt so mortal and at the mercy of the elements.
Never in my life I’ve felt so in tune with the world.