I have set myself a new project: to photograph the Italian Gardens in Hastings Park in Vancouver. I spoke of projects in my discussion of the Sofitel Grand Hotel in Amsterdam earlier. By setting goals one imposes discipline and fosters a problem solving mentality. This was certainly the truth with this project!
Inaugurated in September, 2000, the Vancouver Parks Board and the Italian immigrant community together undertook the creation of a garden area in Hastings Park to honor the contribution of Italian Canadians to our culture. It is not large in area but it is a gem of tasteful formal garden design combined with fountains and cast concrete sculpture.
But for me the centerpiece is a statue in bronze of an Italian immigrant with his wife and daughter arriving in this country with nothing but an old leather suitcase: everything in the world they owned.
I love this garden and often walk there as it is near our home. I have taken the odd picture there but the other day I determined to capture it in a series of images on this one theme. However, good ideas are often fraught with difficulty.
I immediately ran into a series of problems that I had not anticipated. For instance, the garden is in an area of the park with large buildings and major streets nearby. Backgrounds are often hideous. Or, concrete figures are black and white extremes in contrast. Or the shapes of the elements are all wrong for standard image cropping. I was immediately flooded with issues that had to be resolved. In fact, this project quickly left the realm of a pastime and became a matter of work!
My first photo visit was in the evening when the lighting was flat and I took several dozen pictures. But I was not happy with the light. Bad light is hard to correct with post processing.
I have also spent a morning there and have taken hundreds more images. But going over them I find problems with many and I will want to spend another morning there to fine tune images or to photograph material that can be inserted into images to correct backgrounds.
The subject that most attracted me has also been my biggest challenge . This is the bronze group of three people by the Italian artist Sergio Comacchio of Treviso in Italy. This is a wonderful work and it conveys a rush of emotion for those who know anything of being an immigrant.
My wife was an immigrant from Italy in the early 1970’s and many of our friends share that experience. These people came from a poor background and they arrived in Canada with all their possessions in one small suitcase. Proud, tough and willing to work hard, they prospered in this country but they have never forgotten that experience. This statue captures the emotion and hope of that journey.
I can find no name on it or on any plaque nearby and so I simply call it “I Immigranti”, the Immigrants. It is a grouping of three people, a man carrying a suitcase, his wife and their daughter. It is set in a small square area of the garden with benches to sit on while you contemplate the work. I could go on and on about this piece but this is an article about photography. However, if you have the opportunity to see it, do so. It is immensely rewarding.
I am not happy with the image above but this is how far I have come with it to this point. For me, it is still dull and needs more life. Which gets us back to setting ourselves projects. This project has put me into a critical frame of mind as I try to capture on paper what the sculpture makes me feel.
I want to take pictures here in the rain and in the snow. I want to try the afternoon sun, evening gloom and the morning dawn light. Looking at the images I have to this point, I want to get higher and I want to shoot from lower. In short, I will be at this a for while.