It was our second week of four in Lucca in July 2015. We were there to heal. It was very hot, and we had quickly settled into a rhythm of morning coffee in one of the many tiny streets still following the original Roman street pattern, an early lunch out or quick salad at home before hiding during the hottest hours in our air conditioned apartment, and heading out again late afternoon for wine followed by dinner al fresco or walking the city walls.

One such morning after sipping our coffees we strolled past the square that still follows the contour of the amfitheater that once stood there, down the Via della Fratta and came across the Lucca center for contemporary art, Lu.C.C.A. It had a retrospective of the work of photographer Elliott Erwitt.

Lucca center for contemporary art as seen in 2015 with the Erwitt banner on the facade. The center closed indefinitely in June 2021.

Born in Paris in 1928 to Jewish parents from Russia, after his early childhood in Milan he emigrated to the USA in his early teens just before the second world war. After the war he photographed in France and Italy, and joined Magnum in 1953.

It was a surprise to find this photographer and his work inside the walls of an ancient Tuscany town.
We enjoyed the love of irony and the candid shots of the little absurdities of life. Sometimes it took a moment to realise what we were seeing. His images made us smile, in a year that generally didn’t.

We bought two poster sized prints of Elliott Erwitts photos in April 2021. One the ‘dog legs’ photo, taken in NYC in 1974. The other a 1968 image taken in the Florida Keys. Both we had seen in the retrospective in Lucca. Since having them framed they hang above the piano in E’s home office.

Erwitt died this week at the age of 95. His work will continue to make me smile whenever I walk into E’s home office.

The catalogue of the Lucca Erwitt retrospective in 2015, that I pulled from the book shelves to leaf through today.

An evening where an exhibit is opened in Kortrijk, Belgium, brings together the life and stories of 6 people. They all remember it differently, incompletely. A well done story, entertaining. Just like her second novel, Luister. Though having read them both in short succession makes the template/pattern used for both stand out pretty strongly. So a next book I should only read with enough time passed between this and the other one. Dutch book, not available in English translation I think.

A well done story, very entertaining. Starting in the 1980s a student fleeing their art academy after traumatic events ends up in Paris as au pair as the Berlin wall falls and many attacks take place in Paris. A former teacher of that student is in Paris in 2015 during the attacks. The parallel and the connection between the two is the framework for weaving the story. Dutch book, not available in English translation I think. Gave it as a present to my sister and a friend afterwards. Picked it up in a book store in Groningen, Godert Walter, when E and I were spending a weekend in that city.

We spent a lovely day in sunny Breda today at the BredaPhoto Festival, titled To Infinity and Beyond. The weather was perfect and we had lunch outside even.

Some images.

BredaPhoto BredaPhoto
Walking through Breda

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Work by Kenta Cobayashi (festival page)

The artist and someone else’s work. (video interview with Jeroen Bocken, work on the wall by Maija Tammi

Three data visualisations photographed by Jos Jansen: Criminal relationship network (University of Amsterdam), Lidar images of trees (University of Amsterdam), Probability function of the Higgs Boson (NIKHEF).

Pictures of Aldermen of medium sized cities, with grey buzz cuts…Jan Dirk van der Burg serialises photos found online into weird patterns and categories.

Image deemed controversial by Iran’s ministry for culture. From the Qajar series by Shadi Ghadirian

BredaPhoto BredaPhotoAntony Cairns, IBM CTY1, city photos on IBM punch cards.

Open after 8:00, close before 17:00. Note on a door at Breda city archive.

Empty lunch cafe in Breda city center, as everyone was outside enjoying the sun.

We had a good day, but I found the photo festival lacking cohesion and a narrative, binding it all into the theme To Infinity and Beyond.

Visited the photo exhibit by Eddo Hartmann on North Korea in the Huis Marseille museum in Amsterdam last week.

What struck me was the similarity with the Eastern block countries in the 1980’s in terms of design looking like it got frozen from the moment that outside influences were banned or blocked. It seems that the price for removing outside influences is reduction of inspiration or creative friction resulting in stagnation of artistic expression (other than those sanctioned)

Friedrichstrasse, East-Berlin in 1987, at least it was busy, even if the design was like the 50’s

Also the contrast between the often inhuman scale of monuments, buildings and roads and the general absence of traffic or crowds. Except maybe for rush-hour on the metro (the exhibit contained some 360 degrees VR videos of that). The emptiness of the photos looks to be confirmed by aerial footage in Google maps, that also shows an absence of traffic and passers-by that doesn’t rhyme with Pyongyang having 3 million or more inhabitants. It reminds me of the emptiness of Second Life a few years back, where the entire environment was built up but no-one was ever there, except during events. Of cities we expect a certain activity level at all times. The whole ‘the city that never sleeps‘ mythology.

Google maps aerial photo of Pyongyang showing mostly empty streets

E exploring some video footage of Pyongyang in VR. Image Ton Zijlstra. license CC BY NC SA