VIII – Palermo – Churches and French-fry pizzas
We are in Sicily and Vito Corleone, disguised as Marlon Brando, watches me from a T-shirt while holding a lighted cigar in his right hand. I decide to look for icons like, for example, the island’s typical puppets. From a shop window in Via Vittorio Emanuele I am contemplated by a Don Quixote-looking knight, sculpted with wonderful artlessness. Once its picture is taken, I should move along. Big mistake. This is one of digital photography’s traps. You check the camera’s backup to make sure you have what you were looking for and you deny yourself the chance to improve what you managed to get. My subconscious tells me not to leave. I stay put, but what for?
Suddenly, I notice a tiny display of cork stoppers topped by heads of Arabs and Christians holding feathers that could easily resemble the ones of the birds of paradise. The Africa-Europe confluence! This is what I wanted to express since I noticed the considerable number of African emigrants in Palermo, the promised land of small boats, a foot in Europe. Yes, it is all gathered there and I like the photograph even more for its colourful details.
Today is Palm Sunday and I renew my purpose of visiting worship places. I head up to the main churches and observe the parishioners. Above all, this is about capturing the atmosphere without disturbing them. How? E-M1 Mark II’s electronic shutter is totally silent. The open back screen to photograph without «pointing» at anything allows me to take spontaneous shots without being noticed.
In La Maturana, my favourite church in Palermo, tourists are not allowed to access the interior during service, but I enter with my hands in my pockets. To move around without a carrying case and a reduced team grants these privileges, and during the ceremony I take advantage of the four orthodox priests’ walk – who direct the service – to discreetly photograph them. One of them squints at me. It is a warning advising me to lower the camera. Photographers must understand this kind of signals. There are glances that say «enough is enough» and others that encourage you to keep going. The important thing is that no one feels uncomfortable with your presence.
And to finish the day, a pizza in a neighbourhood away from the historic centre, queuing with the locals to take it with me. In these situations, while I wait for it to be ready, I like to take photographs. It’s a way of killing time and, at the same time, as they usually don’t receive tourist visits, hardly anyone will pay much attention to you. A man pets a dog, and I notice the Parcheesi colours in front, red, blue and yellow, but the pizzaiolo is constantly moving. The move is to hope that everything is well aligned and take advantage of that fraction of a second. Since it has been a church day, I pray to God that the man continues to interact with the dog, which now stands on two legs, while the pizzaiolo approaches the counter. For a moment, the miracle happens. I press the shutter button and the camera freezes the scene.
As a curiosity, I will add that most of the pizzas people asked for had French fries and Frankfurt sausages.
—It’s typical — says the cashier lady while she charges me for a more conventional pizza, flanked by a portrait of the Holy Virgin and another of the Holy Father Pius.