Daily Inspiration #197 by Francesco Rosa

From Steve: TGIF! Here are two photos that were entered into the M9 contest that were in my top 20 folder. I thought the portrait was so good it should at least be in a daily inspiration so I asked Francesco if I could post them today and he said was happy to share them. Thanks Francesco!

15th January 2011


Monreale, Sicily

At the highest summit of the Cathedral of Monreale, I met this man.

He was from Saint Petersburg and spoke no English and no Italian, only Russian. He also wore no shoes, only socks.

In a surreal spark, he grabbed me gently but firmly by the arm and with the most indecipherable gaze proceeded to sing to me “Mamma”, a 1940 song made famous by Beniamino Gigli.

His ways were mellow and he knew every single word by heart, in flawless Italian!

About me and my passion for photography:
I fell in love with photography rather late, in my mid twenties. In truth she had already flirted with me as a shy teenager, but I was 24 when she really bit me.
“Learn to love me” – photography whispered to me one day – “and you will learn to love everything”.

It took years but when I was ready she introduced me to the Leica M4 of a friend. “This camera is special” – she said. “she will do exactly what you ask her to. Her glass will never fail you, not even wide open or in the most difficult of situations. She is quiet and she is fast. She is free of vibrations and she will never distract you from my essence in any way. You have learnt to see how I see, now you are ready: raise your eye to this viewfinder and see how you had forgotten to see”.

Years went by. I eventually managed to buy an M6 with a Summicron and loved them both very very much. One day unfortunately I was forced to sell them, and regretted it ever since. The man who bought them from me was an old gentleman dealer from Barcelona who had devoted his entire life to photography. Seeing how much I loved my camera, he almost cried. He was a great man.

Photography evolved and brought digital. There are many great cameras out there. I now own a little Ricoh GRD2 which is great for taking visual notes. I enjoy pushing it to its limits and it has helped me develop a more fluid approach to framing. A friend lent me his D300 to shoot the images for this contest but the feeling is simply not there with a DSLR. At least not for me. The M9 is the ultimate digital camera for the style of photography that I love. If I win I would like to use this camera to bring happiness into people’s lives by taking great pictures of the people I meet and giving them out for free.


  1. Francesco, such a great story! I wish I could meet this man; he seems to be a very interesting person. And I could understand what he says since I’m from Russia myself.

    Your second picture is very intense and mesmerizing. It reminds me of one encounter in Puri, India couple of years ago: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregshanta/4947825116/

    That man was the owner of a small restaurant. He’d cook there all day by himself and would always smile and greet anyone who came in. His beard was all yellow from the fumes of the spices (Turmeric, I guess, as it is yellow in colour and very often used in Indian cuisine). What I remember about him is that I felt an intense presence of sincere affection for any stranger who happened to walk in his restaurant. The meals were very good and extremely cheap, even by local standards.

    Sometimes we get to meet such men who by their mere presence enrich us with deep feeling of life and love.

    Greg Shanta

    • Hello Greg,

      Indeed there is some resonance with your photo in India. Beyond the beard, they both have a most benevolent gaze…

      I still wonder to this day what circumstances in this man’s life brought him from Saint Petersburg to walk barefoot on the top of a Sicilian cathedral. And how he came to learn a 1940s Italian song by heart, and with such precise pronunciation! Some days I like to think he was an angel messenger sent to greet me at such a critical moment in my life.

      In the first photo, I looked up at him and when eye contact was made I raised my camera slightly as if asking his permission to grab a shot. He nodded gently in affirmative fashion. I then walked the last few stairs toward the summit of the cathedral and found myself face to face with him. Again I used body language to ask his permission. This time there was very little margin for manouvre as the space was extremely limited. I leaned out from the arch that you see in the first picture, but I was still too close. Then I moved the camera away from and behind my body, to gain the necessary distance. This is something I have grown accustomed to do with my little Ricoh GRD2 so I used the same trick with the camera which was lent to me at the time (a Nikon D300 with 20mm – so 30mm equivalent)…..

      • Francesco, I think he was indeed an angel messenger for you. It doesn’t mean that he came from Heaven, wings and all, just to meet you here on Earth. God sometimes empowers human beings to be angels for other human beings in various ways.

        It’s great that you have preserved this experience not only in your heart but as images as well, so you can share it with other people who may also be in need of some angelic encounter or just see the beauty of the moment as passers by.

        You may never learn who this man really was or how he appeared there the way he was. That’s all right, though. Let it remain a mystery. Some things in life should stay enigmatic.

        I’ve been going to India and have lived there for many years. And I’ve had several mysterious encounters there that will always remain in my memory. I didn’t have a camera with me most of the time, so I can’t share those experiences visually with other people.

        Thank you for your wonderful story!


        • By the way, Francesco, ‘Mamma’ was very popular in the Soviet Union in the old days. Even at just your mentioning of it’s name I had immediately the familiar tune play in my mind. Yes, this comment does show my age…


  2. Fantastic photograph. Love the feeling, the mood coming from these two shots. I know it’s you and not the camera Fransesco that captured this mood, texture and lighting, but it also keeps me moving toward acquiring a Leica for myself. Just beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Tom,

      The topic title I had sent with the two shots was “On my way up I thought I met Saint Peter”. The title itself is already a little weak, as it can probably be fully understood only by the small percentage of the world population which gravitates around Catholicism!

      When Steve kindly asked me if he could post them here, I also sent him a few lines telling the true story behind the pics.

  3. Caro Francesco,

    Mi piacciono le tue fotografie e la storia della tua passione per la fotografia. Quest’ultima assomiglia alla mia storia, cioè la crescita della passione dall’adolescenza in poi.


    • Ciao Ernesto e grazie per le tue parole.

      Ero molto tentato a barare per questa gara perchè una M9 con un’ottica decente mi sarebbe veramente utilissima in questo momento, e forse anche uno strumento con il quale guadagnarmi da vivere. Sarebbe stato facile inviare più entrate con diversi tipi di fotografie e da diversi nominativi. E magari fare leva su certi sentimenti umani inviando un certo tipo di foto….

      Alla fine ho scelto di non fare nessuna di queste cose. Sono rientrato da poco in Italia dopo 16 anni all’estero (tra Londra e Barcellona) e penso spesso a quanto è degenerato il nostro paese. Ho voluto nel mio piccolo fare la cosa giusta. Queste due foto sono OK, niente di speciale secondo me. Soprattutto sono deboli nello “storytelling”, che era l’obbiettivo principale del concorso!


  4. Great picture Francesco!
    I wish you will get a M9 one way or another in the future so you can continue taking great pictures.

  5. Francesco,

    I can get lost in the textures you have found with your camera. Beautifully carried out and such a great subject as well. Congratulations! I would love to see an even tighter crop of your second shot. His beard could have me entertained for hours.

    Ann-Marie Hensley

    • Hello Ann-Marie,

      My apologies to you and to everyone else for the late reply, I’m sort of in between houses (MILD UNDERSTATEMENT, ah!).

      It’s nothing special but I’ll send you a tighter crop as soon as I settle down.


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