I don’t fully understand the connections between the Republican movement and the other countries represented here by their flags: Poland, Palestine, the Philippines, and China. The relationship between the IRA and PLO is fairly well-known and this connection was most frequently represented in Irish neighborhoods of Belfast (though interestingly, not reflected in Palestine that I noticed). The presence of these other flags, however, remains a mystery to me as I haven’t done enough reading to understand these connections. (Can anyone fill me in?)
It is interesting to note that I didn’t observe the same international connections and relationships being highlighted in Cyprus or Israel/Palestine-the dialogue of these conflicts felt insular, more like an echo chamber than an international community.
April 2009, Rome
This was probably the first time I tried to cover an event as a photographer and create a comprehensive photo essay. The occasion was a Communist rally on a warm spring day in Rome, where I had arrived days before for the second leg of a study abroad program. I can’t remember how my friends and I heard about the rally, but it was a Saturday morning, and we took the worlds’ worst metro system to the Pyramid stop, where we emerged, wide-eyed, to a sea of red flags and hammers and sickles. It was overwhelming for my midwestern senses, which were still adjusting to a world outside of Minnesota, much less the USA. But then the adrenaline kicked in and we started to follow the parade towards the Colosseum.
I stayed on the outside of the parade, working my way toward the front. I took a lot of pictures of people’s backs and sides, much to my irritation nowadays. Nearly an hour into the march, I found the beginning of the pack and the leaders of the action. They were riding in the back of this white pickup truck which was advancing at a crawl down the middle of the street. One shouted into a megaphone in Italian. An old man wearing a red scarf walked on the passenger side of the truck. But most of all, I was transfixed by this young woman who seemed to rally the crowd with ease, starting chants and directing the fists of Italian youth. I read her as a symbol of the movement. She was young, maybe as young as I was, and her behavior was a fascinating split between powerful and frail, anonymous and strangely familiar.
As the parade approached the Colosseum, the men in the very front produced giant sparklers which gave off a tremendous amount of smoke when lit. It was the climax of the entire morning and emotions ran high. I began a flat out dash to the very front, planning to throw myself in front of the marchers to get the shot: the men with the angry red sparklers against the backdrop of the Colosseum. Suddenly, other photographers were there, all with giant lenses. I jockeyed with professionals for space, also for the first time, watching to see where they would try and shoot from. And then, my camera ran out of battery. Just like that. Dead. No more photos. I never got the shot. Although the friends I came with were behind me, at least a few of them snapped photos that could have ran on AP with ease. Most of the work is showing up and finding the right place at the right time, but it doesn’t count when your equipment doesn’t show up with you.
I learned a hard lesson that day, but since then, I’ve never ran out of battery at an event. However, I still hate photographing flags, fundamentally fickle in the wind.
Cyprus is strikingly beautiful. Green and lush, with a mountain range to the north of Nicosia whose peaks are more like waves or erratic mathematic functions than the stereotypically triangular forms you would first think of. Yesterday was sunny and warm, and I set out for a 10-mile walk, covering the buffer zone in the north-west metropolitan area. Despite the gorgeous landscape and relaxed, Mediterranean vibe, there are still things that are profoundly weird about the island (to my excitement). For example, I went from a modern-Western style shopping mall to a militarized border with occupied Turkish territory, on foot, in about 10 minutes. And I wasn’t even walking quickly. Here are a few photos and first impressions of my time here:
I’ve already seen these stickers in quite a few places. Note how North (Turkish-occupied) Cyprus appears to be bleeding onto the rest of the island.
Oh you know, just the buffer zone at the end of the block. Maybe 100 meters past this, there are North Cyprus observation posts and Turkish flags. In between: barbed wire, tall grass.
Huge Turkish flags painted on the hillside facing south. Apparently they are lit up at night by floodlights, too. As one resident put it: “quite provocative, really.”