I don’t know why I sometimes do not edit my photos for weeks on end. Perhaps I am scared that my images are not good enough. Like every starting photographer there is a degree of shyness when it comes down to one’s work. You never know when you caught the moment and when you really blew it…
I hope that two months overdue is not that much…
I have promised to write more about the place I reside – Republic of Malta. One of world’s smallest states (316 km2 or 122 sq miles) divided between three islands and one of the most populated places on the globe (with 500 000 residents and 3 mln of tourists throughout the year, density reaches 1,306.8/km2 or 3,413.9/sq m – that’s more than Hong Kong or Gaza Strip).
Malta is maybe a small place but extremely colourful and occasionally loud. Nothing captures the spirit of the island like the week before Ash Wednesday – The Carnival.
Il-Karnival ta`Malta holds a special position among all festas and public holidays on the island. It is celebrated annually since 1535 (that’s two-hundred years longer than Rio!) and is regarded as a major tourist attraction. The daily celebrations take place in the capital – Valletta, the nightly celebrations move to Nadur in the island of Gozo. Each year sees a street parade, band marches and floats competition. It is also a fantastic opportunity for any photographer – hand made costumes of the revellers take months to prepare and the results are astonishing. Maltese are also protective of children, taking photos of youngsters is frowned upon; the Carnival is probably the only time when a photographer can snap away photos of anybody without being yelled at.
Through – out its history, the carnival was a source of entertainment and controversy. The Knights of Malta, who brought the tradition to the island, had to reprimand residents numerous times over costumes or lavish celebrations. In 1969 a ban was issued by Grand Master Giovanni Paolo Lascaris to keep women away from the Knights` celebrations. It also forbade masks – those who would resist faced penalty of being publicly whipped. Maltese public answered in a typical Mediterranean fashion – regular riots erupted, a Jesuit church was destroyed and Grand Master Lascaris had to evacuate himself from St James Cavalier building in Valletta.
This story constitutes my favourite anecdote – today St James Cavalier hosts art centre, cinema and a popular restaurant. This year, I have been photographing the Carnival all weekend (9-10 February 2013) and had my lunches at St James. I was wondering what Grand Master Lascaris would say. Let’s hope my choice of local ricotta pie would be approved…
Carnival can stir up controversy even in this day and age. In 2009 revellers were arrested in Nadur for dressing up as Jesus and nuns. One person was handed a month – long prison sentence, the rest were acquitted.
The weather this year was really harsh and windy. I dressed myself up like I was taking part in Trans-Siberian expedition and tried to keep myself warm and hydrated at all times. Yet still became violently sick in the end.
I don’t usually plan how I will execute a topic when I shoot. However this time around I wanted to copycat a great idea. Perhaps you are familiar with `Humans of New York` project (www.facebook.com/humansofnewyork) where one very clever photographer roams the streets of his home town and takes portraits of random strangers. I wanted to capture the essence of what Brandon Standon is doing with HONY but on a smaller scale, hence nineteen portraits in this blog entry. Think of it as one roll of film…
What I wanted to portray were not just stunning costumes or cute kids. I wanted to show the diversity of people you can meet on Maltese streets, all dressed up and celebrating in their own ways.
I hope you like it.