"...for ultimately, and precisely in the deepest and most important matters, we are unspeakably alone..." Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet #2
Two years ago today, February 28th, I finished treatment for breast cancer. I am doing very well, thank you.
I was very lucky to be treated at one of the best hospitals in Portugal. My family and friends were always there for me, did everything they could to help me, were so very supportive. I was never left on my own. I felt respected in my sickness (if that makes sense…). I felt very loved.
But… when I was at nurses and doctors offices’ waiting to be seen by them; when I had to undress and put on the hospital clothes and disposable slippers; when I was left alone in cold rooms, stuck inside cold machines with robotic movements and strange noises; when I was waiting, for long hours, so that contrasts would spread through my body; when I was lying down on my way to surgery only being able to look at the very bright white lights in the ceiling; when I entered restricted areas where no else was allowed; when I had to surrender my body to the care of doctors and nurses… then was when I was really alone. I never felt lonely but I felt alone in those moments. As if it was a parallel life or dimension, not my real life. In my real life, I felt confident and positive most of the time. In this parallel life, it was about the disease and I, just the two of us, there, dealing with each other, “it” was I, I was “it”.
These pictures were taken during those “when” moments. They reflect the void, the helplessness, the sadness when put face to face with my fragility and my mortality.
The next follow-up appointment is schedule for April. Each time I go back, the smell, the large corridors, the white walls, the comfortable sofas in the waiting rooms, the staff uniforms, all bring back that void, the helplessness. Le’s see if photographies will be different this time.
Now that travelling has become something (strange) we used to do without knowing how blessed we were, I take deeper pleasure from looking at my travelling pictures. I feel like sharing them: this time not isolated, a picture speaking for itself as I used to do, but as a showcase of a place and a time of bonheur.
Few years ago, my family and I travelled to the Basque Country in Spain. We stayed in Bilbao, Lequeitio and San Sebastian and found some time to take a quick look to the mythical Biarritz beach, in France, just across the border.
Getting closer to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Designed by Frank Gehry, the building is absolutely amazing and still surprising, even after having seen lots of images of it. From anywhere one looks the building seems different, there’s a curve, a perspective, a way the light shines that is always new. As everyone, I took a lot of pictures of the building but I’m just sharing some details I like.
Along the coast
The beach is a great scenario to photograph people, not just because they are relaxed and at ease but mainly because they are “undressed” of whom they are in real life. In the beach one is not a doctor or an electrician, a nurse, a butcher, a catholic, a wife, a jazz lover or a great cook. Sometimes, one is still a mother, a father, a grandparent, children are children, we may tell who likes swimming or reading or playing with beach rackets and friendship is visible. But, very, very often, at the beach, people have a moment with themselves, just them and the sea or the sand. I love witnessing those moments.
Netherlands, July 2018
We visited the Netherlands this summer and went, as tourists as can be, to see the Windmills of Kinderdijk. It was a particular warm afternoon and this local family was just there, trying to cool down a bit, ignoring the hundreds of outsiders. They were completely standing still and seemed to me as a scene of an old Dutch painting, with the windmill behind and the vivid mono colours of their clothes. (The Windmills of Kinderdijk were declared to be UNESCO World Heritage in 1997).
Santo André Beach, Alentejo, Portugal (taken with iPhone, no filters). September 2018
I love the beach in September: most people is gone, there’s space and silence. Yesterday the sky was so clear. It was also windy and a bit cold and, as the afternoon went by, just a few of us remain seated there, wearing shirts and enjoying the light, the sea and the vastness of the sand.