Benedetta Buccellato (L)


This print is a 13” x 20” image on a 20” x 24” paper. It is signed and titled on the front border and back of the print.

I’ve always felt Sicily was a well-kept secret having gone there for the first time in 1994 for National Geographic. I was coming off the disappointment of having my hopes to do an essay on the Bolshoi Ballet canceled. I’d so wanted to experience the beauty of that subject. But instead I was given the chance to photograph Sicily which turned out to be an unexpected blessing. I found that pictures were everywhere; the Sicilians openly welcoming me and my camera as I wandered the country, the towns and villages. But this picture came as the result of, once again, exploring the edges of a subject. I often find the edges of an event more interesting than the event itself; what’s happening in the wings of the stage and backstage often yields better pictures than on the stage itself.
By chance I discovered there was a tradition of performing classic plays in the ruins of a Greek theater in the area of Siracusa, Sicily I was passing through. I wanted to photograph the performance but I didn’t have appropriate credentials and was being denied entrance at the main gate. Then I saw a young American fashion model I knew from a Paris assignment I’d done some years earlier and she passed her credentials to me through the iron fencing and I was soon inside where I needed to be and now it was up to me to find the best images. It was late afternoon and many of the actors were milling around behind the stage, waiting to perform. One actress, darkly hooded and gazing intently out behind a black and spidery-like veil, caught my attention. She was in solitude, well apart from the other actors. She walked around slowly and I imagined she was drawn into herself and her character, preparing to become someone else for a while. As discretely as I could, I stepped in front of her, perhaps six, maybe eight steps away, and walked slowly backwards, focusing my lens on her face as she walked. It was a rare instant of me using a light telephoto lens and I used it to closely frame her face behind the veil, her eyes, and her vivid red lips. I made perhaps a dozen frames, maybe less, I don’t remember and haven’t looked back in my archive to see. Once I felt that was enough, I should leave her alone, I said quietly, “Gratzie,” and stepped aside to let her pass. She nodded and that was the sum total of our communication. Her name is Benedetta Buccellato, a well known Italian actress although I didn’t know it at the time. I am so grateful for her gift of this portrait.

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