lunedì 14 dicembre 2009

On December 11th it was one year since Fred left us

The blog is obviously open to readers and writers from Italy, America, and all over the world.
All Fred's friends who want to remember him are welcome.

mercoledì 25 novembre 2009

Lodovico interviews Diana Borrego Martinez Gonzalez

Dear Diana,

I’d like to talk with you about Fred, in these months I felt close to him and now it looks  as though I knew him, and of course  that’s just a feeling.
I shook hands and looked into your eyes and that would be fine, but I have to know more as I have to write something more. If you agree, I would start now.

How did you happen to meet with Fred, el Tio Fred, lo Zio Fred, casi un padre, how was it and what was your impression when you got to know him?

I met Fred and Julia when I moved to San Jose with my son’s father who is Chileno.  Fred    and   Julia had worked with the church in helping the Chilean refugees settle in San Jose.  This is how and why I met Fred and Julia.
My first impression of Fred was that of a ruff man who spoke without thinking of the consequences but in reality he was speaking the truth.  Also, because he and Julia reminded me of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.  She was small and thin and he was tall a bit thick around the waist.

Family people leave a permanent mark in our heart , something  engraved that can’t be erased, that we bring along with us for good.  What do you think about it?

Fred and Julia were always there for me.  I was a single mother and they were my support system.  My son had a wonderful childhood because of them.  Fred was the scientist, the science teacher, the one who always provided lectures for us even when we did not want to hear them.  I and my son miss those lectures.  His wealth of wisdom, knowledge of life and world history.

Looking at the portraits that were shot by Fred, whom I never met, I got  two different kinds of feeling, a  deep melancholy and a sort of tiredeness or better a disillusion.
But I also felt  the eye of a man who was able to look further ahead, and that therefore could not bear the limits that all kinds of society impose.

(I may be wrong, but it happens to me when I look at pictures in general. I get influenced and carried away by them,. I know that’s not always the correct way, I am conditioned.)
What is your feeling about them?
He did not take random shots, his photos were always well planned, and well documented.  All of the individuals in his portraits you can be sure he spoke to them, more than once.  He loved talking to people, specially those whom he thought were interesting subjects and whose face, posture, or surroundings could tell a story. He spoke to all, social status was not a barrier. 
He was a very melancholy man and sentimental.  Just reading the newspaper would affect his mood.  He wanted the right solutions for everything. 
Tired and disillusion, yes very much so.  His family fled Europe because of Hitler and arrived in America to find a racist society with different laws for the whites than for the blacks.  This was very difficult for the family who had been outspoken in Europe and now could not in America because of the times and being recent immigrants.
He and Julia were involved in many struggles and after the Sixties things slowed down and the movement never really recovered.

What was your impression when you first discovered that Fred had shot so many photos?

I really did not know how many photos he had taken until after he died.

Do you remember what you felt when you  held one in your hands for the very first time?

This took a long time to happen because he didn’t show his photos often, it had to be a special time, or a visit from  someone he knew and they wanted to see his photos.  And, we all had to wear gloves, but first wash our hands well.
I lived with Fred and Julia (his wife) and the first time, I believe, was when he was printing and he brought up a print for Julia to see.  (His darkroom was in the basement of the house).  Julia was his critic and the observer.  I did not know much about photography but I loved his images, they told a story.

Today Fred’s photos have finally started telling their own stories from a place that is  very far away from where  they were originally shot.
Now such a discovery is being started from Italy, the first people that watched them are Italians.
It can possibly mean that big distances don’t exist anymore...
Is that so,or is it just that some people are able to look at, and understand the various tones and shades of the World?

Fred was a pesamista and a perfectionist.  Many times I asked him if we could do an exhibit at the public library in San Jose, but he worried that it would cost too much to frame the prints properly, and the space also had to be just right.  Fred was his own obstacle.  The first time we received the letter from Daniele Ravenna indicating his interest on having a show, it took Fred over a year or longer to commit to it.  He did not know what photo to send, how to send them, what action to take to make sure nothing happened to them, etc…
And all this time he had two portfolios he had prepared years back, with notations and all…but he could not get himself to send them, or would allow me to do it.  This finally got accomplished because Daniele Ravenna and Irene personally came to visite him in San Jose.
Yes, distance does not exhit anymore, something that was very difficult for Fred to acknowledge.  Most of his travels were done by either driving or taking the train.
You’re asking me if some people are able to look at, and understand the various tones and shades of the World...Well, I recall a story Fred told me about him being in Mexico and asking a lady for her opinion on two photos he had with him, one was taken and developed by someone else and the other by him.  The woman chose Fred’s picture.  He asked her why, her answer was because it looked like it was made (printed) more carefully, it was lovelier.  The woman was not wealthy, or educated, she was a peasant.  I think Fred thought of all individuals as being able to tell the differences between excellence and mediocrity.
Also, I believe that it takes an outsider to make these discoveries and then bring them back home.  This was the case with Hansel Mieth and Otto Hagel. 

What was your impression about the inauguration?

I was in disbelief!  Finally Fred’s photos were on exhibit for a small portion of the world, the Italians, to see them.  The location, the cantina, seemed just right, perfect, for his exhibit.  The setting created a mood, melanconico
I was there, at the cantina, several days later, by myself for about 30 minutes.  The ambiente was all Fred, it filled my spirit and made me sad.  I cried remembering him and Julia. 
Thank you for all the time you have put on this project, without knowing Fred, and yet you captured his spirit in these questions you have asked of me.

Diana Borrego
2400 N. Main St., Unit E
Salinas, CA 93906
831 240 8601

martedì 24 novembre 2009

The photo exhibit, dedicated to Fred Iltis. World première

On November 17, 2009 the photo exhibit, dedicated to Fred Iltis, was inaugurated in the city of Milan. It was an absolute world première, conceived and realized by two of his friends Daniele Ravenna and Felix Humm. There was a significant amount of Italian media coverage, such as the Corriere della Sera, la Repubblica, and Radio Popolare. Many visitors came to see the exhibit on opening night, it was truly remarkable, and still more people continue to visit the Azalai Bookstore where the photos are still on exhibit.
I made this video on the day after the opening, so that at least the bloggers can have a “small” impression of where and how Fred’s photos were eventually shown to the public. I do hope this modest effort of mine will be appreciated by all those friends who are following this work which I am dedicating with passion to Daniele and Felix’s friend who passed away.
Thank you guys, this is the way to do it!

venerdì 20 novembre 2009

Tra le cose ancora tutte da scoprire di Fred Iltis

Ricevo e pubblico con immenso piacere.

Mi ha raccontato Diana Borrego Martinez Gonzalez, arrivata dalla California per la mostra di Milano, che el Tio Fred, oltre a metterci la propria particolare sensibilità quando stampava con l'archival process, aveva due occhi in più al suo fianco: quelli della moglie Julia, artista grafica e disegnatrice di grande talento,la cui familiarità con i chiari scuri nobilitava attraverso i  suggerimenti dati a Fred il già raffinato bianconero del fotografo, che è stato definito pregevole dal critico Roberto Mutti nella recensione apparsa sul quotidiano  "Repubblica".

Daniele Ravenna

giovedì 19 novembre 2009

La Mostra di Fred Iltis.wmv

Il 17 novembre c’è stata l’inaugurazione della Mostra dedicata al fotografo Fred Iltis. E’ stata una prima assoluta mondiale voluta, studiata e realizzata da due suoi amici, Daniele Ravenna e Felix Humm. Della Mostra hanno parlato molti importanti media italiani, come Il Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica e Radio Popolare. L’affluenza di visitatori è stata considerevole e anche in questi giorni sono molte le persone che si sono recate alla Libreria Azalai, luogo che ospita la mostra. Ho realizzato questo video il giorno dopo, così da offrire a tutti quelli che leggono il blog, la possibilità di avere una “piccola” impressione di come e dove le foto di Fred si sono finalmente aperte al pubblico. Spero che questo mio modesto sforzo sia gradito a tutti gli amici che stanno seguendo il mio lavoro che faccio e dedico con passione all’amico, ormai scomparso, di Daniele e Felix. Grazie ragazzi, così si fa!

giovedì 12 novembre 2009

A Trattoria on Via San Giovanni sul Muro.

There’s a rather secluded Trattoria on Via San Giovanni sul Muro. One of those that once was easy to find in Milan; you could recognize them from the chequered tablecloth and  wine in the glass canters. It lies on the upper floor of a quite anonymous bar. You have to walk up a steep wooden stair that isn’t inviting at all. Before putting one’s foot upon the first step, the most experienced ones raise their heads to make sure anybody else isn't coming down. You reach your goal slowly and cautiously step by step. The landlady, or the “sciura” as the most affectionate habitués call her, seats you at the table, though you definitely must wait for her to do it, otherwise you might be getting into troubles. She has an energetic character, I would dare say straightforward, and quite rough at times, but those who want to come to this place have to comply with that. A few days ago, exactly last Thursday, I had the opportunity to meet with Daniele Ravenna at the Trattoria.
He and Felix Humm are Fred Iltis’s friends. They conceived, studied and did everything about what’s happening with the photographer’s work.
Once we were seated by the sciura, I could finally ask my guest, or at this point I should say my friend: “ Daniele, don’t you think it’s about time to start saying something to our bloggers?”
“Yes, I think I may want to do it. The whole idea of bringing more people to know Fred Ilits’s work, starting with a photo show, originated from the memories that we conserved from thirty years ago. Those memories inspired us. We had lost contact with him, but we did still remember the photographs that he kept in the basement below the wooden house where he lived in San Jose, California. A very similar house to many others in a suburban neighborhood that today has become quite central. For sure the atmosphere is rather different from the memories of my first journey. Today the neighborhood is populated by mexican-american families that replaced the previous Italian immigrates. On Lick Avenue where Fred lived, there used to be a cannery until few years ago where they made peeled tomatoes, one of the Italian specialties.” “Did you taste the peeled tomatoes?” I asked Daniele. He smiled slightly turning his face to the right and touching his moustaches with his forefinger “Well, I didn’t”, he went on, talking about the origins of the neighborhood.  “Josie, Josephine Cali, the one hundred year old who lived on the other side of the road, knew only a few Italian words, and many Brooklyn slang words of the “broccolino” talk that was typical of Brooklyn; they said “u baccause” (the back of the house) for  “bathroom”, because toilets in the immmigrates slums was in the back.” At that point Daniele got silent and looked astray. His thoughts were lost for a moment beyond the paintings on the opposite wall. “But that’s another story. Let’s go back to Fred in San Jose, California. Down below in his basement where he developed the negatives in an old bathtub and where he printed, using a slow and complicated process.
Fred was a biology professor at the university, he had earned his Ph.D. in entomology at U.C. Davis; he was a guy wih his own rules, apparently rational, like a scientist can be; he deeply knew nature.” Daniele went on with a smile “When you followed him out, walking his dog Lobo, he kept stopping at each plant or bush that drew his attention and started talking about them. He rarely spoke about his photos, he had a sense of modesty and discretion, a sort of jealousy.” I interrupted him “Now let’s talk about his photos. Sure the blog was recently opened, but the editors, Mattia and myself, haven’t written anything yet.”
“All right. His photos. Many of the shots were from his journeys in Mexico, ‘south of the border’.
He rarely shot ‘stolen photos’. He liked to talk with people first, he tried to know them, to overcome the distrust of those who watched the unknown traveller arriving at their own small town or village in the middle of nothing. Whoever will be that gringo who’s hanging around with a camera? Fred did the best he could with his Spanish. He introduced himself, he collected informations; he might come back on another day. So you can understand the portraits, specially those of the women, the most reserved and shy facing a camera, carrying their bundles, and their everyday’s worries, and their children.
In my opinion,Fred was an American who had never stopped thinking like a European from Mitteleuropa. He was born in Czechoslowakia and was a kind of an alien in a country that had never completely become his own, maybe because he’d never chosen it, having been a refugee who had arrived to the United States at the age of 15. He was a pessimist and he may have had good reasons to be like that; his disillusion was smoothed by the gentleness of his wife Julia, who softened the disciplined attitude of a character that had a natural bent for analysis (after all he was a biologist).
He also and specially was allergic to injustice and he was conscious of the discrepancy between the basic principles of the founding fathers of his new country’s constitution and their fulfilment in reality. He had an aversion to “gleichgestaltet” thought, the German definition he used for the equalized wavelength of thought which is typical of totalitarian regimes, where everybody has to listen to one voice, one program only.
He had a great sense of hospitality. We met then, in very much open minded times, that’s for sure, but that doesn’t mean everybody was like that; he accepted people as they were, smoothing down his kind of earnest approach…If he hadn’t been like that, we would have never met him.”
The spaghetti with meatsauce had arrived and the interview was over.
Now I can write that we know a little more about Fred, and that our discovery voyage has stepped a bit further.
Before concluding I’d like to break news with a flash that has already been anticipated in one of the received comments. Soon in November we’re going to have here in Milano from Salinas, California, a person who knew Fred very well: Diana Borrego Martinez Gonzalez. 
I’m looking forward to being back to you with more news, or even better, to having her directly tell more stories about Fred. 
I often close my articles saying: Milano does exhist! This time I can even more say so!

mercoledì 11 novembre 2009

Fred Iltis’s photos will soon be on the walls!

Fred Iltis’s photos will soon be on the walls of a most appropriate place for them.
It’s the Azalai Bookshop in Milan, where the world’s cultures are enshrined under  the colored covers of the books.
Unluckily I didn’t have the chance to meet Fred, but  it’s almost as if we shaked hands.
It happened right there in the bookshop, while I was talking with Signora Giovanna Tescari, one of the two ladies who own and run the bookshop. I was looking at her in the eyes, when she talked about the bookshop’s philosophy, and suddenly my attention was  drawn by all the Colors of the World behind her shoulders. Then I realized that it was the right place. Just as though Fred had told me: “My dear Lodovico, this is the nicest place ever, that Daniele and Felix could have chosen!”
Then I had to rush out and home onto my Vespa scooter, before I lost that very peculiar feeling  I wanted to write down, rightaway.
The Azalai Bookshop is one of those places you may want to discover.
Calling it a “bookshop” is limiting, in fact it’s far more than that. The place is located in an alley that runs off  the main Via Cesare Correnti with a slight curve. Therefore it lies  between brackets from the hurly-burly of the city. That’s the kind of impressions about Milan which you are going to lose when you drive. You just have to walk in order to watch and live them. So you come along the narrow sidewalk and stop in front of the windows, looking at the colors inside. A warm kind of red, and the yellow of  sunlight, those were the colors that seemed to prevail. The red and bright yellow of my pleasure,  discovering the deep diversities of the world’s cultures.
I suggest that you reach the Azalai Bookshop starting from the Carrobbio and taking Via Cesare Correnti.  The first on the left will be Via Gian Giacomo Mora.  A few steps on the right hand side and you’ll see the bookshop’s windows.
The Photo Show will take place in the red brick walled basement-cantina underneath, where those bricks have been there for centuries (it’s the area of the archeological Roman sites.)
All the colors and perfumes of the books will keep you company when you’ll be approaching the stairs that lead you down to Fred’s photos. Once you get there, you’ll be ready to catch all their tones and nuances.

This city has its own old  history that is more lively and can get closer to the sky than its future skyscrapers. Right in the alleys you can discover the local dwellers’ capacities to collect and spread culture. An open culture to the world,  breaking through the barriers. Just as Fred Iltis’s photos.
Now I can write again that Milan exists!   Take your time on Tuesday November 17 and start walking, with no rush, along Via Cesare Correnti. Go to the opening of Fred Iltis’s Photoshow.
Daniele and Felix are waiting for you!