IX – Cefalù – Guide to photograph tourist enclaves

Photographing this kind of villages is a challenge. Their layout is as follows: a couple of streets crammed with shops that mostly sell travel souvenirs, clothing and footwear, and others well-stocked with restaurants. In Cefalù, there is also a 12th century cathedral declared World Heritage by UNESCO, and an exceptional marine architecture that enhances the city’s character.

Rarely do you get good photographs in this type of streets crowded with fetishes and signs designed to catch the attention of those passing by. Apart from photographing a small local cut detail in shop windows, the strategy is to locate old shops. In Cefalù, the delicacies of Duomo pastry shop, next to the cathedral, disrupt any human being’s wish to go on a strict diet; while Cirimcione pharmacy, built in 1820, exudes great personality. There’s some showy medication advertising left on its restored furniture, but I like its atmosphere and so I simply pass in front of the door again and again until, suddenly, the look of a girl with an ice-cream — surely from Duomo pastry ship — crosses mine. She keeps still, contemplating how I take the photograph. Her expression, how she places her feet and, of course, the discreet colour of her anorak, do the rest. And then what? I show the image to her mother. She looks at me a little surprised and says that there’s no problem. Done properly, a written permission would be required, but it’s a simple travel photograph and I don’t want to complicate my life.

The second strategy is listening to the street sounds. A typical enclave of Corso Ruggero are the medieval laundries. Again, I walk up and down with all my senses in alert to what happens until, suddenly, a music captivates me. Umberto Rajmondi virtuously plays the mandolin, and through those miracles that favour those who persevere, I get to be the first. I ask for permission by looking at him, he nods, and I have time to peacefully shoot some images, before groups of tourists erupt attracted by the melody. No matter, after trying two or three frames, I have the photo I was looking for. Then comes the most important thing, making conversation. Rajmondi tells me that his vocation is to perform serenades with the popular folk group Dafni Mandolina in front of the girls' house on the eve of their marriage. An enviable job.

The third strategy is to locate well-lit areas at sunrise or sunset. The small Porta Pescara beach meets these requirements. I make use of the last rays of light to get a conventional image that reflects its character. Fishermen's houses, a boat and a girl with a pink noodle float is the counterpoint to an image in which several shades of blue prevail.

But when there’s only a couple of minutes left before the sun disappears behind the clouds, I notice a girl posing for a portrait. I take a backlit picture of her and no one notices. In fact, in that very moment there are dozens of tourists immortalizing the sunset. I am just one more, perhaps the only one who plays with the silhouette that stands next to the old pier. Almost every time a good opportunity has a couple of approaches and the important thing is not to settle for the first one.