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Photography in the Alps

Photo Credit: Preenasundersingh on Pixabay

A True Story Inspired by William Wordsworth's Poem "Tintern Abbey"

Some fifty-two long years have passed since I worked as a photographer in the Italian Alps. But those past years seem like only yesterday. I was asked by my professor of prehistory to join his Alpine art research institute as staff photographer. This was a difficult choice to make, as we had recently gotten married, and it turned out that my wife was pregnant with twins. I would be gone for six months and for newlyweds with babies on the way, this was a decision that could impact on our marriage. But together the decision was made, and without my wife for six months, over fifty years ago, I traversed the Italian Alps photographing prehistoric Alpine rock art. 

This cartoon was drawn by the graphic artist Raefao, in 1970 and dedicated to Melvin Farris. He entitled it “Moschiko on the Rocks of Luine”. Melvin’s Hebrew name is Moshe.

The challenges were great and so were the dangers. The Italian Alps are high, steep, rugged, and daunting in appearance; they are vast in scope with their formidable beauty, craggy and treacherous ridges, and slopes. Magnificent splendor is everywhere, with little fast-flowing streams careering down the snow-capped mountains, green plateaus, forested areas, and primitive agricultural flat lands. Upon these steep rocky and barren slopes, Neolithic people carved figures of life, hunting scenes and animals in some of the most impossibly sheer and perilous rock faces. My work was to photograph the rock art that these prehistoric people carved into the sometimes vertical, but always sheer, mountain side. These risky slopes had to be climbed or rappelled - up or down - while sometimes dangling from ropes with a kilometer or so beneath me while carrying photographic equipment.

Does this sound romantic? It was not, this was work with a purpose. But the views while hanging onto the Alpine surfaces, rock climbing or hiking across precarious nonexistent paths to vantage points was breathtaking and glorious. This was an experience that only fools and idiots, such as me, would undertake. The fear of falling, stumbling, ropes not supporting me and crashing down into the rocky void below was always present. This fear had to be overcome.

Carlos Soy on Pixabay

The memory of this adventure is with me to this very day. The work taught me that most challenges can be overcome with focus and when the purpose is clearly defined. It was a splendid six months - tricky, difficult, exciting and something that, who knows, I might do again. But with a difference. My wife should be able to see what her then new husband was doing for those long six months - where I had been and what hair-raising risks I had taken. The memory of this period in my life is something to tell my grandchildren about their foolhardy grandfather. 



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Thursday, 25 July 2024

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