Back to Little Italy

It was I think in 1992 that I first photographed the annual festival of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at the Italian Church in Clerkenwell – certainly those are the earliest pictures I can currently find, though unfortunately they are not yet on-line – and I’ve continued to do so for most years since then, missing the occasional year when I’ve not been in London.

According to my filing sheets, that 1992 event took place in June rather than July, but perhaps that was probably just an error on my part. Otherwise it looks quite similar to this year’s event, except that some of those still taking part look considerably older and greyer. The procession then followed a different route, around the streets to the south of the church and my pictures were black and white, mainly taken with the 28mm Minolta lens on a Minolta CLE – always my favourite Leica.

That lens too was my favourite ‘Leica’ lens, bought because the extensive reviews and lab tests in the US magazines (at at time when UK magazines mainly poked the camera out of the office window and took a snap across the river) showed it to be optically superior to the Leitz equivalent, as well as rather cheaper. I think the difference in price enabled me to buy the Leica 90mm f2.8 as well – which did get deservedly good reviews.

And that Leitz Canada Tele-Elmarit M lens fits well (with a Fuji M adapter) on the Fuji X cameras (where it is a 135mm equivalent) and their electronic viewfinders make it a far more practical proposition than it ever was on a Leica, where the viewfinder frame was laughably small. Being able to focus on a magnified image with focus peaking makes it very usable for reasonably static subjects. Fuji don’t offer any equivalent to this lens, though there are a three zooms that include this focal length, and a fourth on the way. If they did it would be larger and heavier than the Leitz (around 330g with the adapter) but would of course have the advantage of autofocus and offer the option of auto aperture control.

I tried using all my old Leica lenses when I first got the X-Pro1, and several of them – whatever name they had on them – were just a little disappointing compared to Fuji X glass. The 28mm Minolta was one of the worst, suffering from white spots and fungus. I took it to a specialist in lens cleaning, who gave me the unwelcome news that it was permanently damaged and not worth cleaning – though at least that advice came free.

I might have taken some colour pictures of the festival as well back in 1992, and I thought I came across some earlier today while I was looking for the black and white, but I can’t find it now, so perhaps it was just a hallucination. Back in the 1990s, black and white was still king, particularly for the library I put my pictures in, as relatively few books and magazines used much colour, and I only used colour for personal projects where colour itself was an issue, although things were changing. (I’d moved by this time from colour transparency to colour negative, which did simplify things,allowing me to file the work in the same way as black and white, using archival plastic negative filing sheets. But things didn’t always get filed where they should have done.)

Things at the Italian festival were rather more freer back then, with no barriers or roped off areas, and perhaps just a little more chaotic. It was in some ways a more Italian event back then, although it is still Italian now, and it was also rather more of a local community event. And of course the wine was cheaper, though at the right stall in the Sagra it was still very reasonable and drinkable this year. Most years I meet up there with a friend of Italian descent who can always be relied on to source the cheapest wine and we get through a few together between taking pictures. Whatever wine snobs would say, it seems to taste fine drunk from a disposable plastic tumbler.

Using the Minolta I was also a rather more discreet presence than I am usually now with two large Nikons with hefty lenses around my neck, and my pictures then had more of a ‘street’ feel to them. Though for this occasion I had chosen to work with two Fuji cameras, the X-T1 with the 18-55mm zoom and the X-E1 with the fixed 14mm. It also helped that there were far fewer photographers around than now; apart from a few proud mums and dads taking pictures of their children there were probably only a photographer from a local paper and a couple of friends of mine seriously taking pictures. Things are very different now.

When I have more time I’ll go back and scan some of those images from 1992. But in the meantime you will just have to make to with my pictures from this year – and on the web you can also look at those from When I have more time I’ll go back and scan some of those images from 1992. But in the meantime you will just have to make to with my pictures from this year – and on the web you can also look at those from
2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. I had 2010 and 2011 off and was back there in 2012 and 2013.

There was one small disappointment this year. Back in those pictures from 1992, there are a couple of frames of people all staring up into the sky and the next frame, pointed up towards the sky shows a dove making its way into the heavens. But this year I saw no doves.

More of this year’s pictures and about the event at Festival of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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