Naples 2: Pompeii, corsets & pluralism

January 4, 2011

This was my second visit to Pompeii and I paid more attention to detail. On a first visit one is simply swept away by the sheer scale of the place and the trauma of its destruction. This time the minutiae of wall decorations and the intimacy of some of the smaller houses outside the main attractions became a focus. January is the time to come here. In summer there are too many people and its just too hot. That means it takes longer to get around the site and you have to stop more frequently and its difficult to move in the more popular areas. Today I was able to get shots without people simply by waiting a few minutes for people to move on. Mind you I developed a rational but pathological hatred for anyone wearing a brightly coloured puffer jacket. These barbarians seemed to assembly the minute I lined up the camera, wandering in and out of the view finder with irritating deliberation. The other main advantage is that the winter sun is so much better a photographic environment than the haze of summer. It may be a week before I can load the results to Flickr however as the so called high speed internet at this hotel has megabyte cap on uploads which is way below the 1.3Gb that my 199 photographs need.

I am enjoying the new Camera, a Nikon D7000 with the 18-200mm Zoom-Nikkor and a really heavy, solid feel. Good advise on the combination there from Steve White at Foto Forum in Phoenix Az. One of its main advantages is the high ISO range and the anti-vibration setting on the lens. It means that I can take in door photographs without flash ( see the one above) which produces much richer material, and also allows you to take photographs where flash is forbidden. I hope my “safe” designation on flickr will not be lost when the full set of wall paintings from the brothel are loaded!

I was thinking as I went round today about the differences with my first SLR back in the 60s. It was a Zenith E and I carried around a notebook to record each photograph I took. Location, shutter speed, aperture and distance were all there for review and I really wish I had kept those books. Now the camera records all of this for me and more, not only that, the GPS unit I bought to go with it records latitude and longitude and Flickr then positions each photograph onto its maps. By the way, Flickr’s default option (stupidly) is not to load such data, it took me time on various forums to find this out and I had to reload all of my Irish photographs in consequence. Of course the other major difference is digital. In the old days I would have bought two maybe three 36 exposure films for a day to Pompeii. Each shot was precious as it cost money for the film, money for the processing and time for the cataloguing. Now for 199 photographs I chose to keep I took over 300 without thinking about it. When I move over to RAW format later in the year I will take more, especially for landscapes where I can start to do better works with skies and foreground.

Back to Pompeii. On the second visit it makes sense to explore without slavish following of the guidebook. The walk around the Walls from the North to the South was a new discovery and I would now recommend this for all new visitors, it gives an overview over the whole town, together with a realisation that defense remained key, and that Roman approaches were universal, the towers and gates were more or less identical to Hadrian’s Wall. Without large volumes of people you can a better sense of life in the city, you see the cafes with their circular heating pits, the walk ways between shops and the balance between poor and rich areas. Some things do not change, including the narrow winding streets in the less salubrious areas.

I also think its better to walk around with a single companion, it enriches the conversation. Some maybe less desirable; talking about daughter’s 22nd birthday produced an interesting revelation. We talked about options for fancy dress and in italian mode I suggested venetian costumes. I was told this was not practical as the style had to match something where people would have appropriate clothing without the need to purchase or hire. I then learnt that Burlesque would be appropriate as people could wear corsets. Now this gives a whole new perspective on student life. What modern social conditions have given rise to a situation where students have corsets hanging (sic) around for casual use? Has the anthropology department as Sussex determined a modern ethnographic experiment on victorian values or is it something more sinister?

By mid afternoon we had seen everything and the sun has disappeared behind a screen of cloud so we returned to the hotel (before the rush hour this time) for both of us to work. I had to make a final choice between various fecal management systems to write up (don’t ask, I will blog on it next week) and Eleanor had to read up for an essay on the validity of pluralism for her Philosophy of Religion course. Later in the evening we walked into the centre of Naples to eat. It took 45 minutes to get to the Castle; a wonderful combination of Norman and Renaissance architecture which is now marked for a visit. We settled on the Ciro a Santa Brigida in the Via S. Brigida and realised for a second day that Itallian restaurant staff do not want to say that they have not understood what you have said so you often get more (or in this case less) than you ask for.I had chosen a pasta dish to be followed a baked fish which I was allowed to choose from that day’s live catch. However the first food which arrived was the fish, my request for pasta had been missed. Now being British one doesn’t complain, one just accepts what one is given, but it was a very good fish and the absence of pasta justified a local cake with the expresso at the end. A wonderful Sicilian white (Nozze D’Oro) also mitigated the suffering.

The discussion over dinner involved the philosophy of religion essay, and I must say its a positive pleasure to have a daughter studying the same subjects that you did at University. We explored the idea that pluralism is possible in religions that are pantheistic, or derive from pantheism but is impossible for those based purely on revelation. I recalled one of the greatest of catholic philosophers, Karl Rahner and his concept of anonymous Christians which represented one of the first post-modern approaches to issues of pluralism and cultural and religious diversity. That conversation continued as we walked back through light rain and in consequence I missed a turning. That was a beneficial accident as we ended up turning down the v. del Tribunali in Plazza Dante which is real taste of Naples, passing through the student district on narrow streets surrounded by ancient churches and washing hanging out to dry from balconies.

If the weather is fine tomorrow we are for Capri by hydrofoil, possibly using the train to Sorrento, if mixed then we will retrace our steps in daylight.

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Naples 1: arrival

I'm currently taking a midwinter break in Naples with daughter before she goes back ...

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