Italian Connection

 Italian connection

I woke up this morning thinking about a portrait I did a few years back; I was still married then, and I remember my hubby returning from a conference in New Lanark, telling me about this interesting guy he met there. Born in Edinburgh with an Italian heritage. His parents migrated to Scotland after the war, he was part of the first generation of Italian migrants’ children born in Scotland. He was trying to describe him to give me an idea of the type of character he was and then he simply said: “ Och!…you would like him a lot! He’s full of charisma and had such an interesting life. He has so many wonderful stories to tell!”

I was intrigued by the charismatic man I just heard of, but of course, life moves on and the opportunity to meet him, never presented itself, so I forgot about him. 

Many months later, my hubby again, brought home a book that this same guy had just published, a quick glance at the book, then it sat on a bookshelf for a few more months, till one night before going to bed I picked it up and started reading it. I was hooked!

I remember looking forward to reading Laurences musings before falling asleep, they were so inspiring, full of wit, humour, and felt so real, so genuine. The book is like a diary, and each story is about normal day-life events that happened and the people he met. They are told in such an amusing way, and they are full of wisdom, and they clearly state a deep search for the self.

I found it enchanting and charming. I often found myself laughing at some of his stories. I loved them because there was a sense of vulnerability and fragility in his stories too. I had a feeling that he was getting to understand more and more the importance of being open and vulnerable towards all life experiences, and he was doing so together with an infinite curiosity for life beyond the physical. The spiritual realm seems to be a new discovery, one that was really appealing to him at that point in his life! From a wild past, then many years dedicated to working with less advantaged communities to a peaceful retired life. A small cottage in the green Scottish countryside, with lots of time and tranquillity to reflect on less physical matters in between cutting wood for the fire and landscaping the wee garden around the cottage. 

I just loved that wee book, the stories were so full of life that my mind was turning them into short movies inside my head, where all the characters and places were suddenly so real! 

I love when books do that to me!

At that point, I knew I wanted to meet him because such a person inspired me and I wanted to make a portrait of this charming man that started shaping his form in my fantasy filled mind.

I managed to find his email address and wrote to him. Actually, I wrote twice, since my first email got forgotten under a pile of other emails, but eventually, he was happy to meet me in Edinburgh for a coffee. I felt as if I was transported in his book when we met in one of his favourite cafes, I knew of from the stories he wrote! 

Suddenly I was inside one of his stories too, and we were the characters for that morning! In fact, I have sometime wondered if he ever wrote about this strange meeting with me!?

As soon as I saw him, I noticed that the lines on his face were carrying the weight of pain and sadness, he had a stern and serious expression that somehow didn’t fit the image of the man I created in my mind.

We told each other the tales of our lives and we both relaxed in each others company.

He admitted that he wanted to make sure I wasn’t a total “nutcase”! 

I would have probably done the same if someone contacted me out of the blue wanting to do a portrait of me! 

I love listening to people’s stories, especially when you find good story-tellers like Laurence. There are some amazing people out there, and photography gives me the opportunity to discover them and learn about their wonderful lives. Then I work around their portraits, to create an image that expresses how I see them.

It is not how they see themselves, it is how … I see them.

And everyone is always more interesting than what they think they are. 

I suppose I do what a writer of novels does with his characters, the only difference is, I use a camera and photos instead.

 Anyway, by the end of our meeting, he invited me to visit him to his cottage in the countryside where we could do his portrait. 

A few weeks later, I was there! 

We spent the morning together. He welcomed me with a lovely breakfast with tea, coffee, freshly baked muffins, butter and homemade jam. I had to travel a fair distance to get to his place from where I live, and he was so thoughtful and caring, totally aware of that.  After breakfast, we started looking around for places that would best suit his portrait. Indoor, window light; outdoor, around the cottage and garden. It was there that I discovered some hidden gems. We went for a walk and he showed me some historical places around the estate where the cottage is situated and we even saw a big earthy mound where a badger lives nearby.  Like always, posing for a portrait requires a bit of warm-up exercise. It is like dancing, where the photographer and the model are the dancers who need to get used to each other ways of being and moving before a flowing rhythm is finally established. It is then, that the magic starts happening. I was shooting for about one hour, but it was only when I took the last picture that I knew that it was going to be the “One” I would have chosen out of all. The last step of our dance turned out to be the most important of all, the one that carried the soul and spirit of the dance!

I was still puzzled though!

How is it possible for a person with with such a fine sense of humour not to have a happier face!? 


My mind pictured him to be in a certain way and created some realistic expectations of how he would look. I already had his character printed inside my story. 

Was his wee cottage the way I imagined it? No! 

So incredible to think how words trigger our imagination in such strange ways, that create visual and sensory experiences of something we are not really living ourselves, and that is different from reader to reader. 

Each mind, with its collection of life memories stored in an invisible computer, makes up its own stories about what we see, hear and feel daily and throughout life.

I imagine this invisible computer connected by invisible cables to our bodies sending signals back and forward. All these signals containing the information we have gathered. 

Are we feeding our own mind or are we feeding something much bigger and separate from us? 

Is it really separate? 

Are we just small individual computers collecting information through our own experiences that are stored in a gigantic/infinite motherboard (computer) somewhere else in the Universe?!?!

Is it why we created computers and Artificial Intelligence? To duplicate exactly what we are??!! 

Is this the thought that inspired men to build such machines?!

Wow….where did I go with my free-flowing writing this morning?

I never planned to get to this place! 

I had no idea that writing about Laurence would have brought me to this kind of thinking. 

Oh well….thoughts run off in so many directions and yet they are linked together still.

Here is my favourite portrait I took that day! 

This is how I see Laurence Demarco ….. a dreamer, a philosopher, a visionary. 

Someone who deeply inspired me!

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