STORY AND PHOTOS BY VIVIAN MORROW
Time is so powerful, especially in Italy.
Here I was, on a street corner in Milan, in 2022. I was surrounded by buildings that predated me, a culture that predated them, and above me, a piece of sky that predated us all.
The same piece of sky over the Hunnish invasion, the coronation of Napoleon as Emperor of France, and the Plague. The same blue over my cappuccino, my friends’ sunburns, and our pizza to-go boxes.
I had to capture the aerial view that welcomed me to a timeline more detailed and enduring than I even knew. I aimed my lens upward.
As we visited famous galleries of art, I often found the museum itself more beautiful than its displays.
The woodwork, the windows, and the light that poured in, combined with people, created a different type of artwork—a type of art that cannot be so easily captured in stone, like the ancient statues, or in watercolors, like so many ageless paintings.
It must simply be experienced in person.
Photographing Pisa felt like an extreme sport. It is a game of angles, and I am not just talking about the classic “holding up the leaning tower” picture.
In front of me was an enormous group of tourists all holding the exact same pose at the exact same time. Then, in the middle, was the greenest lawn I have ever laid eyes on, in front of this magnificent historical building with a slight case of scoliosis.
This photograph represents the pure chaos that engulfs this small Italian town. Bella divides the two angles of Pisa. On her left is the tower with its perfect lawn and perfect columns. On her right are its sweaty loyal subjects that all smile with their cameras, reach their hands out for a picture, and stop at the McDonalds 20 yards away when they are done.
These two parts of Pisa stand in stark contrast, but one does not exist without the other, and without both of them, we would not have been standing in the middle of it all.
Six hours after our plane’s wheels touched down in Rome, we watched a marriage proposal and heard an excited and tearful “yes” in front of the Trevi Fountain, an intimate moment shared with a crowd of strangers who celebrated the expression of love as though these were old friends newly engaged.
As we were somewhat aimlessly walking through the hilly streets of Assisi, on the way to the church pictured here, I recognized a type of pottery that I had seen in the States. A small shop, seemingly carved into the mountain, was decorated from floor to roof with cups, bowls, vases, and ornaments that make their way to Nashville display shelves. An older man inside was painting his pottery from scratch.
When I informed him of my home in Tennessee, he lit up and complimented us on our whiskey. Telling me to give his regards to Jack Daniel, he continued to paint, picking out the colors for the new piece. He told me about his life there in his shop by the church, saying that if I ever grow tired of Tennessee whiskey, I can always become an artist in Assisi.
Here we have a rare, unheard-of image: Vivian photographed on her own camera.
I do not have enough hands to count the number of times my parents have asked why I have zero pictures of myself. My response dances along the idea that, obviously, since I am taking the photos, I am simply behind the lens.
Friends are the best part about traveling with a camera. Most of my shots are of them. I capture their excitement, their adventure, their elegance, and their wonder at the unfamiliar world around them.
However, after three texts from my mother requesting pictures of me, I came up with a plan. I set up the way I wanted my shot to look, turned my camera to an automatic setting, and told my friends to hold the camera as it recorded me for five seconds. From there, all I needed to do was edit photos out of that five-second burst. Then, ta-da!
You are welcome, Mom.