A swan appeared just as I was taking the last shots for this gallery. It glided silently and serenely in the newly transparent waters of the “naviglio”, the canals of Milan.
I first visited Milan at the end of the 1980s, and since then I have been spiritually tied to it, visiting it, and observing its changes and its evolution driven by the ever-admirable initiative of its denizens.
Over 15 years ago, compelled to leave my home country of Argentina by an unprecedented economic crisis, I settled in Milan. It was a place I considered a city of “passage” for me, because over the years I’ve always had the obligation but also the fortune to be constantly “on the road” traveling for work and pleasure. Because of this, I have been able to photograph many places in the world, but have captured curiously very little of Milan. When I am away in another country I always think: “Well, I better take a lot of photos now, because maybe I will never come back here.” But in Milan I always had the opposite thought: ”Here I am, here I will always come back, I can take photos later.”
In recent years I have always gone out to photograph the Lombard city at what I found to be its most beautiful and symbolic moment of the year, Christmastime. I liked to do this at night, in the lonely hours of the night, when its streets were empty, quiet, and illuminated for the season. These photography sessions always transported me to a deep state of happiness, where I felt artistically fulfilled. I kept my memories of those times with me all year, and the silence and lights of those nights and streets always represented peace and harmony to me.Coronavirus pandemia Milan photography
Until these terrible days, so strange and unimaginable, I had always felt like a foreigner who observed Milan as he observed the rest of the world. But overnight everything changed, and so instinctively I decided to go out one afternoon with my camera. When I got to Via Montenapoleone, the clock showed 4:45 pm, but the luxury boutiques had all lowered their metal doors and the street was deserted.
My mind went back to nights during Fashion Week, when “Montenapo” would be full of elegant young women, and to the Saturday afternoons when I would sometimes see Giorgio Armani strolling around like any other person in the city. Unable to believe what I was seeing now, I headed towards the heart of the city, to the Piazza del Duomo, where I passed only two “ghisa” (city guards) and a few passers-by. The marble slabs on the floor of the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery shone in all their splendor, but no one was there to appreciate them.
The feelings of sadness and loneliness that filled my heart at that moment made me realize one thing: we belong to those places where our hearts are touched by pain or happiness.
That place right now is our whole world. Milan has been silenced, as the world has been silenced, by an invisible enemy. And we are not strangers. We are all humans together, all of equal value in our own different ways.
I captured these images thinking the same way I do when I am in other countries, but with even greater certainty: I will never return to this place exactly as it was, we will never return to the same world. But to Milan, I will always return.
Pablo Munini © Milan, March 2020
Coronavirus pandemia Milan photography