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Capturing Thoughts: A Serendipitous Encounter, Gabriel

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

"Nothing is a coincidence.

Everything you are experiencing is meant to happen exactly how it's happening. Embrace the lesson and be grateful."

Coincidence can create wonderful stories or terrible confusion, but every image contains a unique story that will remain forever.

I met Gabriel, an artist suffering from mental illness, with a profound and challenging life story, through my Israeli friend Assaf.

Assaf was working as a volunteer at Bethlem Hospital, one of London's oldest hospitals specialising in Art Therapy for mental illnesses.

Bethlem Royal Hospital, also known as St. Mary Bethlehem, Bethlehem Hospital, and Bedlam, is a psychiatric hospital with a rich history that has inspired several horror books, films, and TV series, most notably "Bedlam."

I arranged to visit Gabriel one Wednesday afternoon, during a dull and rainy day in London. I was in a rush, as usual, not wanting to be late.

My mind wandered, thinking about the available natural light in his flat, as I preferred using it for my portraits.

Double Exposure of Gabriel's portrait
Double Exposure of Gabriel's portrait

Upon entering his flat, I realised that there wasn't enough light, except for a single window.

The place was dark, gloomy, messy, and filled with dusty second-hand books and cameras on shelves covering the walls. However, I remained undaunted, believing there were always solutions to be found.

At that time, I was just starting my journey as a photographer, and I had only one film with me - a Ilford ISO 100 black and white.

My initial intention was to take some test shots during the visit, and I was feeling nervous.

To my surprise, I discovered that Gabriel had a collection of cameras on display in his living room.

We engaged in a heartfelt conversation about his past and his dreams, which was deeply touching.

I explained my photography plans to Gabriel and asked if he was still into photography and had a film to sell. He offered me his last film - a Ilford ISO 400 with 36 exposures - for £3. Little did I know then that I could push a film's limits.

I also asked Gabriel how he wanted to be portrayed in the pictures, and he described himself as a deep thinker. I took several portraits of him, and he even cooked a simple dinner for me consisting of eggs and vegetables, served in a rather dirty dish. Not wanting to offend him, I ate it without comment and left after a couple of beers.

Double Exposure of Gabriel's portrait
Double Exposure of Gabriel's portrait

When I developed the film, I encountered something truly magical.

At first, it was unclear, chaotic even- I couldn't see my portraits. Instead, there was confusion, overlapping images.

I thought it was chaos.

However, I soon understood what had happened - Gabriel had unknowingly taken pictures in London using the same film, primarily of pubs and architecture.

I've always believed in magic. The magic here was that Gabriel's thoughts had imprinted themselves on the same film - a double exposure.

I had gone to his place to capture some portraits and ended up with his thoughts etched onto the film. It was an incredible experimental experience. Unfortunately, our relationship ended a week later when he wanted the film back with his pictures.

His images had transformed into something different and more precious, but he was angry and bitter.

Sometimes we meet to create something unique for a specific reason, without any expectation of continuation. I presented his pictures at an exhibition in Rome called "Desidero Ergo Sum - Arte, Corpo e Pensiero."

"What is beauty? "

I have my definition, and you have yours.

Everyone has their own opinion about what beauty is.

For me, beauty is the sun shining from inside, that golden, sparkly twinkle in the eyes, a black and white picture in a forest with some writing, a stroll, and then silence, a certain attitude that makes us always believe something beautiful is about to happen. You are truly beautiful."

Text & pictures by Loredana Denicola

Have you ever had a similar experience?

1 Comment

Jul 31, 2022

Very thoughtful blog

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