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I met Gabriel

Updated: Dec 12, 2021

"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, at the very end every image contains a unique story, that will remains forever.

I met Gabriel. He is an artist, suffering of mental illness, with a very harsh story behind. I was introduced to him by my Israeli friend Assaf, who was working as a volunteer at Bethlem Hospital, one of the oldest hospital in London specialised in Art Therapy as cure for mental illnesses.

Bethlem Royal Hospital, also known as St Mary Bethlehem, Bethlehem Hospital and Bedlam, is a psychiatric hospital.

It is famous in history and has inspired several horror books, films and TV series, most notably Bedlam. I arranged one day and I  went to take some portraits of him.

It  was Wednesday, it was a dull day, in London.

It was raining.

It was afternoon, 2 : 30 pm and as usual,  I was rushing, because i didn't want to be late.

My mind was wondering if there were any windows in his flat, because I wanted to use natural light for my pictures.

Once got in in his flat I realised that there was not enough light, but I could use the only window he had.

The place was dark and gloomy, messy, dirty, full of shelves on the wall covered of old second hand dusty books and cameras but there are always solutions, I thought in my mind!

I didn't despair. I was at the beginning of my adventure as photographer and I had with me only one film - Ilford ISO 100 black and white.

My intention was going there, visiting him and make just some test shots.

I felt nervous.

Gabriel was interested in photography as well.

Once  in his flat, I noticed that he had a collection of cameras on few shelves in the living room. We talk for an hour about his past life and his dreams. It was touchy.

I explain him what I wanted  to do, and  I asked him, if he still was photographing and if he had a film to sell to me.

He said that he had only one film, ISO Ilford 400/36 pictures in his fridge and for me that was the perfect solution.

I bought it for £3. I didn't know at that time that I could push a film.

Then, I asked how he wanted me to represent him in the picture.

He said that he was a deep thinker.

I took few portraits of him, we had a little dinner, he cooked something for me, some eggs and vegetables.

The dish was very dirty, I didn't want to offend him so I ate it without saying nothing and then I left after a couple of beers.

When I processed the film I discovered that something magic was in there.

At the beginning it wasn’t clear, I couldn’t understand, I couldn't see my portraits. I saw confusion, images on images, I  thought this is chaos.

Then, I understood what happened. Gabriel himself took few pictures in London using the same film, mostly pubs and architecture.

I always believed in magic.

The Magic was that his thoughts were there on the same film.

It was a double exposure.

I went to his place to shoot some portraits and I ended up with his thoughts impressed on the film.

What amazing experimental experience!

Gabriel portrait © Loredana Denicola

Gabriel portrait © Loredana Denicola

Gabriel portrait © Loredana Denicola