The Pope will come to Genoa Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
Everywhere there are frenzy preparations for such an event.
The Pope will speak in front of the masses in Piazza della Vittoria. For the occasion, the authorities have thought right to cut around twenty trees in the end of the square, because they would have occluded the humongous white (throne) stage. Several crews are installing big screens, audio speaker, seats and embellishing roads and sidewalks surfaces.
As part of my project, PROXIMITY, I took a stroll around the area and started documenting all these activities. Naturally I took many photos of the huge stage, very much in contrast to the humbleness professed by Catholicism. Almost expectedly, a large-bellied man, in suit, with I-am-the-boss-here look came to me asking to which newspaper I belonged. I replied that I was shooting as a personal project. He said I could not take pictures.
“I can, I am in a public place, what I can see I can photograph.” I contested.
“I can say to you that you can’t photograph.”
I insisted that I was not stopping.
“Do you want to go discuss it at the police station?”
“Go ahead, call those policemen over there” and then I walked off.
I felt outrageous for this incident. The man did not even introduce himself and I know I had all the rights to photograph the disruption of my city for the Pope’s visit. I was resolved to further test what they could do to me. I went around unseen and came back from the top of the large park-staircase, on the lower level of which they are building the stage. From the higher viewpoint I could frame the stage in perspective with the whole square, giving its right proportions: it’s big!
Getting closer I noticed foreign workers climbing onto the sidewalls to fix the stage roof. I documented the absence of helmets and safety harnesses.
The man in suit noticed me again and pointed me to the nearby policeman. I started walking in the opposite direction and did not stop at his first calls: “Mister, mister, mister…”.
Only when other people joined in the calling, I stopped and turned around. The officer called me to join him, I waited for him to come to me.
He asked for my ID.
“Here you are, no problem”.
“What were you doing?”
“Taking a stroll”
“I repeat my question. What were you doing?”
“I was taking a stroll.”
“Were you taking pictures?”
“Did you photograph the stage?”
“In some pictures the stage was included, why?”
“Are you from a newspaper?”
Then it took him around 20 minutes to check my ID. In the meantime I hid my compact flash in my shoe. I was afraid he would grab my camera and delete the pictures.
When he returned from the car he also asked for my phone number and then said:
“The instructions they gave me say that it is prohibited to take photos of the stage”
“So you don’t know”
He smiled: “These are the rules, you can act accordingly”.
“Here is your ID, you can go.”
“Thank you officer. But if a worker falls from that wall he is going to hurt himself”.
“I know, I know”. He turned around and I strode off.
The next morning I did a quick web-search for the italian legislation about what you can and can’t photograph in public places. These are some of the links I found, I’d love if you would share yours: