Introduction to Napoli 1970
These photos were taken during my 8 month hitchhiking tour of Europe in 1970. I was 24 years old and had just been fired by the University of Toronto for starting the UTHA. In response to losing my job, I took my meager savings and headed off on my first trip abroad.
I embarked upon this journey without guidebooks, travel agents (or the Internet!). I just had to wing it, arriving via Icelandic Airways in Luxembourg – via Icelandic Airways – in March which I thought – foolishly – must already be spring in Europe. After freezing my way through France and over the Swiss Alps, I arrived in Italia, the land of so many Homo dreams, of so many Homo exiles from Northern Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries. I made my way south from Bergamo to Milano, Firenze, Roma. It was finally in Napoli that my photographer’s instincts took hold. Here, then, is that story.
The driver who picked me up outside Roma dropped me near some railroad tracks just outside the old city of Napoli. Immediately, I saw a scruffy shepherd boy with his goat and took a picture. I remember my hand reaching out to ruffle his hair, a behaviour allowed between generations, even in repressive North America. My hand became coated in grime and dirt. This was definitely not what I was expecting or hoping for, but rather a direct initiation into the physical reality of shepherds. You can see the bond between goat and boy is most real, something for which I have great respect, especially as I have learned to trust animals … while becoming increasingly distrustful of my own species.
I long ago concluded that class is a more profound element in our psychological make-up than race, gender, or sexual preference. I identify far more with the working class in each and every culture in which I have immersed myself, while increasingly avoiding the cloak of hypocrisy and deceit embodied within every level of the egotistically structured middle class. This is not to say that the lower social classes are actually more trustworthy, it’s just that they are more elemental, connecting more easily with ‘instinct’. Not to digress further but I found Napoli (and the southern regions) to be dominated by earthy members of the working class … and so it seemed an altogether different country from the north. I made my way into the city and felt true magic in Napoli, something I have experienced only a small handful of times as a resident of planet Earth.
Just looking at these pictures – taken over 40 years ago – evokes nostalgia and a yearning to return, both in time and place. Of course, I have been back a few times over the decades but I never felt that it was the same place I visited in 1970. Perhaps it’s time to go again.