Vittoriosa - Joe Smith - part 2 of 1 2

Published 01/04/2006


With the play over and the pictures in the bag, I sat down for a beer with the mayor of Birgu. He asked me if everything went OK and I said I was sure I'd got great pictures. It was then that I mentioned the shot I had taken of Inez. The mayor told me that there are more like her in Birgu and that a huge percentage of the population of this town was over the age of 60 and withering away.

The younger generation were getting married and moving out to other parts of the island. I suddenly asked the mayor: "So these people are dying and nothing is being done to conserve their rich past and life stories?"

What can you do?" asked the mayor. That's when I came up with the idea of documenting these people and their stories, with the end result being an exhibition and a book. The mayor was as excited as I, and gladly offered his support. Every week he used to fax me a list of four or five citizens, who were pre-informed of my pending visit. I phoned to make the appointments and, as they say, the rest is history.

The project also had its challenges. On entering their homes (which can be very old in this town) I had a quick look round to pick a spot in which to take the pictures. While I am sure that they would not have minded, I refrained from asking them for a look around their houses - I did not want to feel as if I was intruding on their quiet lives.

Film stock was mainly T-Max 3200 or Fujicolour 800 (later scanned and converted to mono). I wanted to work with available light and these films, together with my Lastolite 100cm reflector stood up to the challenge nicely.

I used to listen to their stories first so that this would inspire me on the way to shoot. The proposed book will be laid out with photographs on one page and the abridged interview on the facing page. It will feature roughly 90 images and probably will be printed in Duotone.

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1st Published 01/04/2006
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