Every year, since 1995 for Christmas I created a card to send my best wishes to friends and clients.
I always went in to the effort with the idea to create a real Christmas card and not a commercial work and I think I succeeded most of the time.
Here my cards from 1995 to 2016 with the explanation of what I did, how and why.
Obviously my wishes for this year are at the bottom of the post… so if you want a nice year… read it all!!! 😉
This was my first year as professional. I opened my studio in July 1994 and I started to really work and promote myself in 1995.
I always had a passion for reconstructing ambiences and mood so also for Christmas I went in that direction and realized a model of a mountain lodge.
It was all made in 4″x5″ film with a Cambo Master Plus. I printed the picture to attach to the card in 4″x5″ and you can see here under the black shade the original image and, clear, the crop I used. The reason to realize a larger image and then crop was to have more depth of field and to save money, it was cheaper for my lab to print a larger image and for me to cut it at the right size… I still do not understand why but probably enlarging was a more standard process than a contact print.
The background out of the window is an Ansel Adams picture, it was my way to give homage to an absolute master.
One of my preferred artists has always been M.C. Escher and I was fascinated by the optical illusions and the impossible 3D structures, it was a good challenge to create a picture with one in it.
The image is a double exposure on a 4″x5″ film, one exposure for the main image, impossible structure included and one for the bubbles for the fishes.
To realize the impossible structure was not so difficult, just a work of precision to position the camera and to smooth with a file one of the wood beam to fake the perspective. Who guess where the structure is in reality open wins! (Just the glory, don’t ask for money!! 😉 )
The bubbles were the complex part. I had to draw on the focusing screen the exact spots of the fishes mouths, then in a tank I piped hypodermic needles to a can of compress air. The light on the bubbles had to be very large and bright so I had to mask everything but the bubbles with a cut cardboard in front of the lens.
When I made the pictures I realized that a problem was the film moving a little in the film holder. I knew Sinar had very beautiful and expensive film holders that kept the film precise in position, but there was no time to order them, so luckily I saved some money simply inserting some small pieces of rubber from an old bicycle wheel pipe in my film holders. I had no more problems of moving films since then.
That year I decided to expand the list of recipients and send the card also to some potential clients, an Italian photographers association promised me the list addresses but, with the usual efficiency of Italians, the list arrived after the 6th of January, well after Christmas.
I decided to send the card anyway, with an explanation of the delay and an image with the status of the picture a month later.
1997 was the year when the first NASA rover landed on Mars. I though it was fun to let the Mars Pathfinder find a Christmas tree!
The image of the planet with the tree was a model, the sky and the Earth a double exposure on the 4″x5″ film and the Mars Pathfinder was added digitally. Remember this was well before digital so the film needed to be scanned and after inserting the Pathfinder the file was printed on a negative used to make the final prints. It was a mess, the lab was not really ready but at the end we succeeded!
Escher is back. A simple exercise of style, probably the Christmas card I’m less happy with, but was a good exercise to realize the image that made me win the first prize $7,000 at the Schneider Optics photo contest that year. The room and the concept remained the same but the elements changed.
The image is a single exposure on 4″x5″ film with my usual Cambo Master Plus and obviously Schneider lenses, I suppose the 75mm in this case but I really don’t remember after all this years.
While the world was paranoid about the Millennium Bug I was sure my studio was Y2K compliant, my systems were all running on Linux!
I decided to dedicate the Christmas card to the Millennium Bug. The image is a single exposure on a 4″x5″ film and the image on the focusing screen of the Linhof Master Technika (I was using the Cambo for the picture so as subject I decided to use the Linhof, less precise in studio but I loved it for field work) is a positive film attached behind the screen a illuminated with a small flash inside the Linhof.
The Millennium started for me in a good way: a new 4000 sqf studio.
I used the Christmas card to communicate the change of address and brag about the new studio. Nothing better than Santa Claus using his truck to let me find the new studio under the tree.
The picture is a single exposure on a 4″x5″ film, the most difficult part was to realize the truck lights since I had to attach fiber optics that arrived from below the set and came out in the right places in the truck. To have the right color I filtered the fiber optics on the source, it was easy to work under the table than over it in a small size model truck with the snow moving around…
Escher is back again, this time with spherical reflections.
In 2001 I made the card with an advertising agency I was working with and the studio in all its size become the subject. Many days of realization of all the details reflected in the Christmas ornament and a single exposure on my usual 4″x5″ Fuji Provia (I loved that film!).
Something to note is another ornament suspended over the main one and creating an infinite reflection with Merry Christmas wrote in runes… yes I read all the Tolkien books before they were trendy thanks to the movies!
The logo of my company had a redesign in 2002 so it became the subject at the center of the Christmas picture.
Again the image was on a Fuji Provia 4″x5″ with a single exposure and the black and white logo image is on a 4″x5″ Polaroid 55. The Polaroid 55 was an instant black and white film with negative, it was great and I used it many times not only as a test film.
The postcards in the pictures are from my grandfather Luigi Barbano to his fiance`, later wife, and were sent from the front in World World One where he was in the Bersaglieri special forces.
Who does not love lighthouses?
I had the need of a point of reference in my life and profession, some new goal to reach and the lighthouse was a pretty good symbol.
The image is a double exposure, one for the main light with flash and the second for the snow in the glass sphere with continuous light while my assistant under the set was blowing air with an inverted vacuum cleaner to make the snow fly around. I think she still hates me for that today 🙂
As usual Fuji Provia 4″x5″ film and Cambo Master Plus with Schneider lens, and I suppose the fantastic 300mm apochromatic.
Reflections again, this time with a digital camera, a Pentax 1*stD or what was that absurd name…
I just liked Edi, my Archimede’s assistant lamp, so I went with Christmas with it. In the reflection you can see me dress as Santa jumping, a board with all the pictures made for the clients that year and other messychristmassy things.
Single exposure and I suppose elaborated in ACR and Photoshop.
2005 was a great year, I wen out of a nightmare relationship that lasted few years and started to be a free happy man and to travel to the USA. I was always looking for people to travel with me but I discovered that traveling alone is one of the greatest experiences.
For Christmas I figured out that the travel could had been a very good subject so I imagined Santa getting ready for the December 26th.
Note the panorama out of the window? Same as 1995, I liked for the ten years to put a reference. This time was not a poster out of the window but digitally inserted.
Digital image, I do not remember if with the Pentax or my first Canon 5D.
This is a little bit far from my usual subjects. I’m not a particularly religious person but in 2006 Italy went crazy with the “respect” for other religions and the word “Christmas” was banned by every company.
I had already realized another picture for Christmas, but after some people started to be an absolute pain in the neck with all the politically correct anti Christmas speeches, and after some of our politicians went on and on with it, I decided I had enough and I went with an absolute Christian nativity scene!
Yes, I’m a kind of a rebel when I see too much stupidity around me, and this was the case.
A lot of other people and companies had my same reaction and so the next year all came back to normal and groups boycotting Christmas disappeared. I was proud of my little revolutionary Christmas card 😉
Digital image, single picture of a print with the statues in front.
2007… the mood in Italy started to go south, the post European crisis arrived at its peak, we had again Romano Prodi as prime minister, the same guy that screwed us with the entrance in the EU. People really felt the crisis, a lot of companies started to close and move out.
Christmas was not a very happy one so I went with it.
Santa Claus having to hitchhike because he gave the reindeer and the sleight to a pawn shop. With the card I also sent the receipt of the pawn shop signed R. Prodowsky.
It was fun. All in digital, the Santa was in studio and inserted on the road image.
2008 was the year of the banks… they really screwed up with the subprime. So why not to bring them coal since they had been really naughty?
The image is in digital, the banks are real cut on cardboard and with Photoshop I only inserted the coal, Santa and illuminated the windows.
I have to say it was probably the most appreciated Christmas picture I ever did, probably everybody had my same feelings that year.
I expanded my horizons in 2009 and opened a base in the USA. Why Clearwater? Simple, I was looking for a studio for sale in Brandon, a city inland and I had imagined to spend there 6 days to evaluate. When I realized that was not what I was looking for I just went west for the sea… after few hours in Clearwater Beach, looking the sunset from Pier 60 I decided I wanted to move there. I’m still working on it but in 2009 all started.
I used the Christmas card to communicate my new base and I liked the contrast of weather!
All digital images I suppose with Canon 5D or Eos 1Ds mkIII
Photography is my passion and became my job, but I really love to fly… so I figured out that Santa Claus needed a flight plan for his big night.
The image is not digitally composed but I built a model of the runway and all the background in studio. I know sometime I think I’m crazy too, but I prefer to build things than to spend hours in post production.
I did not created a Christmas card that year, I was in Ocala, Florida to evaluate a job opportunity. In the meantime I started to take lessons for my private pilot license.
The job option was not what I expected at all (there are some crazy women in the world with a lot of wrong expectations!) but at least I managed to make my first solo before Christmas, and the 25th morning I dressed my Santa hat and went to bring chocolate to the OCF tower.
I have to say it was a great day and I met some great people, and I also lost my fear for the radio 🙂
Ops… no card. I had to come back to Italy from my Florida dream for personal reasons and I was just not in the mood… sometime happens!
I was stuck in Italy and I started to work for a company that imports BreathingColor papers and canvas as a consultant and COO.
So Christmas concentrated on paper and went to video.
Some thousand of shots and a lot of work to mount the video, but was a lot of fun…
Another video always connected with BreathingColor.
Other thousands of pictures and some fun…
In January of 2015 I lost my mother, just after the new year day. I’m realizing now that I was probably still not ready to put myself in a positive Christmas mood. It was in some way a sad Christmas so I decided to not share my sadness with the world
Finally we are at this year Christmas. The Christmas spirit is back and I’m optimist more than ever about the future.
The world gave finally a lot of sign of a positive change and new freedom seems to be possible. I decided to celebrate the Christmas with the symbols of what I think is the real meaning of Christmas.
The main message I see from the Christian culture is the revolutionary idea (for that times) that everyone is a son of God and not just few elected people usually in the form of kings and emperors. The christian idea was the base for all the western world idea of freedom, equality and basic rights for all the human kind. I know, not always this idea was interpreted well by a lot of churches, but still was a powerful revolutionary idea.
Freedom for me is a free society with free market and the understanding of the miracle of the capitalist free exchange.
I felt Christmas more in the 30 Celsius Florida weather than in the snowy Italian village on the Alps. To be able to express Christmas and all the good sentiments, we need to be free to have to be free to give and only a free capitalistic society let you be free to have something to give.
The pencil is the symbol for this and if you never read “I, Pencil” by Leonard Read, go to read it and you will understand why I consider it a perfect symbol.
The dollars are the symbol of the realization of the dream of equality and freedom, the symbol of the country of the free.
My letter to Santa is my wish to go back home.
The airplane is part of where I feel home and the joy to be able to pursuit my happiness.
Freedom for a photographer cannot exist without a camera.
The old toy is a toy from my father, probably form the 1930s, and is a symbol of my family and my actual life, giving back to him what he gave me when I grew up.
Technically the picture is one exposure with painted light, Fuji XPro1 with the 55-200 (impressive the sharpness!)
I know that Christmas is different for each one of us and my view of it and the symbols are personal but I think is more important than ever to express ourselves with our art now that there are too many people expressing themselves with trucks on innocent people in Christmas markets.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a fantastic new year full of satisfactions.