Lee Smith: Boys at Play

I took the photograph of “Boys at Play” in October, 2019 outside Mastrosasso Torricella an unpretentious, small, family run, farm house-like restaurant tucked in the hills near Valsamoggia, Italy, which is about an hour and a half from Bologna.

We were traveling with a small group and because we arrived very late, we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. After an incredible lunch of house cured antipasti, made from scratch pastas, grilled hand cut meats and, of course, house vinted wines, I wondered through the empty restaurant.

Using the light of soft afternoon sun that streamed through the open windows, I began taking a series of still-life shots – a small Italian glass lampshade, a stack of brightly colored folding chairs, an ocher textured vaulted ceiling, a chipped porcelain vase stuffed with wild flowers, a half open sagging door that framed the hillside vineyard – for a photographer, it was paradise.

Outside, the now hazy sun paled the distant mountains, but left the vineyards awash in a golden soft light. It was a stunning painting-like scene. I took a few shots and was about to leave when I spotted the two young boys, grandsons of the owners, who, with the energy of some imaginary game, struggled to un-loop an all-important rope that was stuck on top of a pole.

They needed this rope for whatever adventure that they were ready to embark on.

As one of the boys teetered on an adjacent pipe and the other shouted commanding instructions, I clicked the shutter. In the second that followed the rope came loose, and the boys, with prize in hand, ran off. I smiled and totally forgot about the picture that I had just taken.

Months later I was editing “Paled Memories” a collection of soft tinted photographs that recall forgotten moments of innocence when we were all kids, and it was here that I remembered the photograph of the two boys at play in Italy.

The energy of the boys struggling to get the rope loose, against the hazy mountains and warmly highlighted vineyards blended beautifully with the new series I was curating.

To some “Boys At Play” will be nothing more than a Tuscan landscape, to others it will remind them of the faded print that hangs on grandma’s wall – to me, it’s a reminder of the faded days and good times of when I was a boy lost in the high stakes moment of an imaginary adventure…

Whatever memories, thoughts or reactions “Boys at Play” might stir, I only hope that, in some small way, this image will somehow, someway, touch you.




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