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    Cruise Photo Factory workshop in Genova, Italy… our friends start a company…

    In 2005 we needed a fixer to help us on an assignment in the Alps for National Geographic magazine. Gianluca Colla answered an email query that led to a more than a working partnership. If you spend a couple of months driving windy mountain roads to tiny villages in the Dolomites, taking a train across a snowy pass that is stalled because of an avalanche, and traipse through waist-high snow on a cold, black night getting lost on the way back from an ice igloo–well, you learn a lot about each other in these situations. We found this great guy who loves our music, knows great wine and food and never tired of the hunt for a good photographic situation. More importantly, we found a new friend who has sincere respect for other people and passion for photography. A few assignments, workshops, seminars and corporate jobs pass and then Sophie shows up. A talented beautiful woman inside and out.

    We returned to Italy last year for Gianluca and Sophie’s wedding. A gathering of friends and family. Last month we returned again for the realization of their dream of bringing people together to share ideas and knowledge. The first Photo Cruise Factory Workshop. Gianluca partnered with his friend Matteo Cavalleroni to launch workshops. They both called on the talents and of their friends and organized a week — full of technical support and classroom critiques, discussion and lectures, shooting time punctuated by an evening talk at the fabulous Palazzo Ducale.

    The photo below is from Gianluca and Sophie’s wedding:

    We speak no Italian, yet, language was not a barrier (partly to the skill of some fabulous translators). Photography communicates on such a universal level. Photographers came with varied backgrounds from different countries and worked on stories, each progressing to take their work to a new level. The first day, the group bonded over a joint assignment. But there were challenges. Manuela was 8 1/2 months pregnant. Ismaele is an engineer who photographed nature boldly but had never approached people. One woman was recovering from being in a coma after an accident. Photography was what she wanted to do. For another woman, it was a way to know her father who was a photographer who died when she was young.

    They photographed tango, street dancers, colorful markets and traditional shops. They revealed Genoa’s characters–near-perfect families, a lone fisherman, charismatic business owners, an immigrant worker struggling to make a new life. One touching story deserves a specific mention. A middle-aged woman cared for her 102 year old mother. Both were blind, and the story took place within the confines of a couple of small rooms. The images were so brutally honest and yet made with such gentleness and respect giving the two women dignity. A sweet/sad emotionally moving story. After an elegant dinner in a courtyard in one of the oldest buildings in the city, photographers and their subjects sat in chairs lined up before a screen. Music drew us in to a compelling movie-like show of their photographs. It was captivating.