I first met Paolo in 1997 at his home in Blackheath, about six months after I fell in love with his youngest daughter, Paola. And, just like her, he was a force of nature who was about to turn my life upside down.
It was rare that you’d arrive to find him doing anything. That is, any one thing. Usually he’d be doing at least three. A sculpture in the garden, something in the shed, cooking - always cooking - reading something from a magazine that had just arrived and doing something he couldn't quite work out on his computer.
“Mike, can you help me with something on my computer” was the first thing he usually said, as we walked through the front door, usually before we’d had a chance to get our coats off or say hello. He was a man with too much to do and not nearly enough time...
Paolo had spent his entire life looking at things. Despite being a displaced person (the full details are in his biography, here), he studied art, trained as an architect and took pictures from a very early age (his elder brother, Edmondo was a photographer in Venice). He worked as a piping engineer in the oil and gas industry, but his passion was always for drawing, printing and photography.
To be completely honest, by the time I met him, his best photography days were behind him. He was in his 70s and a couple of old injuries had come back to haunt him, or at least slow him down a bit. HIs eyes weren’t as sharp as they once were, but he still took (at least) one of his many digital cameras with him everywhere.
Despite all this though, his lust for life was undiminished. He’d sit on his Mac, happily (but haphazardly) filing, editing and printing off images, surrounded by three large printers, a couple of scanners, piles of CD-Rs, a heap of cables and drawers full of his photos, paper and spare ink.
After he died, it took Paola and her sister weeks to sort out that small room. It turned out that while no one was looking he had also decided he wanted to print off the internet. All of it that interested him anyway, which was mainly the BBC Good Food site.
As I write this, I’m now the custodian of five large plastic crates full of slides, negatives, prints, large spools of 8mm film and reel to reel audio recordings - the best part of a keen photographer’s entire productive lifetime.
It seems to be that my job is to sort out and make some sense of it all, and I could probably spend the rest of my life doing just that. But I’m not sure that’s what Paolo would want. I’ll look through it and scan what I think are the best images. I'll try and get the movies digitised. But I have pictures of my own that I want to shoot and edit and there never seems to be enough time...
Before he died Paolo was befriended by Richard Riddick at the Digital Print Company in Greenwich. Richard worked with him to have some of his best images turned into large canvas prints and small postcards. Thanks to Richard's patience and hard work, those images are now available here. I hope you enjoy them.