When you travel as much as I do, a familiar face is always a welcome sight. Even if the face belongs to someone you don’t even know.

Almost two years ago I went to the big food market in San Remo, Italy -just over the border from Southern France. I took a photo of a woman selling produce in the farmers’ section of the market, where small farmers –mostly old ladies- sell produce they’ve grown themselves. She had a small, unexceptional stall selling a mound of potatoes and a few heads of curly Savoy cabbage: it was November and the pickings were slim. I took a shot –she looked away, playing coy for the camera, smiling only after the camera dropped back around my neck. It was one unremarkable shot amongst the hundreds I took that day.

I saw her again when I was back in San Remo just a few weeks ago. I
recognized her immediately. She had the same enigmatic –at once
friendly and severe- look on her face. Her arms still crossed, she was
still playing coy for the camera. Her stall was livelier this time
around: a big pile of fragrant lemons, young fava beans still in their
pods, tiny, tasty épine artichokes with those intimidating thorns. The
season was Spring, and she looked like she had just a bit more
spring in her steps, with a little make-up on this time, and might have
even lost some weight and gained a few more gray streaks in her hair.

I smiled and gestured toward my camera, tacitly asking permission
like I always do. She grinned back, if only for a moment, a sparkle of
recognition flashed across her face. It was fleeting but I could swear
it was really there.

I took my shot, mumbled a quiet grazie, and walked away. Perhaps I’ll see her again some day.

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6 Responses to “recognition

  • Karin Campbell said:
    May 1st, 2007 at 9:52am

    I love this post! I am completely smiling. You must be an artist for sure. Thank-you!

  • Harold said:
    May 1st, 2007 at 1:42pm

    This reminds me of a photo I took last summer during a trip to Spain. We were in the market in Barcelona, actually outside the market and were oogling (that’s the only word that fits) the fresh fruit, finally buying some fabulous raspberries and a few other items. My Spanish is virtually nonexistent, but I indicated that I wanted take her photo, which she acknowledged, like your subject, with a nod. But she had to explain to us that she had been selling fruit at that spot for over 50 years. We finally overcame our American density and grasped her message.
    This was a wonderful moment that could only have happened with that request for a photo. And now that photo has special significance and was a highlight of that visit. I hope to go back and find her still selling that wonderful produce.
    Thanks for the reminder,

  • Chroniques du Plaisir said:
    May 2nd, 2007 at 2:46am

    And she’s still wearing the same clothes… 😉

  • Paul said:
    May 3rd, 2007 at 3:41am

    did you buy any of her produce?

  • Ales said:
    May 5th, 2007 at 12:29pm

    Hi Pim,
    glad you like Riviera di Ponente, but next time you find yourself in Liguria, drop me a line and I’ll show you around in Riviera di Levante (Chiavari, Sestri Levante, Cinque Terre). Our coast is so much prettier ; )

  • Lannae said:
    May 5th, 2007 at 3:26pm

    What a great blog entry, and I love both photos. I cannot believe that you remembered, and was able to find the old photo.

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