Desperately searching Sprezzatura

Here’s another nugget from my archives that made me grin the other evening. There is no way in any lifetime that the German police force, much as I respect them, will ever look as dashing and fashionable as the Italians! The carabinieri that I caught on my lens one particular afternoon in Pisa left a lasting impression and became my visual definition of sprezzatura.

Each language has its own nuances that are virtually impossible to translate culturally and linguistically. In German we have gemütlich and gespannt which many mistakenly confine to cosy and eager, but mean so much more than that. In Spanish there is cariño which again has been confined to affection, but carries the weight of family, friendship, caring, and kindness all rolled into one, along with several other dimensions. In Filipino we have mahal, which means both dear and expensive, but is also used to express love and affection. Then there is Italian with so many unique words that are, well, sexy. One of my favourites is sprezzatura, which is not a fizzy drink as you might be inclined to think, but rather the indomitable effortless style and elegance of Italian fashion. Defined in 1528 by Baldassare Castiglione as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”, this statement re-defined the Italian style and continues to be the backbone of modern fashion sense in Italy.

Integrating sprezzatura into my life, whether it be emotional intelligence, writing or photography, nothing about it is effortless. In fact, it takes much more work to pull off the illusion of effortlessness rather than slapping on layers of grunge and drama. My grandmother always said that a woman should never carry her troubles on her sleeve, but wear them with dignity and grace, “na sa nagdadala…” (it depends on who wears / carries them), and my mother imposed the same thing on me.

Kabariwalli ©FrogDiva Photography

In the same manner, I have discovered of the years that making the final product – written or visual – acquire a complexly simple look takes many hours of blood, sweat and tears. but that final layer of nonchalance is the killer, and the most difficult one. Anyone can grab a camera, point, and shoot, but what transforms a sloppy shallow image into a story that draw the viewer in and holds them captive? Ah, therein lies the secret and the task.

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