I just returned from a trip to photograph the centuries-old Palio di Siena horse race and festival, which is held every summer in Siena, Italy. While tourists tend to show up just for the final race, that’s only the conclusion of days of test races, processions, feasts, blessings in churches, and other colorful pageantry and ritual that have always been part of Il Palio. We arrived earlier in the week so that we could take it all in, and this was definitely the right way to do it because we could see how the traditions that make up the Palio come together to form a dramatic final event.
In the final race of Il Palio (The Prize), there is no money to win, only first place counts, and there are no stopwatches. If you win, you take the trophy banner that represents Il Palio for that race, and more importantly, you bring your contrada (neighborhood) extreme prestige and serious bragging rights over the other 16 contrade until the next race. In Siena, that’s worth so much that each contrada enshrines every one of its Palio victories for all time.
I wanted to find a photo workshop this year, and when I was invited to photograph the Palio I realized it would be like creating our own workshop. And it kind of turned out that way, with such a rich cultural background to explore. Here’s a preview sampler of my images from Siena (requires Flash):
Keep in mind that these images are works in progress, so what you see in this slide show may not represent the images in their final form. In fact, just as with each exhibition, I ended up editing each image’s appearance to make them all appear consistent with each other, within the format of this small slide show. For example, many are cropped much more tightly than they would be on a large wall print.
I’ll soon be telling stories with the images through photo essays, prints, blog posts, and other content. While I’m working on all that, I’ll continue to roll out more digital media/Mac tips over the coming weeks.
Many thanks to my friend Céline for inviting me to the Palio, an event she has photographed for several years; and for providing all kinds of valuable assistance, advice, and background information about Il Palio.