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Werner Mansholt has been travelling to Palermo repeatedly over a number of years: he captures images of daily life on the street as he wanders through the cultural capital. His series shows the inhabitants and the heterogeneous layers of a city defined by beauty and transience.

LFI: Why Palermo? How did it come about?

Werner Mansholt: When I was in Palermo for the first time in 2015, I visited the Palermo Panorama exhibition by Mauro d’Agati. Afterwards, I wanted to meet the photographer, so I gave him a call. Mauro and I got together, had a lovely conversation, and then he invited me to stay with him next time around. That's how I came to travel to Palermo various times over the following years, and on my daily walks through this fascinating city, I began to take pictures. Palermo has the largest old town district in Europe; it was Italy's cultural capital in 2018...

When it comes to photography, I'm something of a flâneur. I allow myself to be surprised by unexpected incidents and encounters. I tend to seek out less central places; districts with “normal” inhabitants, where everyday life unfolds. I'm interested in the cracks, sharp edges and contradictions, that offer a suggestion of what goes on “behind” all the rest.

What is it about street photography that fascinates you? What did you see in Palermo that you don't find on other streets?

I'm fascinated by people and their living situations. I'm not a documentary or reportage photographer; I'm driven to look for images that not only illustrate, but also say something about myself. Palermo is a rich place for this kind of search; however, long daily walks (with good shoes), patience and perseverance are required. I'm not secretive about taking pictures, I don't hide myself, though I do try to make myself less visible, while being present... I get up close by using a 35 or 28mm lens, and I don't shoot with a zoom lens. The people are very open, friendly, and always ready to have a chat. In this way, I encounter beauty and transience, pride and longing, loneliness and community, in every facet of life.

How did you find working with a Leica?

Most of the pictures were taken with a Leica Q; a few with the M9 and the 35mm f/2 lens. The fast Q, in particular, with its virtually silent shutter, allows you to make a good connection with people.

How important for you is colour in this series?

Colour is life, and I consider it essential. I think, see and feel in colour. It's very important to me that the colours harmonise with each other, or are in contrast but fitting. For the Palermo pictures, the strong radiance of the colours in the contrasts of light and shadow, is equally important as the glow in the pictures taken without direct sunlight. Strictly speaking, this is where you find the pulse of life. (Interview: Katja Hübner)

All images on this page: © Werner Mansholt

Equipment: Leica Q, Summilux 28 f/1.7 Asph.; Leica M9 with Summicron-M 35 f/2 Asph.

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