Intimacies from Around the world
Photos: Sivan Askayo
Jaffa, Tel Aviv
My laundry project began with a random shot I took in Jaffa, one Friday afternoon in April 2010. I love Fridays in Tel Aviv. The city slows down bit by bit, getting ready for the Shabat (Saturday, a day of relaxation). It has a special atmosphere you don’t find anywhere in the world. There is less traffic on the roads, public transportation disappears, people drink their coffees in the neighborhood cafes, gathering the weekend’s newspapers under their arms, getting ready to have a nap after a long week of work.
I was waiting for a friend to join me when I’ve heard a woman’s voice above me. I lifted my head up and saw her hanging her laundry. Then a breeze came and animated the washed clothes. I took the first image. It reveals how the snoopy character of laundry, both intimate and unconfined, makes a seemingly prosaic subject all that more intriguing. Since then, my project has taken me to Madrid, Barcelona, London, Florence, Venice, Buenos Aires and Vietnam to snap the anonymously displayed drying clothing. When I am not traveling on assignment, I often choose my destination from a picture I see. A picture that fuels my curiosity. It happened for Buenos Aires, where I traveled for a picture of a great Street Art mural. It happened for Hoi An, where I traveled for a picture of the Full Moon in Tet Festival. It happened for Naples, where I traveled especially to shoot hanging laundry.
“You have to go to Naples” – this is what everybody who saw or heard about my on-going project kept telling me. So I went to Naples. And it didn’t disappoint. On the contrary. It was a heavenly place for my photos and a tremendous landmark for my project. Walking in the narrow streets under the crumbling balconies of old colorful buildings, keeping my head up and my camera always ‘on’, was an amazing visual experience. I couldn’t take my eyes off, not for a minute, not to miss any shooting opportunity but to keep following the clotheslines as they ran from one balcony to another.
I had booked a private tour guide to make sure I visit the tiniest streets and the more dangerous areas. Marina, who was born and raised in Naples, took me to the Forcella district, where the Camorra (Naples’ Mafia) clans rule. And so, a sense of urgency and danger accompanied my shooting experience. (I loved it!). When we got to the entrance of Via Forcella, Marina stopped and said, “This is where GOD is”. She looked at me to make sure I understood what she meant and continued, “I find GOD in human beings, and this is where we hang our clothes … This is where the hanging clothes and the hanging stories of the Neapolitans exist”. She urged me to be quick with my shoot and I took a deep breath to overcome of my sense of apprehension and got my camera ready.
I am getting used to all the suspicious looks from people, when they see me standing under clotheslines, pointing my camera up or kneeling down to get a better angle. Deep down I keep telling myself that if they had known what I was looking for or what I was working on, they would have understood. But on the other hand, I can’t blame them. A photographer standing under laundry wires waiting for the breeze is not a common view. I was visiting Lisbon for a shoot, and during my free time, I was looking for laundry. It wasn’t hard to find. In the narrow streets and alleys of Alfama and Bairro Alto laundry on wires is everywhere. It really made me smile. And as for the suspicious looks I kept getting from the locals? I guess I just have to smile at them. You can buy framed pictures of my photography online using ArtfullyWalls shop: artfullywalls.com/uk/users/20/sivan-askayo
Sivan Askayo lives in Tel Aviv. She photographs for Condé Nast Traveller, Travel + Leisure, Departures, Elle Decor, Enroute, Geo Saison, Monocle, Wallpaper and others. sivanaskayo.com