After my first year in Paris, despite strict adherence to Mahatma Gandhi lifestyle, I ran out of money. I had no choice but to return to the States, first in New York (New York is not a good place to go back to when one runs out of money), then to Philadelphia where Don, a photographer friend, recently divorced, generously offered me free room and board in his house. There, I spent a lot of time sleeping and thinking about why I hadn’t succeeded in figuring out a way to make it work in Paris.
After a few months, I went back to New York and borrowed some money from my former boss. And sold one other thing left in my possession of monetary value (other than my Leicas and my pictures) – a fairly decent tube amp hi-fi system with custom-made speakers, for a paltry sum. We all look for money wherever we can find some so we can get from point A to point B, don’t we?
Anna Bruna, the first friend I had made in Paris, arranged for me to spend the month of August with her mother, Munda, in Rome. I had never been to Rome.
So for one month, I roamed Rome from morning to night, from one end to the other, soaking in the intense and unrelenting sunlight and pushing out plentiful sweat. I had no place to go back to in Paris, and no place anymore in New York. But I tried not to think about that and reminded myself that I had a month to explore this extraordinary place and people and colors and flavors and sounds.
Anna Bruna got her friend Ernesto to introduce me to the director of Cinecitta, who gave me access to go where I wanted within the compounds of the mythic studio. The most exciting moment was sitting alone in Federico Fellini’s office, which was meticulously kept exactly as it was when he had died in 1993. Sitting at his desk, I couldn’t help but to ask the maestro, “Signore, what does it take to be a good artist? How does one cope with so many failures and doubts? And wherever you are, could you bless me with some of your magic, per favore…because when I get back to Paris, I’m going to need some.”