I searched and searched for my papa’s beloved. For the beauty before the destruction, the desolation and the pain. After the war, papa’s sweet beloved looked like a barren, gray wasteland. There was no more life, no more love. Papa would always say that my camera could move the focus to improve the fantasy that only existed in the frame. I could control papa’s beloved for the beauty she withheld. I needed to see what papa remembered from memories long ago. I needed to see his beloved survive. The Coliseum was empty, ghostly. I sat on a rock and watched the enormous beauty that was standing before me. Strong, stable, only a bit fractured just like papa’s darling country. We were strong but now we were broken. I remember back to the days when my papa would bring the family to walk inside and give us the history of our ancestors and what was fought for in this arena. The value of life diminished with each animal brought to fight for the entertainment of delusional people, to distract them from what was happening around them. Papa always seemed to stop the stories when it came to the fracturing of his beloved. No children should have to hear the bad of a beloved country they had so much love for. It would only break them, and how broken all the children are now from what happened . . . Footsteps broke my daydreaming, a figure moving slowly, maybe death in search of more of my people. Haven’t you taken enough, I wanted to scream, but I held my tongue. The figure came closer, only to make visible an older gentleman wearing a brown suit, taking a stroll in what some would say was a beautiful day. I would not do papa’s beloved an injustice so I would photograph the image of a man strolling through the outskirts of the Coliseum, appreciating the beauty around him. Not showing enough to prove anything but a lovely day. I knew better, though. I sat and watched the figure disappear into the trees lining the pathway. Just like that I was alone again.
Sunrise after sunrise, the mourning for papa’s beloved became a rebirth. I went to the place where papa first learned of the invasion. In between two white houses was the sea. He watched and wished that he could build a boat out of the tree hindering some of the view to cross the sea to his freedom but he could never leave his beloved. She needed him. She needed him to show her in her rebirth after her destruction. I could hear the sounds of children running around the circle that was enclosed by the white houses. They used to run around and play; one would climb the tree and hide while the other tried to find them. I fell off that tree when I was younger and I rubbed the scar that embedded itself halfway down my leg. My blood intertwined on the white rocks with the fallen that were slain before my time.
A woman lying on the beach with a man in the far corner, the distance between them uncomfortably comfortable, an ocean between but only if they stretched could they reach each other. This was the distance that papa felt in his heart when he thought of his beloved. An ocean could have separated them but it never did. He stayed but it was never the same after the end. His beloved spoke to me every chance she could with frames of a man and woman . . . caressing each other on a poster in the foreground of the trees. Nothing was between them, no thoughts of the end, no past holding them back. That’s how papa felt about his beloved. She was showing me what it looked like, not to be controlled by the stories of the past. The things that held people back. The feelings of loss and shame. The thought that papa could have done more to help his beloved.
I tried to understand, to feel, to hope for a better photograph of papa’s beloved. In the end, I chose to see what his beloved showed me. The beauty of the rocks reaching to touch the bluest sky, while the greenness of the trees danced through each photograph. Becoming the center of attention in most of the frames, showing the growth and rebirth that no one, especially papa, didn’t think was possible. But Beloved proved everyone wrong, she was rebuilding. She was showing whom she was through the brick walls being exposed by the ripped advertisements of the intoxicating women. She was showing her natural state. Each brick placed by hand to build another level that molded into papa’s beloved.
Papa never saw the photographs I took of his beloved. I’ll never know if I proved to frame everything that he loved about her and who she was and what she meant to him. His beloved Italia. His broken fragile Italia. Her rebirth, her growth, she was alive again. But to him, I know she would never be the same beloved.
Sophia Dibartolomeo is a senior in the BFA Photography program at SVA. Her life revolves around photographs: “What I’ve noticed is that photographs aren’t enough anymore—they need something else. Words push the frozen moments to come alive again.”