Photographers' Blog

Mastering the violin’s making

By Alessandro Bianchi

Although I have often relished the tender melody of the violin, it wasn’t until I met Mathias Menanteau that I realized the endless passion and mastery necessary for its creation.

French luthier Menanteau was born on July 29, 1977 in Vendée, France. He moved to Newark, England and attended the international Newark Violin Making School to garner the skill of making and restoring musical instruments. After being awarded a certificate, Mathias set out for Berlin, where he began working in the Anton Pilar violin workshop. It was in this musically rich city that Mathias deepened and acquired new knowledge on restoration, serving him well for various apprenticeships in Paris and New York.

He left Germany after five years and moved to the cradle of violin making, a city in Lombardy, Italy called Cremona. Menanteau’s expertise in musical instruments was magnified while working in Eric Blot’s workshop, where Mathias not only began restoring instruments, but also acquired knowledge of the dynasties of great Italian masters of music, such as Amati, Stradivari and Guarneri. In February of 2010, Menanteau finally opened his own violin shop in Monti, a neighborhood in the historic center of Rome.

Here, in addition to restoring instruments, he follows the traditional techniques and methods used by eighteenth-century Italian violin-makers to create his own bow instruments, mostly inspired by those of Cremona and Venice. Unlike the strict rules in the making of musical instruments, the restoration process allows room for leeway. Scientific discoveries including the use of x-rays to detect tunnels dug out by termites, or even dendrochronology, the science of dating events and changes by observing annual growth rings in timber, are new methods that help wood experts as well as restorers.

The making of an instrument always begins with choosing its wood, the cutting of which must be followed to perfection. String instruments are generally comprised of a fingerboard, the part that vibrates the most that is fixed onto a soundboard, allowing the sound to be amplified.

Me and the man with the iPad

By Barry Malone

I never know how to behave when I go to write about hungry people.

I usually bring just a notebook and a pen because it seems somehow more subtle than a recorder. I drain bottled water or hide it before I get out of the car or the plane. In Ethiopia a few years ago I was telling a funny story to some other journalists as our car pulled up near a church where we had been told people were arriving looking for food.

We got out and began walking towards the place, me still telling the tale, shouting my mouth off, struggling to get to the punch line through my laughter and everybody else’s.

Then there was this sound, a low rumbling thing that came to meet us.

I could feel it roll across the ground and up through my boots. I stopped talking, my laughter died, I grabbed the arm of the person beside me: “What is that?” And I realized. It was the sound of children crying. There were enough children crying that — I’ll say it again — I could feel it in my boots. I was shamed by my laughter.

True or false?

If it is written in a newspaper, is it true or false?

One of the most interesting parts of our job as a photo-reporter is one of the basic principles of journalism – that is telling the TRUE and REAL STORY to newspaper readers and online viewers who were not there but want to know the real story behind the headlines.

But journalism is changing. Long gone are the days when people said “It must be true, the newspaper says so.” Especially in Italy, it looks like some reporters do not tell the whole truth. They do not look for the truth nor do they investigate to try to arrive at the truth. They look for little or wrong clues. They use it to prove their story; a biased truth. Do they do this to confuse the readers and to contribute to warped thoughts? Are the journalists simply not capable of good reporting?

I’m irritated when these types of journalists use our pictures to prove their false version of reality.