My life is a series of craziest coincidences, which seem weird when seen separately, but then fall together like a perfect puzzle I could have never imagined with a conscious effort.

Eleven years ago, when I first had the idea of learning Italian, it seemed particularly pointless: I didn’t have any connection to that country or any Italian friends, and the similar Spanish language was much more widespread and useful to know. Still, out of all world languages, I remained stuck on Italian, but only three years ago I took intensive individual classes with a really good tutor (for two months) and maintained my basic Italian alive with another professor for about a year more. Back then I was planning to move to London or New York, but had not a tiniest clue that in a few years I would end up nowhere else but Florence, getting my Photography MFA!

As a part of MFA program we are taking individual classes with a professor of a chosen specialization. Since I wanted to learn studio lighting, I started a course with Massimo, a great engineer and teacher, who did not (and still does not) speak any English. In that case usually we are provided with someone to translate, yet I was told: “You speak Italian, you’ll survive” and left alone. Quite incredibly, my barely existent Italian grew to be quite decent over few months, and Massimo and I, instead of just doing the course, ended up talking for hours and hours. We quickly found a common interest in large format photography and darkroom printing. By that time, for a couple of months already, I was printing at school thinking how great it would be to have my own darkroom, yet I had absolutely no equipment and was a student in a city where I knew no one.

Coincidentally, Massimo, for years until that point, was buying all sorts of darkroom equipment and storing it in his garage with a dream of opening his own analog photo school one day. His latest acquisition happened to be an entire darkroom: enlarger, trays and a huge sink, which he had to cut in two to get out of the room! All that he bought for so little money you’d laugh, since the owner died a few years ago, and his widow had no clue about the value of her husband’s possessions.

When we realized we both have the exactly same idea and vision about a darkroom and photo school, it became obvious we HAVE to make it happen! And the best spot to start it appeared to be… the place of the darkroom Massimo entirely bought few weeks before! We rented it super cheap (well guess what, we were the only ones willing to pay anything for a bathroom-looking space with no windows in an office building, so the landlady was happy to take whatever we offered, and also oh my was she delighted her late husband’s work would be continued!)

We kept that whole project a secret until my end-of-year review, where I finally revealed what we’ve been working on… all that apart from printing for other classes and preparing an exhibition! That’s been a crazy journey and it’s not the end. Now we have rented another room next to the small one, and there… well, about that a bit later, once it’s done!

What can I say, following your irrational inner voice and passion brings you to the most unexpected places, and I can’t wait to see where it leads me next…