It was summer of 1956 when we stayed in Rome for two days before boarding SS Adana and sailing back to Istanbul after our nine month stay in Düsseldorf, Germany. I was only 9 and my brother Cenan was 6 years old. I remember staying in a small hotel with our parents close to a public square which had a big fountain with sculptures in it. It was very hot and humid in Rome and there were watermelon vendors on the streets. I remember eating watermelon sold by the slice with the rinds, after a long and tiring day of sightseeing. I also remember sitting by the fountain and throwing coins into the water. And that's all I remember from our stay in Rome in the summer of 1956.
COLUMBUS, OHIO 2022
I received an envelope today from Cenan in the mail . On the back of the envelope he had written “open carefully, do not cut ”. I think the post office was suspicious and cut a half of an inch long triangle on the bottom of the envelope to check what was inside. I opened the envelope carefully, and took out a slim orange envelope with nine color photo negatives in it. The square shaped negatives were from our stay in Rome in 1956 and some from my parents visit to Paris. Most of the negatives were sightseeing photos without us in it. But there was one with me and Cenan at the Zoo with giraffes and a second one with both of us in front of a fountain with my mother in her red and white striped dress, with her back turned on to the camera, trying to set us up for a good pose. The photo taken by my father from a distance was dark and the faces of us, as well as the sculptures, were not clear.
1956 Negative/ Rome Fountain.Shot by Hamza Ozmeral
1956 Ozmeral Negatives
With a big surprise after 66 years I had found the fountain in my memory of Rome in 1956. I decided to get all nine negatives professionally cleaned, digitized, cropped and some of them printed. I found a local photo company who specialized in revitalizing old family photos. After I made the order, the wait of three weeks was long and the price was a little expensive, but it was all worth it. In the meantime I started researching on the internet among tens of fountains in Rome, where the fountain was and what it was called. This was a long process, among all of the public squares and fountains in Rome I was concentrating on the Fountain of Neptune at Piazza Navona. But although the buildings in the background of the old negative looked very similar, the central sculpture of Neptune in the new photos did not look like anything that I had in my hands. It was then when I got the beautifully digital photos and prints I received from the photo company, when I also found my fountain on the internet.
Digitized cleaned and cropped photo of the fountain
Two brothers and their mother
FONTANA DELLE NAIADI AT THE PIAZZA DELLA REPUBBLICA
From what I found from the information on the internet, the Fountain of the Naiads is located on Viminal Hill, the smallest of Rome’s seven hills. It is on the Republic Square which is also home to the Termini Rail Station and Teatro dell'Opera. No wonder then I remember our hotel being very close to the fountain, because we had come by rail from Germany over the Swiss Alps to Rome in the summer of 1956. Conveniently we must have booked a hotel within walking distance of the Railroad Station.
The Fountain of Naiads was designed by Architect Alessandro Guerrieri and built in 1888. The idea behind the fountain was to display the waters of Rome’s old aqueduct, Acqua Pia Antica Marcia and also to have a monumental display on Via Nazionalle, the road connecting Piazza della Repubblica to Piazza Venezia. Initially the fountain had four plaster lion sculptures in it, but they were replaced by four bronze naiads in 1901 designed by Mario Rutelli. Naiads in Greek Mythology are a type of female spirit, or nymph presiding over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of freshwater. Around the basin are four bronze sculptures of naiads :The Nymph of the Lakes, who is shown together with a swan, the Nymph of the Rivers, who rests on a river monster, Oceania, the Nymph of the Oceans taming a wild horse representing waves, and the Nymph of Groundwater, who reclines on a dragon's back. The central sculpture was also replaced by one of a group sculpture of Mario Rutelli in 1912. This sculpture represents the Sea God Glaucus who symbolizes the domination over natural forces. Glaucus is depicted as a naked and muscular man holding a dolphin from whose mouth the central jet water emerges
Fountain of Naiads 2021
Fountain of Naiads with the boys and mother in 1956
I was surprised and happy to find some old photos from my childhood with my parents and my brother, got them redeveloped and tried to remember where we were in the picture and what we did. I wonder what we talked about when we sat by the Fountain of The Naids, eating watermelon on a hot and humid summer evening. Did my brother and I ask questions about the sculptures of the fountain? And what did they answer? We will never know. Our baby boomer generation was so limited in saving childhood memories. 1956 was still years of black and white photos, with few people owning cameras. I wish today, I can go back to Piazza della Repubblica with my wife and daughters and grandchildren, and not only take their photos by the Fontana della Naid, but also videotape our conversations about the sculptures with my cellphone.
May, 20 2022
MARIO RUTELLI'S SCULPTURES Top Nymph of Lakes and Rivers, bottom Nymph of Oceans and Ground water
Central sculpture of Sea God Glaucus Photo courtesy of Earth Trek
Fountain as it looked with lion sculptures in 1890
I had this photo restored, cleaned and developed in digital form from an old negative. My father had taken the photo in 1956 while they were visiting Paris with my mother. It is a classic photo of the Eiffel tower taken from the bottom of the tower. The mystery man in the picture, probably a bureaucrat with his office bag in hand and a cigarette between his lips. He probably died before the century was over like most people in the photo have done so too. The policeman with the dark uniform and white belt standing on a thin circular platform is supposed to direct traffic, but there are no vehicles to be seen except a bicycler moving into the picture from bottom right of the frame. The vendor stand near one of the legs of the Eiffel tower was probably an ice cream stand, since there are few kids in the area.
Why did my father take this photo and where was my mother then ? In most of the photos my father shot, he used a standard short distance lens for objects which were even far away. Knowing this I started looking for my mother in the picture with a magnifying glass. And easy enough I found her in the middle of the photo, posing on a bench by herself, with her pitch black short hair, her red and white striped dress and her legs crossed.
Sometimes the longing of a long gone loved one makes you look at the greater picture and find peace in little details.