5 Frames with my Nikomat FTn in Milan

By Luis Arciniega

After watching Luchino Visconti’s acclaimed Rocco e suoi fratelli (1960) some years ago, I craved to visit Milan, particularly the city’s main attraction: the Milan Cathedral. Halfway through Rocco there is an intensely dramatic scene between a 25-year-old Alain Delon and the ever-graceful Annie Girardot on the rooftop of the Duomo, as the cathedral is commonly known, and this one scene ignited my fascination for the place. Filmed in splendid black and white, Rocco was one of the main reasons — the other being the fact that during the winter Milan rarely sees clear and sunny skies — why I decided to shoot my brief stay in Milan with a roll of Kodak Tri-X pushed to ISO 800. There’s little I can say about such an iconic and revered film stock that hasn’t already been said before. I used my trusted Nikomat FTn and a 50 mm lens for most of my stay (and for all the shots featured here).

Whether it’s late at night and lit by the huge flood lights which makes the marble facade shine in all its splendor or at noon when the tenuous winter sun strikes the site, the foremost Milanese attraction is a true sight to behold. Standing at the Piazza del Duomo, you’re bound to bump into many others being taken aback by the sight of the Duomo, tourists and locals alike. Regardless of your relative position to the cathedral — on its roof, under its gothic vaults or sipping a Negroni at a terrace in the adjacent Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II — you can easily understand why Mark Twain wrote on his book The Innocents Abroad that “[the Duomo] is the first thing you look for when you rise in the morning, and the last your lingering gaze rests upon at night. Surely it must be the princeliest creation that ever brain of man conceived”.

A long exposure of the Milan Cathedral at night with a Nikomat FTn and Kodak Tri-X
The Duomo at night
An ornate pinnacle of the Duomo with the Torre Velasca in the background
Torre Velasca as seen from the Duomo
Tourists looking out from the Duomo's rooftop
Tourists looking out from the Duomo’s rooftop
Detail of the Duomo's towers with the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele in the background
Detail of the Duomo with the Galleria in the background
Detail of the door's intricate artwork
Detail of the door’s intricate artwork  

But I would have to concede that, just as I imagined, the rooftop was my favorite place from which to bask at the spires, pinnacles and flying buttresses. The rooftop also allowed for near-peerless views of Milan’s skyline, from which the Torre Velasca stands in stark contrast with its brutalist design. There are endless positions, both on the rooftop and on the way up, from which one can easily take fantastic details of the Duomo. You’d be hard-pressed to find an uninteresting angle. The corridors beneath the flying buttresses allow for great opportunities to shoot the Duomo without the constant stream of tourists. It’s not difficult to grab a few snapshots in which the tourists make for interesting subjects interacting with the architecture.

As a form of concluding my first contribution to this marvelous website, I do strongly encourage you to approach the Duomo throughout different times of the day, take into consideration the light and how that will impact your final image, and take advantage of the many perspectives from which you can document this outstanding work of architecture in one of the most vibrant cities of the global north.

That’s all for now. Thank your making it all the way here and do let me know if you too have had the pleasure of visiting the Duomo. You can follow me on Instagram.

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Comments

Ted Ayre on 5 Frames with my Nikomat FTn in Milan

Comment posted: 14/01/2024

Great photos Luis! The Tri-x pushed looks very 'crunchy' and works well with the beautiful architecture in Milan.
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Gil Aegerter on 5 Frames with my Nikomat FTn in Milan

Comment posted: 02/01/2024

A wonderful post and a rebuttal to anyone who says film is dead. The lowly Nikomat/Nikkormat FTN is a very undervalued gem.
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Paul Quellin on 5 Frames with my Nikomat FTn in Milan

Comment posted: 30/12/2023

Lovely crisp images of a fabulous structure. An enjoyable read.
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Dave Powell on 5 Frames with my Nikomat FTn in Milan

Comment posted: 29/12/2023

Gorgeous writing and images Luis! They support my feeling that black-and-white film-- with its endless varieties and developers-- can produce images very difficult to duplicate digitally. Welcome to 35mmc! Dave
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Jukka Reimola on 5 Frames with my Nikomat FTn in Milan

Comment posted: 29/12/2023

Hi Luis, Your photos look like stills from some neorealist movie masterpiece. Well done! Those Nikomat/Nikkormats are great cameras, if a little bulky and on the heavy side. Also, strangely, way too underappreciated! I'm constantly using my FT2 and I really like it. Welcome to the jolly bunch of 35mmc.
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Luis Arciniega replied:

Comment posted: 29/12/2023

Thank you for your kind comments, Jukka! And indeed, it's almost a blessing that these cameras are still easy to find and for very reasonable prices. My brother has a black FT2 and he absolutely adores it, with good reason!

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