This small scale project offers a comparison of coffee shops in neighbourhoods in Milan (Italy) and Liverpool (UK) by the photographers Matteo Ceschi and John Meehan.
Milanese bar/caffè (plural i bar, i caffè) are not so different from the other classic caffè in Italy: meeting places where people spend a short or a long time chatting, playing cards, drinking coffee and wine (all bars in Italy have licenses for spirits). In particular, elderly and working class men, shopkeepers and artisans of the neighbourhood visit, while the women are mostly artists and free-lance professionals. And, sure, photographers.
I took shots in the central Genova/Ticinese neighbourhood, where I live. So, I goof around the ‘hood and I meet people and friends. Just the time to drink an espresso and take a picture. Ponkj Bar – where I took the shot of the gorgeous man with the bowler hat – is the historical local, the meeting point for all the hoodies and occasional strangers looking for a coffee or good and cheap wine. Regulars sometimes leave copies of their home keys with barman Paolo (the one with a beard). The decor comes from the past – 1970s Italian past: Che Guevara picture on the wall; a Volkswagen van parked outside; old sugar bowl on the counter, though now theoretically “outlawed” for hygienic reasons, Fabrizio De André music in the background.
Cafes in Liverpool are many and varied. Each tries hard to be hip and stylish to attract affluent Liverpudlians. As a student city Liverpool is geared for younger people. The cafes in and around the city centre are often full of students, graduated freelancers, and other professional people poring over their laptops or peering at their smartphones. There is an energy and vibrancy to the cafe scene.
The limited number of cafes in which I took the photographs featured here include the very popular Leaf Cafe on Bold Street (town centre) and 92 Degrees Coffee on Hardman Street (university district). Leaf is a large cafe where people meet friends and business contacts. It is one of the few cafes with an alcohol licence. By contrast 92 Degree’s Coffee is a cathedral to that beverage. They roast their own beans and are totally focussed on quality coffee.
Bars and cafes in Liverpool centre often have short lives and so it is rare to find one with a long history and older staff who have spent years working in them. Staff are generally students or young entrepreneurs. The emphasis is on creating a positive atmosphere with cool (indie) tunes and good service.
About Matteo Ceschi
MATTEO CESCHI was born in Milan in 1974. After graduating in Political Science with a thesis in American history, he became a music journalist and has been writing since 2000 for several Italian and Swiss magazines. He has also published several academic articles (in English and Italian) and two books on show business and radical politics in modern American history. From 2001 to 2009 he was teaching assistant in United States History and Modern History at Statale University in Milan. He has taught History of journalism at a private Italian university in 2012-13. He started as a photographer with portraits of rock performers for his articles and developed an interest in buskers and then in street photography. He had his first individual exhibition, “So Close/Così vicino”, in September 2014 at Area 35 Art Factory in Milan.
About John Meehan
I was born in 1961 in the Ancoats area of Manchester (UK). I’m a currently based in Liverpool, UK.
My involvement with photography began around 1970 when I started messing around with my father’s Voigtlander Vito B. In 1973 dad bought me a Zenit SLR with a 50mm lens. Since then cameras have come and gone. For several years I was under the spell of large format landscape photography with a 5×4 wooden field camera. Latterly, I’ve been using various mirrorless cameras.
In 2014, I gave up my full time academic career to concentrate on developing my photography. f/50 is one of the vehicles that allows me to learn from other more advanced workers.
I don’t like labels; they constrain creativity.