Photographer’s Notebook — Lavinia Cernau’s endless summer

The travel photographer evokes a beautiful summer's day in a new nostalgic series

It seems foolish to get too wordy in a piece dedicated to pictures, but here’s a quick etymology lesson for you: ‘Nostalgia’ comes from the greek νόστος (nóstos), meaning “homecoming”, and the Homeric ἄλγος (álgos), meaning “pain” or “ache”. When we say we’re nostalgic for something, we mean we’re aching for a home of sorts — and there’s something of that bitter-sweet pang in Lavinia Cernau’s glowing, gorgeous shots of summer.

The travel photographer, a long held favourite of Gentleman’s Journal, seems to conjure up the summers of childhood or adolescence, where everything was drenched in a golden hour light, and your hair was salty and slick from the sea. They’re more poignant now than ever, of course — a lost world, or at least a simpler time. But perhaps, as things inch closer to some sort of normal, they might act as reminders of the good times to come, too. We will skinny dip again. Here, Lavinia breaks down her endless summer.

Feet up, Andros 2019

and

Summer skin, Andros, 2019

Early in the morning, as I would soon discover, Maxie would wake up, brush teeth and change into this second-skin — a gorgeous red swimsuit to dive in the foamy, deep-blue Aegean. As an Aussie, I think she learned to swim before she could walk. I never saw anyone dive in the way Maxie did. I shot both of these five minutes apart, an in and out of her daily ritual with the sea, and they’re still my favourites from this assignment in Greece. They feel timeless and full of life to me.

Giants of Rome, 2020

Last trip before the pandemic. Roma was everything I’d expected and even more. I loved the tallness of these cypress trees as we marched our way from atop Castel Sant’Angelo. So majestic, so unusually swan-like.

Whites, Monopoli, 2017

In Italy I would look up more than anywhere else. I’m fascinated with laundry drying in the sun and looking up, this scene reminded me of a Greece I hadn’t seen until then but in photos. Half Greece, half Italy. I was under a breezy spell.

Skinny-dipping, Mallorca 2019

Summer in a frame — this particular shot embodies the spirit of the wild Islas Baleares. One for the books, this boat trip day was all about letting go and fully living in the moment. Lucky to have witnessed and captured it all. I loved Jenna’s wet braid, as she climbed aboard again only to pierce through the calm waters.

Jump, Lovran, 2018

I took this shot from under my sunbed umbrella which I still think looks very cinematic, almost like the very first scene of a movie, putting the viewer right in the middle of the action. Everywhere you’d look in Istria there would be a scene to capture. The way they were aligned waiting for each other to jump reminded me of childhood games played outside, in the little garden behind our flat.

Spiaggia life, Polignano a Mare, 2017

This could be the most well known rocky beach of coastal Puglia; I had to photograph it. I still love how people resemble colonies of colourful ants relishing the summer sun.

Naked paddling, Mallorca 2019

I took this shot on my Mallorcan assignment to capture the spirit of the Beautiful Nomad ladies gathered here from all corners of the world for a week of holistic adventure. And adventure in the purest sense of the word it was.

Couple, Lovran 2018

If you look closely, he still has towel streaks on his back from lying in the sun. I love that that’s a detail you can see. They had just gotten up and went to check out the waves going up the mossy stairs lowering into the sea. I loved their stance, I loved how tan they were, just standing there weighing their options.

Salvataggio, Monopoli 2017

Lying on my towel, camera still in reach, I would observe the people around me. And these two — blonde and tan, lean and beautiful, totally oblivious to me — seemed something like a movie couple on their most ordinary and magical day at the beach. I still wonder where life took them; I still think someone will recognize him in my photo and reach out to me sometime.

Paula, Transylvania 2019

I had imagined this series of ‘70s inspired photos and we had this beautiful restored cabin in the countryside as a background. This shot is an unguarded moment of her adjusting her bottoms and I like how raw and honest it feels. She was wearing this vintage deux-pièce that looked like it was made for her.

At play, Istria 2018

Candid shot as I was walking along the beach pathway. What caught my eye is that they seemed to be in a world of their own, jumping and then climbing right up to jump again. The light was a perfect amber shimmer punctuated by their colourful swimsuits.

Fig branches, Istria 2018

An end of day walk along the coast. There was something nostalgic in the air; summer was slowly coming to an end, people were enjoying the last hours of the day underneath these huge ivory umbrellas, small figs ripening in the late August evening breeze. All I can say is my favorite fruit ever must be figs, and there were plenty along the Croatian coast.

Dawn, Transylvania 2020

I’ve always loved shooting reflections and the colors of the day that was just beginning were amazing to witness. We had woken early to catch the sunrise on the mountains and the windows of Alex’s vintage Land Rover were like big screens showing us a different dimension of nature’s grandeur. 

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