Standing-room only at the sunset. Florence (2017)
Every evening on the steps of the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, Italy, hundreds of visitors jostle for the perfect sunset photograph. Not only is the Piazzale Michelangelo rated by TripAdvisor as the 'Best Sunset in Town’, it’s also ranked above the Uffizi and the Duomo as the number one attraction in Florence by over twenty two thousand reviewers. High above the city spires it offers the perfect vantage point to see a solstice-like sunset every night. Ebbing at a slow, visitor-friendly pace the rich red Tuscan sky transforms the city’s River Arno into a fiery magma flow and the piazza into the hottest free ticket in town.
Two hours before the light show begins, in-the-know digital travellers climb the narrow Oltrarno streets to claim the best seats on the piazza steps and enjoy an al fresco supper. For later arrivals, there’s standing room only on what has become colloquially known as Sunset Balustrade. As the golden hour begins, the gathering is strangely noiseless except for the sound of clicking camera shutters. On the hillside overlooking the River Arno, hundreds of smartphones twinkle in the golden light – a silent flash mob visible from the city centre below.
Beguiled by the warming embers of the same sunset that inspired artist J.M.W Turner to make at least two paintings from a similar vantage point in the 1820s, today’s south facing visitors cold shoulder the colossal sculpture of David, making it the most ignored Michelangelo in the world.
Nowadays the word sunset can be used as a perjorative term for photography’s biggest cliché, yet the popularity of the subject grows exponentially. A search of #sunset in Instagram triggers an unimaginable 131 million posts, increasing by five thousand additional posts every hour.