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Mar 132012

It strikes you immediately–as you exit Venice’s Santa Lucia train station with the Grand Canal at your feet–as you drag your luggage up and over the steep, short Ponte degli Scalzi–as you take your first steps into her narrow, warren of alleys not a vehicle in sight other than the ubiquitous boats; you have arrived in a city of great beauty and antiquity, you have transcended into legend where every iconic image of Venice comes to life.

And the question forms: how do you photograph a place where every corner, every canal, every image, has long since passed into either icon or cliche’?

It’s been decades since I first set foot in Venice. My memories are of a strikingly beautiful, unique city, unlike any I’d seen, a city where every turn presented a compositional possibility. Reality, and a career change from music to photography, brings a different sensibility. Clearly, not every turn offers the possibility of an image. Add to that the crowds, the shear number of tourists clogging Venice’s eclectic lanes and the possibilities of finding something new and different diminish rapidly.

Venice, described by Luigi Barzini, author of the definitive book, The Italians, as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man”, is sinking under the weight of its own Disneyland-like popularity. Yet the Venetians seem to manage this onslaught with aplomb. Though Venice, “one of Europe’s most romantic cities”, is infested with tourists, it is also a city very much alive, containing a culture separate from the tourist trade upon which so much of Venice depends.

You glimpse this life along the backwater canals, in the work-a-day boats docked outside her many residences, in the workmen busy renovating a house, in the barge hauling cement or paint or vegetables. You wonder at the lives behind the many doors, below the lamplit ceilings spied through upper-story windows, at the elderly woman, bags in hand unlocking a front door, at the violinist, case in hand, clambering aboard a vaporetto, at the couple being serenaded and at the lives of the musicians serenading.

Truly, Venice is one of the most beautiful and unique cites on Earth. Even overrun, it is alive with culture and art. As you can see, I was able to find a few images I could make my own and, using some new techniques, perhaps breathe life into a few cliche’s.

A peek into the studio of a mask maker.

How much history has passed this doorway?

Oh honey, I’ve always dreamed of a romantic gondola ride in Venice, just you and me.

Iconic certainly. Using a telephoto selects for the composition from the truth below.

And this represents only a fraction of the crowds in Piazza San Marco.

And, doesn’t show the even larger number of pigeons.

Oh honey, don’t you think it will be wonderful to get married in Venice? And then we can have our wedding photographs done in Piazza San Marco. It’ll be so romantic!

Slices of Venetian life.

Sadly, graffiti here as well.

We stumbled upon a really interesting show by contemporary Chinese artists.

An attempt, like the opening image of the blog, to take the cliche’ to a different level.

Copyright 2012 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging