Everyone knows that now is the time to come to Venice if you're interested in seeing costumes, but I'd like to add that it's also the time to come if you're interested in seeing cameras. Of course there are always people with cameras in Venice--is there any place in the world so photographed?--but during Carnevale you can hardly walk 100 yards without bumping into somebody's telephoto lens. It's like a convention of photographers, or a trade show of digital single lens reflex cameras.
In fact, there are far far more people wearing cameras around Venice these days than there are people wearing costumes. I've even seen some people wearing two cameras at once--whereas I've yet to spot anyone wearing two costumes at once.
I've enjoyed looking at the cameras, and the people who wear them and use them, almost as much as I've enjoyed looking at the costumes. And with so many photographers of every sort--professionals, semi-professionals, skilled enthusiasts--shooting the people in costumes, I've felt no need to do so myself.
But last night I had no choice. I walked out the door of a friend's apartment building and smack into a mass of elaborately-costumed revelers in a small not especially picturesque courtyard off Calle de L'Avogaria (not far from the church of San Sebastiano) that is usually quite deserted. In fact, so modest is the courtyard that it doesn't even appear on cheaper maps of the city. But the back entrance to the garden of Ca' Zenobio is here, and these folks were lined up waiting to get into what looked like a private fancy-dress ball.
It was an entirely different scene than what I'd witnessed in Piazza San Marco: for one thing, I heard only Italian and some French being spoken. When I stepped out the door of my friend's place there were three or four people with cameras fretting around the edges of the party-goers like sparrows around an extravagant picnic, including one guy with a large tripod who'd perhaps been hired by whoever was throwing the party to photograph it. But as there was nothing like the usual number of photographers, and as I had my camera with me and few of the party-goers seemed to notice, I took some photos.
We were not too far from Campo San Barnaba, which, toward the end of the Venetian Republic lent its name to i barnabotti: those impoverished Venetian nobles who had nothing left but their title, could not afford to live in the manner expected of patricians, and lived as cheaply as possible in that particular area. But, as you may be able to tell from the photos, there was nothing impoverished about the "nobles" waiting to get into the party last night.
|Though photographed in Campo San Barnaba, these are clearly not barnabotti|