|The photo "Campo San Fantin, 2 May 2020," as framed by Luca Olivato|
The image featured in this post was not the one I intended to take. Luckily.
That one had been carefully set up and I thought I knew pretty much everything I'd capture in it. I'd positioned my tripod as close as I could to the façade of the Ateneo Veneto, and situated my camera with its wide angle lens so as to capture all of the architectural elements arrayed in a space that struck me as something like a domestic interior.
For that's one of the things about Venice: the very first time you walk around the city you're likely to think you've never seen any place so strange, and all the architectural details, the ornamentation, the tones and shadows and reflections, and, not least of all, the marks of time, are apparently infinite, forever beyond the capacity of your reeling perception to take in.
But after a certain number of years living here, it's not that the surprises cease--for there's always some previously unseen detail coming to the fore even on your most familiar routes--but you suddenly realize there's not a place you walk in the city that does not seem like a room in some rambling yet unified interior space.
Even the furthest reaches of the lagoon, in all their natural interest and beauty, seem part of this domestic sphere that is Venice. Motor or row as far out from the city center as you can, and yet you still find yourself within the vast but definite embrace of the lagoon.
The image of this post, then, struck me, unconsciously at the time, as something like an interior, though it features the very famous exterior of La Fenice right in its center.
It was May 2, and I'd seen almost absolutely no one as I'd walked around the city center and Piazza San Marco before finding myself in front of La Fenice, then drifting over toward the Ateneo where I was struck by this vantage point.
So I had my camera all set up on its tripod, and because of the low light would need a long exposure to capture the shot. With no one on the streets I had all the time in the world to try a couple of practice exposures without interruption. It was just after I'd decided I'd gotten everything on the camera properly set when from out of the calle beside La Fenice walked a man wearing a mask and rubber surgical gloves and carrying a suitcase.
The thing about shooting a long exposure is that someone can walk across the picture frame while the shutter is open and not appear in the captured image--as long as they don't pause somewhere along the way.
When this man appeared I decided to wait until he'd crossed out of view, I was in no hurry. But then he stopped where you see him and stood absolutely still, not checking his smart phone, not turning his head, not shuffling his feet, and his stillness was so total and unexpected that I tripped the shutter, knowing that if he stood there too long he'd simply appear as solid as he was in real life, while if he moved in place, adjusting his mask or scratching his ear, he'd become a blur.
But he remained stock still for a couple of seconds and then exited the frame, leaving behind the transparent figure you see in the image.
That's exactly what I recollect as happening that evening, and yet when I think about the almost complete emptiness of the streets on that night toward the end of the city's long lock down and see that trace of a human figure in the image, part of me almost starts to wonder if that curious figure wasn't a spectre all along.
In any case, that's the story behind the image I've now had made into a limited edition of 20 signed and numbered prints produced by the best photography printer in the area, Vittorio Pavan. He's the guy museums turn to when they need a wall-sized print for an exhibition, or an archival quality print made from a precious negative or plate (such as the original glass plates of Mariano Fortuny's 1890 and 1930 self-portraits).
Looking through the beautiful prints he'd made from the hundreds of thousands of vintage negatives he tends to as the archivist of the Cameraphoto Archive, and then viewing last fall's exhibition of Cartier-Bresson at the Palazzo Grassi, reminded me that it's a very different experience to look at an actual photograph instead of an image on a screen.
We consume images like potato chips these days; compulsively as popcorn, though without the buttery fingers--just clean swipes upon glass.*
But living in the presence of actual photographs, just like living in the presence of actual books (like the personal libraries--whether of 30 or 3,000 volumes--people used to have), is a very different experience from the way we store them, immaterially, on our various devices.
I recently realized that in over ten years of blogging I've now
put up 1,210 posts--which means an even greater number of images and I don't know how many
words--and not a single one of these posts, images, or words has any material existence in the actual world.
It's not that there's any problem with that, certainly nothing sad or tragic about it. But for someone who grew up during a time when to make something meant to make
an object--even if that object, or those pages, in my case, ended up
socked away and forgotten in some filing cabinet or closet, never to be
seen in the larger (or even some very tiny)
world--it just seems a little odd.
So: this limited edition of 20 prints: printed on Ilford Gold Fiber Silk Baryta paper, 310 gsm, by Vittorio at CameraPhoto Epoche, Venice, Italy, with an Epson Sure Color P7500 Fine Art printer using UltraChrome Pro 12 pigment inks.
The printed image itself measures 30 cm (width) x 33 cm (11.8" x 13"), while the sheet of photo paper on which it is printed measures 36 cm x 39 cm (14.2" x 15.35").
Each print is also signed and numbered on the back by me.
The cost of a print is 245 euro + shipping.
Framed prints like the one at the top of this post are available with either black or white frames for 320 euro + shipping. The framing will be done by Luca Olivato at his Rialto Cornici shop just a stone's throw from the Rialto Pescaria. The dimensions of the frame are 47 cm (width) x 50 cm (or 18.5" x 19.7")
Unframed prints will be rolled and shipped in 10 cm diameter tubes, with a wall thickness of 3 mm.
Payment can be made through Paypal or bank transfer after shipping costs have been calculated.
Please leave a comment below for more information, or you can contact me directly through the "Contact Venezia Blog" box that you will find by scrolling down the right-hand margin of this blog.
* Though not entirely without any oily residue, as demonstrated beautifully, graphically, and unforgettably, in the limited edition photography book Strokes by Tiane Doan Na Champassak: easily the smartest book I've ever seen on the intimate and even fetishistic relationship people have with their smart phones. (Caution: this work contains some nude images, though they are obscured by abstraction.)