The Life of a Gondolier

Gondolier, Italysie

Fueling Up © 2017 Jed Smith

When many people come to Venice and negotiate their first gondola ride, they think they’re shelling out a small fortune while the gondolier is making easy money.

Think again.

Becoming a gondolier is no easy feat.

I used to think the whole thing about a taxi driver in NYC having to pay a hefty sum to buy a yellow cab medallion was ridiculous. I believe a wannabe gondolier has more of an uphill climb.

Used to be that a gondolier license had to pass from father to son.

Or to another male family member IF there was no son. Yep, all-in-the-family was the name of the game.

Now the process is even harder.

These days you have to belong to a 1000-year-old Gondolier’s Guild. And that comes only after 400 hours of training under the sponsorship and tutelage

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The Appeal of a Quiet Mind

quiet mind

Stillness ©2017 Jed Smith, oil on canvas

I’ve just completed my latest painting. It’s a big one (39.5″ x 60″) Painting this subject has been immensely gratifying. While the intricate play of shadows was anything but simple, the subject was incredibly soothing to render. More and more I’m letting my heart and intuition guide me as to what to paint. And often it’s only in retrospect that I understand my choice of subjects.

This painting represents, for me, stepping into a quiet mind.

This scene comes from one of my favorite places on earth, the island of Folegandros in Greece. Living in Italy makes hopping over to Greece pretty easy and fairly inexpensive. If you don’t know Folegandros, it is a blissfully serene island with cliffs and views that can stun a person into silence. Its remote location and the absence of an airport help keep this island free from being overrun by tourists.

Sp. when I sat before the blank canvas and considered what I wanted to paint,

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Walk On By

Jed Smith

Walk on By © 2017 Jed Smith

This week I share an image I recently captured in the Dorsoduro area of Venice. As I was finally going through the batch of images taken on a hot July afternoon, this leapt out at me and its power took me by surprise.

In Venice a common theme is beggars in supplication to people passing by.

I call this “passive begging” and the streets of Venice are populated with people such as the man above. I’ve also seen numerous women prostrating themselves on their knees and elbows. Their heads are bowed and a small cup is in their hands. They don’t move. Rarely do I take photos of these people. I feel more comfortable taking photos of the street performers. After all, they’re actually doing something to earn money, right? That’s what I tell myself. But looking at this particular image I say, “Jed Smith you don’t know this man’s story, do you?”

Hmmm, that gives me pause.

People are adept at looking away, and avoiding what makes them uncomfortable.

And this is what stands out to me as the central theme of this photo. This man is patiently and humbly looking with expectation

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A Canopy of Brilliance – A New Painting by Jed Smith

Jed Smith, Italywise

A Canopy of Brilliance, © 2017 Jed Smith

I love creating. I’m very fortunate that I am able to pour myself into writing, photography and painting. Italy is bringing out the best in me in this regard. After all, when I have creative genius staring at me at every turn (particularly in a city like Venice) I can’t help but feel the universe prodding me to “get going” and to “see what happens.”

A need for something spacious

Three-and-a-half months ago I sat staring at a large blank canvas.  Jed Smith, what do you want to paint? That’s what I asked myself, and I knew the answer wouldn’t come through intellectual reasoning. Something spacious. That was the answer.

The island of Folegandros, Greece, is just a short trip from Italy, and we vacationed there last year as part of a sibling reunion. A hasty photo I took, while hanging on the back of a speeding ATV, yielded the inspiration for this painting.

Now, this is probably more information that you care to hear,

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Italian Faces in the Saturday Market

 

Italian Faces

Fragole – © 2017 Jed Smith

The big Saturday markets will never cease to be a goldmine of opportunity for capturing the wealth of Italian faces

Recently, when visiting my dear friends Novelia and Peppe in Sulmona for the Easter festivities, I discovered the huge Saturday market held in the piazza. I had wandered out of my B&B (close by) with my camera to see if anything might catch my attention. Suffice it to say, I was snapping away almost immediately.

Italian Faces

Sisters – © 2017 Jed Smith

Italian markets are no laid-back affair

Wow, there’s serious life going on. The interactions. The commerce. The smiles.

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Meet Le Vecchie Guardie – The Old Guard

The Old Guard

Camaraderie. © 2017 Jed Smith

I love these faces. I love surreptitiously watching their interactions, and their steadfast camaraderie. The Old Guard, fondly referred to as “Le vecchie guardie” in Italy, is an integral thread, found woven everywhere in the fabric of Italian culture.

Watching The Old Guard can’t help but make you smile

At least that’s my reaction. If only I could eavesdrop on their conversations to round out the picture. Or, maybe it’s just as well (and more fun) to use my imagination, and focus on capturing the moments

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Early Morning Life Along the Grand Canal

Grand Canal, Venice

Morning Preparations- © 2017 Jed Smith

Be an early riser to witness a workman’s life along Venice’s Grand Canal

A self-imposed photo assignment, earlier this year, took me to Venice, and required I be up at the crack of dawn. Timing was essential to capture the energy of Venice’s main artery coming to life while not being obscured by massive swarms of tourists. Believe me, as much as I wanted to sleep yet another hour, capturing the morning light, and the workmen starting their day, was well worth it. Imagine the main thoroughfare in your city

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Oh, What Stories Italian Faces Tell

Italian Faces, Italywise

“Immersed” – ©2017 Jed Smith

I love Italian faces. I could spend the rest of my life just working on capturing them in my photography and in my paintings. In this post I share with you four recent images that focus on the weathered faces of seasoned Italian gentlemen.

Italian faces don’t hide or mask one’s disposition

I know this sounds like a gross generality. But, I think overwhelming this is true compared to faces in many other cultures. At the risk of playing into the trite depictions of Italians in Hollywood, Italians are passionate, and they don’t put the reins on letting their emotions be seen. You see it in the animation

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The Allure of Venice at Night

Venice at Night, ItalyWise

A Warm Light Beckons – Jed Smith © 2017

Those of you who’ve been following my blog understand I have a love affair with Venice. And, it continues to deepen, particularly in regards to Venice at night.

On this particular March evening, we had just attended a book signing event at the Mont Blanc store near Piazza San Marco. I had brought my camera to capture the event. But, I hadn’t planned on doing any photography once the event concluded.

Then, a twenty-minute walk, to meet up with one of our dearest friends, yielded photos of Venice being claimed by nightfall.

I like challenging myself by adding improvisational assignments to my photo explorations. This stroll became a prime opportunity to

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Layers of Solitude

 

photography, Italywise

Layers of Solitude – Jed Smith © 2017

I’m enamored with the emotion and scenes of solitude. When my mother, who was also my life-long art teacher, began exposing me to the bountiful world of artistic expression, I found myself drawn to the likes of Edgard Degas and Edward Hopper, and their depictions of people steeped in solitude. Think The Absinthe Drinker by Degas, and Nighthawks by Hopper.

I love solitude.

Yes, at my core, I am an introvert. A psychological test I took years ago confirmed this. BUT, it also confirmed that I was just left of center on the scale. This means I also have important extroversion needs. Yes, I love being with friends, family and small groups of people. It feeds my soul. As for the introvert part, I now recognize having the balance of significant alone time is crucial to my overall sense of well being. I think of it as important time to pause, reflect, and process all that I’ve taken in when I’m with other people.

Perhaps, by sharing this photo, I’m also taking you behind the curtain and helping you to understand what makes this artist tick. Maybe I’m also sharing this to prompt you to ask similar questions about

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