I Found Mental Repose in These Italian Abstracts

Italian Abstracts, Italywise

© 2018 Jed Smith

When the mind gets overly fixated on being literal, it can use a break.

Mine does, for sure. And, thanks to the vibrantly rendered island village of Burano, just outside of Venice, I’ve stumbled upon Italian abstracts that do the trick.

As I approached ferreting out a topic for this week’s blog post, my mind told me it needed a short vacation from writing about the logistics and adjustments of living in Italy. I thought, “Well, I’ll just skip a week.” But, then I realized I could speak with photos and not get too mired in words, other than a brief commentary as to why the images in this post give my soul peace and balance. Maybe you’ll relate…

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Color Thrives in the Venice Snow

Jed Smith Photography, Venice Snow

Scarlett and Snow © 2018 Jed Smith

Welcome to Episode 2 of Venice Snow!

And a healthy splash of color. I so appreciate the enthusiastic responses to last week’s post, which featured the Venice snow through a filter of black and white. Such images, devoid of color, can’t help but elevate the sense of extreme cold. But I would be remiss if I didn’t share the impact of color in this second installment, so here goes!

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Venice Snow Makes a Rare Appearance

Jed Smith Photography, Venice Snow

Catwalk in the Snow © 2018 Jed Smith

I hit the jackpot.

Yes, I’d been waiting for this rare occurrence, Venice Snow. Last winter I waited and hoped. But no luck. Ever since I saw a few photos (on display at a local gallery) that had captured Venice blanketed in snow, I’d been itching to have my own crack at it. I have volumes of Venice images in color-saturated summer, and in dreary rain, but no snow. Imagine my delight when I saw snow in the forecast with a high probability. We hopped on hotels.com, found a screaming deal of a room adjacent to the Rialto Fish Market, and I charged my batteries and packed up my photo gear. We boarded the train to Venice with great optimism. Would the forecast be correct? Would I be gifted with this rare opportunity?

Yes, yes, and yes!

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Immersed in a Culture of Train Travel

Train Travel, Italywise

Split Screen – © 2018 Jed Smith

I love trains and train travel.

Ever since I received my first Lionel train set for Christmas at age four, I’ve been hooked. But, the view I had of trains was pretty much all about hauling freight––not people. Fast-forward sixteen years to when I studied art in Italy for the summer, and I looked at trains with fresh eyes. I fell in love all over again. This is so cool, I thought. A country and a continent whose transportation arteries of the railroad network rivaled, and often surpassed, that of the highway system. People have real travel options.

When I returned home after my Italian summer,

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A Tribute to the Working Man in Venice

working man, Italywise

Intensity – © 2107 Jed Smith

I love so many things about Venice. The city is a constantly unfolding visual feast. It’s a city that never stops giving even though she will never reveal all of her mysteries. Most visitors are dazzled by the sites in this magnificent city. I’m enthralled with the grout of Venice, the working man. Put another way, the working man is the connective tissue that keeps this city afloat and functioning.

The working woman, too, is part of the grout of Venice.  To give her equal tribute, I am working on a separate photo essay (stay tuned).

The working man in Venice is always battling the elements.

Venice is forever shifting and settling. Perfect right angles and straight lines are an impossibility. Imagine keeping a city going that exchanges boats far cars and trucks. Imagine dealing with the corrosive and rotting effects of so much moisture. Imagine coping with the acqua alta, the high waters. And then there is doing one’s job while dodging throngs of tourists. The working man in Venice must cope with it all.

These seven images capture only a snippet of the life of the working man.

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Integrating Shadow and Light

Shadow, Italywise

The Unity of Shadow and Light © 2017 Jed Smith

I am continually amazed at how art is my most powerful teacher, cleverly bypassing my bossy thinking mind and presenting me with important “aha” moments. This week, my art reached out and spoke to me about the importance of embracing my shadow. Sound ominous? Read on.

This morning, as I sat down to write, I had absolutely no idea what to write about.

Often times I have topics and ideas queueing up for attention. Not so today. It was another one of those “Crap, my creative tank is empty” moments when my orderly and linear right brain seeks to convince me I have to hunker down and mentally muscle my way through meeting a self-imposed deadline. Thankfully, I believe that big, fat lie less and less. So, I went to my photography vaults and started cruising through images to see if something would speak to me. You know, like going fishing and seeing if anything will bite. Today I got more than a nibble.

Quit running from your shadow

That’s what this photo said to me.

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I’m a Fan of the Sisterhood

Nuns, Italywise

Sisters Just Wanna Have Fun – Photo by Jed Smith ©2017

This week’s post is going to be short, and a break from the two previous posts dealing with the very un-glamorous, but necessary, topics related to driving in Italy and car ownership.

Shall we talk about the nuns?

When I’m out and about with my camera and have my longer lens, so I can work more furtively, I go into high-alert when I spot members of the sisterhood. If you saw me at work you’d think I’d spotted George Clooney or Angelina Jolie. Yes, I chase the nuns with my camera like I’m a member of the paparazzi.

I love it when I see the nuns smiling and cutting loose a bit. Take for instance these animated sisters enjoying the festivities at the annual Barcolana, a huge sailing regatta in Trieste, Italy. These girls are happy to be part of the fun. Their faces and body language say it all. I’d say the ringleader of this group is the sister on the left. You almost expect her to start jumping up and down with excitement.

And when the nuns go shopping?

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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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