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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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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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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Faces of the Venice Fish Market

Octopus, Italywise

Piovra – © Jed Smith 2017


Last Thursday we packed a small overnight bag, and took the twenty-five minute train ride from Treviso to Venice’s Santa Lucia train station. We’d found a great last minute deal at the Palazzetto Madonna, a fairly new four-star hotel in San Polo.  We found it on hotels.com, our new favorite source for accommodations worldwide. I’d been wanting, for several weeks, to give myself a photo assignment at Venice’s fish market, called La Pescheria di Rialto since it’s at the northwest corner of the Rialto bridge.

Faces richly etched with character abound at the Venice fish market.

As I write this, I realize what an understatement it is. I hit the jackpot of photo opps. I hope you’ll agree as you see just four of my favorite images taken during this recent excursion.

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It’s Simply a Matter of Perspective

Wrought-iron railings adorn the bridges of Venice and provide unique views of the canals.

Wrought-iron railings adorn the bridges of Venice and provide unique views of the canals.

I’m in heaven when I’m meandering through the confusing and mysterious streets, alleyways, and canals in Venice. I can’t imagine ever tiring of the discoveries every one of my journeys there yields – especially when I change my perspective. The world transforms.

Early on in life, when I was a mere teenager beginning to plumb the depths of creative possibilities, my dear artist mother began teaching me about the power of perspective. With me, and with her other students I always marveled out how she could coax, so adeptly, a person from a rigid way of seeing things to a different perspective. Suddenly the world would take on new life. And, well before a camera became my regular companion, Momma Liz taught me how to use my hands to create a makeshift viewfinder. I’m fortunate this was part of my early training, because it has stayed with me ever since.

I’ve chosen the photo above because, for me it demonstrates a completely different vantage point – one that came about by moving from my usual perspective and being willing to reposition myself. Often times this means getting out of my comfort zone – literally and figuratively.

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