Recently I was reminded of the benefits of entertaining different perspectives.
As I’ve indicated in previous posts, my art and photography often teach me lessons that apply to life in general. Two weeks ago, a trip to Venice with my sister and brother-in-law taught me, yet again, that life is a matter of perspective.
I’d been anxious to take my new Canon 300mm f2.8 lens out for a spin, so I lugged it along (it’s cumbersome). This would be the first time I would be experiencing Venice through such a different lens. In the late afternoon, we made our way to the roof-top terrace of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which is a super-upscale department store just steps away from the Rialto Bridge. The terrace has become a hot spot (reservations are best made via the website above) since it offers perhaps the most breathtaking, panoramic views of Venice. Having entertained visitors on multiple occasions, this wasn’t my first trip to the terrace. How might it be different this time vs. something rote?
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…
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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