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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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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In Abruzzo, Nunzio Marcelli is a Master Shepherd

Nunzio Marcelli

Nunzio Marcelli

 

If you’ve been following my recent posts you’ll know that I recently had the extraordinary opportunity to take a five-hour trek with shepherds in the mountains of the Parco Nazionale della Majella of Abruzzo. Chronicling life with a flock of sheep and a flock of goats, along with two shepherds and several hard working dogs, was a photo assignment life luckily dropped in my lap.

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Venice – White Coats in Readiness – Photo by Jed

Venice, Italywise

White Coats in Readiness

Often I visit the archives of photography I’ve done many years ago to see how my style has evolved, and to see if there are some gems that still stand out to me. Here is one that I took at least sixteen years ago using conventional 35mm film (Fuji Velvia 100) when I didn’t have the luxury of confirming I had the shot, as I envisioned it, on the spot. Oh how photography has changed with the advancements in digital technology.

Normally I stay far away from Piazza San Marco in Venice, feeling a bit claustrophobic, and so outnumbered by the throngs of tour groups – now made even more challenging with the proliferation of cruise ships docked close by. Consequently I seek out more opportunities in the in-between hours of activity – either crack-of-dawn, when it’s virtually deserted, or late afternoon when many people are sleeping off the excesses from earlier in the day.

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And the Winner is…”Haughty in Houndstooth”

Italian street life, Italywise

I had the best time reading every submission in this caption contest, for a photo I took of a street scene recently. Its working title was Wall on By, but that easily was surpassed with the variety and creativity of entries. Creativity is far from an exact science, yet I had to make a choice, and Haughty in Houndstooth, by Susan, took the top spot. Brava Susan!

What I like about having this kind of creative contest is how art evokes stories. When I had my first solo exhibition of watercolors many years ago, I resisted talking too much about the intent behind each of the paintings. On one hand, I wanted to respect the curiosity of the gallery patrons as to what made me choose a specific subject. However, I would endeavor to turn the tables and inquire first as to what each person saw in the image, so as not to influence them with my creative process.

Each one of us is always looking at the world through our individual filters and conditioning. We may not realize it, but we’re constantly scanning the world around us, and creating stories about what we see. The human imagination can take just a few elements of a scene and quickly construct possible story lines. What I love about art is that it is both about what the artist wanted to capture or express AND what stories and emotions it evokes in the viewer.

Who really knows the truth of this particular scene, and as your entries demonstrate, many interpretations are possible.

As an artist and photography I’m constantly in scanning and observation mode. Italian street life is ripe with vignettes unfolding. I can’t help but attach my personal narratives, but I’m learning to do so lightly and with humor, and remembering I can never know the truth of an entire situation.

Thank you all for bringing your creativity into this photo caption contest. Stay tuned, I may make this a regular thing!

Caption Contest! Win a Amazon Gift Card!

Italian street life, Italywise

Walk on By is a new photo by Jed Smith.

I’m happy to introduce a scene I captured on one of my recent photo excursions. I’m constantly intrigued and entertained by “snippets” of Italian street life, and I was happy to be quick on the draw to capture this one. The expression of this well-heeled signora is the focal point of this image. Looking at the image now I can imagine countless captions. So, I decided I’d have a little fun and invite you to bring your unique perspectives to this image and submit a caption in the comments sections of this website/blog Italywise.com. One entry per person*, and submissions must be made by end of day Tuesday, April 19 midnight PST. The winning submission will receive a $30 Amazon.com gift card (or the equivalent in the country of the winner).

To see this and other photography and paintings be sure to visit my online gallery.

*Family/relatives are ineligible (though you can still submit for fun!)

At Rest – New Photo by Jed

At Rest, Italywise

At Rest is a recent photo by Jed Smith

I am drawn to, in my art and photography, scenes of simplicity and calm. For me these are meditations and reminders of the importance of stepping out of the torrent of “doing” and allowing my soul, and mind, to breathe.

I’ve always had a fascination with physics, especially the paradoxes of quantum physics. For an artist? Yeah, go figure. I guess my dad’s nuclear engineer genes haven’t been crowded out by my mom’s art genes.

What continually does a number on my head is that the world/universe actually is 99.99% empty space, yet we’re convinced by the swirling activity of infinitesimal particles of energy that what we see is solid and real. I know that I all too often forget about this ocean of empty space which holds everything, and where anything can happen. Like me, unless you’re an Einstein or David Bohm, your brain will shut down if it tries to assimilate this into anything but an intellectual concept.

In light of a brain that can’t conceive of the inconceivable, I “feel” my way towards truth with my art. The above scene brings me calm. In contemplating such a setting, perhaps my mind, like the waters, becomes still, and the realization of the depth and richness of the unseen space that connects everything returns to my awareness. The neurotic need to do, to figure it all out, abates. And, the insanity of the world’s current events temporarily loosen their grip on my attention. For me, this in incredible gift.

In closing, I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite actors…

Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance. – Morgan Freeman

To see other photos be sure to visit my online gallery.

Being…Just Being.

The art of being, Italywise

Just Being is a recent photo by Jed Smith, taken in Basilicata (the arch of the “foot” of Italy)

In my photography and in my art I’m drawn to subjects who seem to be in a space of being. For me, it’s a representation of stepping out of the rushing stream of doing and needing to accomplish. Probably, this speaks volumes about my own addiction to constant movement and achieving.

Some people might look at the scene above and come to conclusions that reflect some kind of loneliness or sadness. I prefer to believe this man is in a space where the need to do, or to over think life, has dropped away.

Be – don’t try to become. – Osho

Moving to Italy has given me plenty to do, and to accomplish – learning the language, and tackling a pretty big list of logistical imperatives. In other words, I’ve had plenty of food for the hungry monster who thrives on being engaged in constant movement. Also, I’ve realized I don’t have to be physically moving to still be charging forward like a racehorse. I’m well acquainted with my restlessness, lying in bed after waking up in the morning, while my mind latches onto a laundry list of matters that need to be addressed or problems that need to be solved. Chuang Tzu referred to this as “sitting while wandering”. How appropriate.

I’m cheating myself if I remain in the rushing stream of doing. The funny thing is that I KNOW, from experience, when the doing part of me is exhausted, or takes a break, suddenly the world opens up for me. I feel present, and the world expands into dimensions that transcend thought or verbal explanation. In Umbria, I’ve experienced clear nights that wrap me in a magnificent cloak of stars – all made possible by the lack of urban noise and light pollution, and by the lack of thinking about what I have to do tomorrow or what I regret in the road behind me.

As life beckons me to a fuller life, I’ve come to believe that living with paradox is an essential element for my slowing down and residing in being. I’ve not been a fan of paradox for most of my life, because I like to have things figured out and to know where I’m going. That’s pretty ambitious, and I’m learning also, that it’s pretty damn impossible. I’ve thought I’ve needed to constantly steer life, which requires a vigilance that is exhausting. It also doesn’t trust the universe, or a higher power to move and take me to unimagined places. The funny thing is, the most creative and successful solutions to problems come when I quit trying to manhandle my way to figuring things out. The universe will provide answers (maybe not according to our timetable or expectations) if we let go and step into being.

I close with this YouTube video from Alan Watts, which speaks to the paradox of letting go while helping to remind me to let go and reside in “being”.

 

Burano is an Artist’s Dream

Burano, Italywise

Almost every doorway in Burano is a work of art.

Today’s post will be brief. I want to share one of my latest photos from the island of Burano, a stunningly “painted” fishing village. A short vaporetto ride from Venice will take you there. I would love to gain a better understanding of just how the practice of adorning the buildings in such vibrant colors in this village came into being. Does this practice imply some kind of inherent optimism of the villagers? Maybe that is the hopeful part of my mind. Nonetheless, my spirits are always lifted when I visit this wonderful village.

Most importantly, my brain shifts into creative overdrive when I wander the canals and alleyways of Burano. I feel a bit as though I am cheating when I point my camera, compose a shot, and snap the shutter. It is as though an artist has gone before me and done most of the work already. Still, I’m not complaining.

The scenes of daily life against this rich backdrop also inspire other photos and subsequent paintings (see my post about No. 331).

If this post sparks your interest in learning more about Burano, be sure to visit the Official Website of Burano.

I hope you enjoy this most recently posted photo, which is also in my online photo gallery.

Happy viewing!

 

A Study in Orange – Photo by Jed

A Study in Orange

A Study in Orange

I am visually enamored with unexpected color stories, and I’m incredibly grateful when I have the awareness to see a scene like the one above orchestrating itself. Again, this is a life lesson in allowing things to happen, rather than trying to contrive something according to an idea of what I think “might” be interesting.

This photo was taken this past winter while I was in Venice for 2 1/2 days. Two of these days were characterized by high winds, high waters and unrelenting rain. Normally this would be a recipe for ensuring I stay inside and bury my head in a book. Instead, thanks to the urging of Simone, we forged through the elements and I became a periscope for this unique time in Venice. While I was happy to capture a variety of scenes as they presented themselves, I was happiest with this one, which was one of the last images I took as we were on our way to the vaporetto stop to head back to the Santa Lucia train station, and to our Italo train ride back to Rome.

Earlier I had been casting aspersions about the “cheap, makeshift boots” being sold in massive amounts by opportunistic vendors. Little did I know these would become a central part of this photo. I love the orange boots, the orange “legs” of the pigeons, and the orange buildings helping to frame the image.

I’m grateful to the photo for reminding me not to label or judge things according to conditioned expectations of beauty.

Be sure to check out this and other photos and paintings in my online gallery.

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