Reflecting on Life as Night Falls in Venice

Venice at Night

Giudecca Dog Walk © Jed Smith

Life and beauty aren’t always found in brilliant light.

Maybe this is a brief, passing phase, but I’m finding myself increasingly fascinated with the “darker side” of existence. Night falls, literally and metaphorically, in life and we have the choice to resist the dark or explore, with curiosity, its gifts.

My photography, my camera is my journal.

Recently, a dear friend and accomplished photographer came to visit. The photo above was taken just after we had toured an inspiring photo exhibition of Willy Ronis at Tre Oci on the Giudecca in Venice. Many of the photos were masterful renderings of how night falls in various settings. I was inspired, and I promised myself I would double my resolve to learn the ropes of capturing nighttime photography. I also realized that this fascination with the darker side of life mirrors my willingness to face my shadow side.

What particularly drew me to the above scene was the man leisurely walking his dog and pausing under a street lamp while the stacks of platforms that become the emergency sidewalks when Venice has high water ominously wait to be put to use.

Night falls on our ideas about how life should be, how it should progress.

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Italian Faces Etched with Emotion

Italian faces

Intense Contemplation – © 2018 Jed Smith

I love faces.

And Italian faces are endlessly fascinating to me. Being married to an Italian has taught me firsthand that the passion that is so integral to the culture rarely hides behind a poker face. Hands fly and faces have countless ways of expressing mood and sentiment.

In the States, I grew up in the South. Be polite. Don’t make other people uncomfortable. Keep your feelings (other than joy, happiness, and peace) at bay. That was the pervasive conditioning. Talk about growing up with a leash on one’s emotions!

As a photographer and artist, I’m drawn to portraiture that captures the telltale signs of emotion. Placid, expressionless faces hold no appeal to me from an artistic point of view. There’s no “juice” to inspire capturing an image, whether in a photo or with my paintbrush.

My press pass at La Giostra Cavalleresca di Sulmona gave me plenty of new inspiration.

Boy, did I hit paydirt.

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Nuns Out and About

Nuns, Jed Smith Photography

In Passing – Jed Smith © 2018

Just call me a paparazzo of the nuns.

If you’ve followed previous photo posts, here and on my Instagram feed, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of capturing nuns when they’re out and about in everyday life. Most paparazzi perk up when they see famous personalities. I perk up and swing into action when nuns show up.

Waiting for just the right moment…

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A Symphony of Italian Hand Gestures

Italian Hand Gestures, Jed Smith Photography

Words Fail. © 2018 Jed Smith

A beauty to behold.

Yes, Italian hand gestures contain a fluidity and artistry that continues to amaze me. Italians must have something built into their genes that makes them so adept at this kind of visual poetry. While I speak with my hands, much like my artistic mother, I was taught, growing up, restraint in this regard. I was adominished to keep my hands to myself and to be mindful of encroaching upon another person’s space. Today, if I tried to emulate this innate talent for non-verbal communications that Italians use so effortlessly, I’m afraid I would be the laughing stock of all around me.

So, for this week’s post, I’ve decided to share with you a few of my favorite images showing the art of Italian hand gestures in action. I will keep my commentary to a minimum and let the images speak mostly for themselves. 

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It’s a Matter of Perspective, Isn’t It?

Jed Smith Photography, Italywise

A Matter of Perspective © 2018 Jed Smith

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?

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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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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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