I am fascinated with the dark side of Venice. Perhaps, this is the primary reason it remains my favorite city in all of Italy. Long ago I learned to leave the heavily touristed thoroughfares behind to wander and explore the endless maze of narrow streets and alleys. A person doesn’t have to go far to begin experiencing the spooky and mysterious aspects of this one-of-a-kind city. It’s no wonder that Italy has inspired so many dark (and often disturbing) books and movies. For classic film buffs there is the cinematic masterpiece Don’t Look Now. Who can forget the knife wielding drawf? When I’m wandering the seemingly deserted areas of Venice at night, I half expect such a figure to emerge from the darkness. Lucifer’s Shadow, a book by David Hewson, is a well crafted tale of murder and intrigue in Venice. And I’m itching to read more of his books.
Our good friend Giacomo Fornari recently made a nighttime excursion to create a photo essay on the dark side of Venice. Giacomo is an accomplished professional photographer who is known for his wonderful fashion and beauty photography. While I love his fashion work, I have to say Giacomo blew me away with what he achieved in this very different venture. When I first looked at the images I had strong visceral reactions. My feelings were akin to a descent into darkness or madness – and a sense of foreboding and despair.
If we artists and photographers don’t run from mystery, I believe we can find a deep well of dark beauty, and emotions. Venice offers countless opportunities to those who are willing to go into the dark.
Giacoma was very kind to allow me a short interview to learn more about his intent and process in creating this story. I’m indebted to him for inspiring me to explore outside my usual artistic paths. This is what I love about communing with other artists. We feed each other, and encourage each other. In fact, Giacomo and I are planning on doing an excursion together. It’s TBD, but I know I’ll love seeing him work, and seeing how our individual creative brains interpret the same subject matter.
Be sure to go to Giacomo’s website giacomofornari.com to see more of his work and to learn more about him.
Tell us about your idea for taking these photos and what qualities you were hoping to achieve.
Walking at night through the maze of narrow and mysterious streets of Venice always bestows evocative views of the canals. The darkness that swallows the houses, floating silently over a still and flat water, and only the distant sound of the seagulls make me lose myself in eerie thoughts and provokes intense emotions. What came up to my mind one day was to try to get with my camera the exact perception of that view that would raise the same emotions. My aim was to recreate the same light conditions, the same gradient of darkness I could see with my eyes, not worrying too much about details but keeping my focus on the overall result.
What are some of the challenges of night photography?
Well, if I say that the light is the biggest challenge I surely would not be very original, but my challenge in that situation was to get enough blacks towards my target. A well-lit picture would not suit the idea of the shot clearly formed in my mind. I have to admit that I am not an expert on night photography, but I believe that the main obstacle you may find while shooting in the dark (especially if you have an average equipment with you) is related to the right balance of ISO, flash light and time settings to get a good result in terms of quality.
You’ve done quite a bit of beautiful fashion photography. Have you considered adding a human element to these night images? Or would that detract?
Yes I have, but as you indicated, I got to the point that the human element would drive the viewer’s attention to a specific idea and reaction that in some way would not be personal. I strongly wanted to raise visceral emotions with a genuine composition. When someone is viewing my shots I want them to get lost as I do whilst walking in Venice.
What other ideas are you wanting to explore?
This project is something very different and totally new from what I was used to do in the past. I think I will try to expand this idea first, concentrating on the countless emotions that Venice gives me, especially when everything there is dark and still.