A Tribute to the Working Man in Venice

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.

The photo above is my favorite. For me, it communicates intensity and focus on one’s job. There’s weather on this fella’s face. I’d wager you wouldn’t get any pretense from this guy.

working man, Italywise

Supreme Care – ©2017 Jed Smith

The working man is also a guardian of Venice’s treasures.

I captured this image while camped out at the end of a small alley. I had a quiet, unobstructed seat. I waited to see what would pass by. Not five minutes later, the boat above passed by. Clearly, its treasured passenger was this beautiful artifact. Is it a column base or capital? Regardless, this was a hands-on, special transport.

working man, Italywise

Trash Pickup – © 2017 Jed Smith

Trash collection is a big deal.

My heart goes out to the guys who keep Venice clean. It’s a hot potato of a topic these days, particularly with residents who take pride in their city and are in anguish at the lack of respect shown by a large number of tourists. I’ve wandered the streets of Venice enough to see plenty of “trashy” behavior from foreigners. The trash collectors deserve a special call-out in my book.

working man, Italywise

Street Sweeper – © 2017 Jed Smith

This working man still uses a good, old-fashioned handmade broom

I love the juxtaposition of the old and new in this photo. Look closely and you’ll see that this guy has his ear buds in place and is probably rockin’ his way through his day and using his handmade broom when needed.

working man, Italywise

Passing By – ©2017 Jed Smith

And crews heading out for a group project…

These guys are bundled up in anticipation of “whatever”.

working man, Italywise

Waiting – © 2107 Jed Smith

The Venice working man must have loads of patience.

I dare say very little is accomplished here without waiting. How can anything happen in a “straight line” of progress when considering the challenges and complexities of Venice. In this image, one man is utilizing the pause to check or send messages. They’re both waiting for yet another bucket of debris to be lowered from the building above.

working man, Italywise

In Motion – ©2017 Jed Smith

Some labor clearly is back-breaking.

I’ve saved my other favorite image for last. Here is a man transferring heavy bags of concrete. Believe me, by the time I’d captured this image, he’d picked off at least a dozen other bags. He had to dodge people passing by in order to do his job.

And so, my friends, that is my brief photograph tribute to the working man of Venice. I thrive on giving myself these kinds of assignments and creating corresponding mini galleries. I hope you enjoy!


By |2019-01-19T21:41:38+01:00December 19th, 2017|A Romance with Venice, Black & White, Exploring the Veneto|14 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Betty Albert December 20, 2017 at 7:30 am - Reply

    Jed, I love how you touch the soul of a city with your artistic photos of the people there. Ditto your revere and tribute to the workers who must cope with so many different complexities, including tourists! I call this creative observation! thanks,

    • Jed December 20, 2017 at 11:49 am - Reply

      Thank you, Betty! There IS so much soul in the city. My reportage there will be a never-ending endeavor!

  2. Ellen Griffith December 20, 2017 at 1:25 am - Reply

    Beautiful ruggedness…one feels the energy, the patience, the tension. Indeed…the working man!

    • Jed December 20, 2017 at 11:48 am - Reply

      Thank you, Ellen! “Beautiful ruggedness” is what I was striving to capture!

  3. Kathryn Smith December 19, 2017 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    I cannot imagine how hard it would be to live in Venice, much less work there. A nice tribute to the guys who get it done.

    • Jed December 20, 2017 at 11:47 am - Reply

      Grazie, dear friend!

  4. Tom December 19, 2017 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    Nice Jed – what time of year would be good to visit Venice? Any guess when it might be less busy? Thanks, Tom

    • Jed December 19, 2017 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      My favorite months are late September and October. The closer you get to October, the fewer tourists. Also, late April and early May are good times. But, be forewarned, the weather in spring can be unpredictable. We had a week of glorious warmth, and then a cold snap. Once you get into June thru August, the throngs are oppressive. Still, if you’re artful about where you stay and where you go (meaning getting off the well-worn paths) you can still have a good time in summer months. The bigger drawback can be the heat and humidity on top of the massive amounts of tourists.

    • Carolyn December 19, 2017 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      I went January 2014. Except, occasional rain visited several tourist towns that were very devoid of tourists.

  5. Anita December 19, 2017 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Ciao Jed! thank you for your beautiful art and writing I enjoyed this as I have many others be well and happy Anita

    • Jed December 19, 2017 at 3:29 pm - Reply

      Anita, always a treat to hear from you. Lots of love to you! Jed

  6. mark wholey December 19, 2017 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    Thank you for posting the photos of the working souls of Venice. That you stopped to capture these images is a nod to the famous photographers of the past. I am thinking just now of Walker Evans. There have been many a moment I have passed by these workers and admired their stamina but did not stop, as you wisely have, to record the moment. Keep shooting these fine people that maintain the beautiful city of Venice.

    • Jed December 19, 2017 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      Grazie, Mark! You honor me, as I seek to honor the people who do the real work in Venice––and often work that isn’t appreciated. Too much advertising and media coverage pay tribute to the rich and glamorous, in my opinion. The real stars are people like the ones I’ve observed. Thanks for the encouragement to “keep going”! jed

  7. Joe December 19, 2017 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Well done Jed, thank you for the new insight!

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