Last week I had a few days in Venice. I have been to Italy dozens of times but I had never visited Venice before and I have to confess, I found it the most bizarre and beautiful place.
Never in my life have I arrived at an airport and got onto a boat to travel to my hotel. Usually, I walk out of the airport and get a train, bus or a hire car. In Venice, you get a boat! In Venice, the boats are referred to as buses! You do have the option of getting a “taxi” but again, it’s actually a boat!
As I walked about the centre of Venice I began to contemplate the logistics of the city. While sitting having a nice cold beer, near to the Ponte del Diavolo, I watched a barge approach and deliver a keg of beer, several dozen bottles of wine and some potatoes. I sat and watched with a gentle smile while I sipped my beer in the Spring sunshine and thought to myself, “What a bizarre place”. There is an obvious plus to a modern city whose only means of transport is boat – there are no cars or mopeds.
Anyone who has ever been to Italy will know how Italians drive. They are fast, reckless and extremely noisy. They constantly drive in a gear that is too low and rev the engine in an attempt to make as much noise as possible. Many Italians actually deliberately puncture the exhaust on their mopeds because it will make them louder. It’s an Italian thing! But in Venice, there are no cars or mopeds, so the entire city is extremely quiet. This absence of noise and not having daily near misses with cars or mopeds makes the city very relaxing.
My intention in visiting Venice was to scout it out as a possible location for one of our photographic workshops. Now, there is absolutely no doubt that Venice is a Mecca for photographers and any workshop would be a photographic feast, but Venice is mobbed. I found it very difficult to stop and “make” a photograph. As soon as I stopped and began to assess a scene, I either caused a jam or I was jostled by the crowds. There was a few lanes and narrow streets that were not so busy but they didn’t really offer anything photogenic. So, I was left with simply “taking” photographs rather than “making” photographs. Even so, I am quite pleased with some of the images, even if a lot are cliché snapshots.
Venice was once the wealthiest city in the world and it is easy to see the history of this wealth in its buildings. The well-known buildings surrounding Piazza San Marco are virtually impossible to photograph during the day. Every day, the piazza hosts twenty-two million tourists, all with selfie sticks and iPhones. It’s actually quite amusing to watch while you relax into the realisation that you’re never going to get a nice photograph of the piazza. You may manage it if you get up at 4am. Once, while standing on the Ponte delle Tette, I watched a gondola pass beneath me with six tourists on board. I reckoned they were tourists because they were filming themselves on an iPhone with the assistance of a selfie stick. It struck me that there is something almost poetic about a gondola ride through the ancient canal ways of Venice while being filmed on a modern iPhone with a selfie stick. No doubt, the video would be later uploaded to Facebook from a Wi-Fi zone inside a restaurant or bar built during the Italian Renaissance.
Oh, by the way, Ponte delle Tette means Bridge of Tits! Sorry, but that’s what it means.
Conclusion about Venice.
I am in no doubt that Venice would be a delightful location for one of our photographic workshops. However, it does have a few problems: it’s mobbed; it’s expensive and it’s exhausting. The best way to see Venice, from a photographer’s perspective, is to walk around its many streets and bridges. Don’t get me wrong, a boat ride is pleasant and photographically useful at times, but for the main part, you need to walk. I ended up walking and walking and walking and had to sit down often in bars for some hydration. Once I get to know my way around, I’m sure to know the photographic spots as well as knowing how to get to them efficiently.
I’ll just have to return and scout it out further. Does anyone want to help me?