Venice, The Floating City
I have encountered my best moments in this world during my wanderings through sumptuous sites and breathing in the extraordinary extravagances of a cocktail of cultures. I had heard and read a lot about Venice and even I found myself thrilling at the thought of visiting the floating city, perhaps because of its romantic atmosphere, unique culture and fine architecture. While documentaries, photos and articles show the very best things to savour in the city, from wine to tapas, to local cicchetti dishes, to the historic landmarks, particularly, my visit to Venice was triggered by the desire to capture the intriguing largely forgotten stories of Italy through the lens. As my camera clicked away to record shots of the sinking city, I noticed that Venice is so picturesque such that it looks like a move set. Inevitably, it was a point for me as a Venice lover to look beyond the alluring sight of the glittering city and over to the cluster of islands across the lagoon that was once known as homes of thriving communities.
I began to explore the city on St. Mark’s square and the cathedral courtyard, the lowest points of the city. At some point, I took a gondola in order to get around quickly. A gondola ride will do for those who wish to have a romantic ride, although they are restricted to more scenic purposes rather than transporting people from one point to another. I preferred walking for the most part of my trip because my attempt to ride on the gondola was thwarted by the feeling of uneasiness caused by the presence of loving couples all over!
When turning down the streets and embankments that appealed to me, I came upon many surprises of a world hastening towards ruin. The sight left me pondering about the apocalyptic scenarios that have been left behind after the city has battled the water since it was founded 1, 600 years ago. As I perused through a local newspaper, I came across an article about the city working on a project to prevent the floods that threaten to erode its sense of place and that experts are uncertain about the possibility of restoring the city’s diminishing glory. I gathered from the person standing next to me that the daily visitors to the city outstrip the population living there and that beleaguered residents are backing the idea to control the flow of tourists. At this point, I could not keep my mind from thinking “can a city have it all? – is it possible for it to be both a nice place to live and a tourist attraction?” Well, maybe I should have posed this question to the water that slithered through the manhole covers, first bubbling slowly, then more steadily. I even attempted, for my own satisfaction, to understand “this man-made disaster” but no explanation appeared adequate. Those with sensitive noses claim the water stinks; for some, it smells of the sea.
The first thing I noticed upon my arrival in Venice is the absence of anything with wheels (cars, scooters, bikes, buses and trains although I spotted a number of odd goods trolleys and wheelbarrows). Exploring the city without any wheels made it a particularly pleasant experience. Although the absence of cars makes this pedestrian city easily traversable, standing and walking all day can also be very exhausting. During my wanderings, I enjoyed walking through the Rialtine islands, which are small enough for one to walk from one end to another in about an hour although with special attention to all the tiny walkways and canals to avoid getting lost.
As I made my way through the marble archways, mould-filled staircases and vaulted passages that led nowhere, it became clear to me that Venice is not an easy city to explore. I got lost several times and the wrong directions I was given by the local people made it worse for me keeping in mind that I am deaf and cannot understand their lingos! I found myself in the middle of the crowd, being pushed here and there, and experiencing difficulty getting my photography right. Crowds can sometimes be beastly, but I could not allow that to deny me the peace of mind I needed to enjoy my trip. And yes, Venice, the once magnificent and powerful mercantile sea power is sinking, literally beneath the rising sea levels as well as figuratively under the massive weight of the endless number of tourists. However, this beguiling city has managed to rise beyond these obstacles to continue thriving as the pre-eminent location in Italy for contemporary art. A walk along the Grand Canal gives one a panoramic view of high-end hotels that have sprung up while the back alleys are now filled with a string of new night spots and restaurants. So, these impressive features made it possible for me to leave the famous sights to the crowds and to shift my focus to the less overt splendours of this watery wonderland. However, well-travelled spots including Murano, which is widely known for glassmaking and Burano, whose residents are famous for lace-making, provided remarkable scenery for my photography because of the colourful houses and warm-heartedness of the people!
The savoury food was excellent, but I did not come across different delicacies as I traversed the city, it was all the same spaghetti Bolognese meatballs etc.! Dining out in Venice is very expensive, and to think that I had almost believed that Monte Carlo was the most expensive destination I have been!
The time in the big city felt like years, and I spent much of my time wandering aimlessly, with my analogue gadgets in hand ready to record every interesting thing I set my eyes on. Using my analogue cameras was not a pleasant experience because I was being pushed by people and it took some time before I could capture good shots. Perhaps I should bring my digital camera next time to avoid wasting my film rolls!
Contax645 & Leica M6
Kodak BWCN 400, Portra 160, 400 & 800
Fuji 400H, Kodak Gold 200
Tri-X, XR2 & 125PX