The Look

Just around the corner from my hotel in Venice was a shop whose windows were full of cashmere sweaters.  Passing it as often as I did, it was inevitable that I’d succumb and go inside to buy one, but when I did I was surprised to find that instead of smart displays, the interior was full of clothes rails and resembled a dry cleaners more than a boutique!

The man running the show explained that he was a wholesaler rather than a retailer, and I was reminded of the League of Gentleman as he tried to explain himself in English.  A local shop?  For local people?

His enthusiasm got the better of him and he went on to show me every style of sweater available (several) in every colour (many), insisting that I tell him which colours I liked and didn’t.  I started to get the feeling he was looking a wholesale order.  As he did so there were a number of colours that would never make it to my wardrobe,  bright yellows, oranges and pinks.  I reminded him that I was English!  His response was that because I was from the north I would prefer more sombre colours; as a Northern Italian, he was wearing navy and grey, but those from the south of the country, or Spain and Portugal, they would love the brighter options.

Perhaps he was right, but back out on the streets a couple of things became apparent; Italians love black.  (I say Italians, but I have no idea of the nationality of most of those in the images below).  The black quilted jacket or coat was virtually everywhere this winter.

Many others still chose darker options

There’s an exception to every rule of course… Venezia-17


Fur was a very popular choice too, far more so than in the UK.  I don’t know if it was real or not, though I’m pretty sure that they last woman in this group wouldn’t have accepted anything man-made:

Incidentally the young man who begins that group was introduced to me as an up and coming footballer playing in Serie A.  They picked the wrong guy to try and impress and his name, which meant nothing to me was swiftly forgotten.  If you recognise him, let me know and I’ll caption his shot appropriately.

Only one question remained to be answered.  It was December and the light was subdued and flattened by the mist and fog.  Why then, do so many Italians still wear shades?


La faccia finale (Venezia 101)

The final face, for the time being.

On one of our rainy trips into the Piazza there were two women on our vaporetto who appeared to be going to a wedding; one may even have been the bride, but her companion garnered most attention because of her brightly coloured outfit.  Her black turban and trousers were matched by the tassels on her earrings and provided a dark background against which the bright yellow of her coat seemed to glow.

I spotted her again in on of the portico arches that surround the Piazza, and knowing this would give some fantastic light for a portrait raised my lens.  The movement gave me away, but she maintained the eye contact and gave me half a smile.  This is one of those images where processing as monochrome has lost some of the magic.  It’s a shame one of the earrings isn’t straight, otherwise this would be my Vogue shot!

Also, as I was writing this I came across this blog – coincidence?


Il Trovatore? (Venezia 55)

Many of those who read this blog are fellow photographers, travellers, budding writers, or refugees from some aspect of life.  (Hmmm.  What does that say about me?)

I was therefore very surprised to find a visit from amongst my notifications last week; my daughters would doubtless be very amused.

Anyway in a shameless piece of pandering I’ve shared this shot just for them.  The striped legwear made me think of a medieval troubadour, or perhaps a flag thrower from the Palio in Sienna.  For my visitor it’s probably all about the wedges!


Sensible shoes? (Venezia 17)

With streets paved in ancient and therefore uneven slabs, surfaces made slippery by tidal surges, miles of alleys to negotiate and the regular rise and fall of bridges to climb, most people you encounter in Venice adopt appropriate footwear.  Lightweight, comfortable, non slip, even waterproof are qualities to consider in your choice of shoe, which is why you see most people in trainers, sandals, plimsolls and the like.  This doesn’t just apply to tourists either, many of those who work in the city take a similar line, so that when you see someone wearing footwear that it a little different it stands out.  I photographed a man on a vaporetto wearing a very smart pair of Oxfords in LEAF GREEN.  Trouble is you lose the effect once you process in monochrome, so I might just have to overcome my aversion to spot colour with that one!

Anyway here is one of the first of a few footwear shots that will feature here, together with a bit of a confession.  The heels were such a rarity that I took the picture, but then realised that the wearer had strangely short legs.  One of those occasions where photoshop made its presence felt.



In my day job this week I have been training people about how communication can be affected by prejudice, that is to say once we have made an assumption about the content of a message we tend to focus more on finding evidence to confirm our assumption than keeping an open mind and listening to the full story (which may confirm or confound that assumption).

Of course that doesn’t make me any less guilty of pre-judging, but I think I probably recognise it in myself more immediately.

Sunday’s shoot was a case in point.  Of the five models present, I had shot two before.  Jemma, who featured in yesterday’s post was working the first time I visited “The world-famous Bananastudio” when erotic photographer John Tisbury was the guest running the workshop.  Shortly after that I returned, this time to learn from fashion photographer John Barone.  Both of the Johns had brought the same model to work with, the never-ending pose machine that is Iveta Niklova, but she was joined on each occasion by more local girls.

barone-10One of those working the Barone shoot was Jenny, and I have to say I was disappointed with the results I achieved shooting her that day.  Not through any fault on her part I’m sure.  She took direction well.  It’s just a shame that I don’t give direction well!

On Sunday I struggled again with Jenny, still not really sure how to get the best from her.  Part of the challenge of course was the white dress she was wearing in the extremely dirty environment, but something else was at play.  Subconsciously I was recreating the difficulties of the first shoot.

What made it worse was that because I had shot other models in the morning, there wasn’t really much time to work with Jenny, particularly as she had a train to catch mid-afternoon which added to the pressure.  I think I shot less than a dozen poses with her.  Very disciplined of me.  I knew I had nailed on shot, but didn’t expect much more.

My preconceptions were shattered then when I came to process the results.  Shame we didn’t have more time.

Up in the attic, in the Boho zone…*

* with apologies to Joni Mitchell (The Boho Dance)


Down in the cellar, in the boho zone,

I went looking for some sweet inspiration…

It’s Newcastle Fashion week.  What began as a graduation show for students at the University of Northumbria has expanded in recent years to become a week-long series of events including catwalk shows at a variety of venues, industry expert speakers, and VIP events.

At the city’s “World Famous” Bananastudio, Eric Murphy and his team have been heavily involved, both from a photography perspective, shooting promotional materials and covering events, and through their associate business Boho, providing models for the events.

Despite the pressures of keeping on top of what must be one of their busiest weeks of the year, they still managed to host the Creative Talent Circle last night, a fortnightly opportunity to network with photographers, models and make up artists.  Eric and co are always very welcoming to novice and pro alike (though the pro’s tend to get more abuse!). With three models each shooting in two outfits, there is plenty of opportunity to get good imagery, and though the evening was about fashion and therefore geared to full length shots, I couldn’t resist shooting some tighter images.  Today then I’ll share some of those instead of my customary street shot.

The three models working last night were Abbey Bryce, Laura Richardson and a débutante called Lauren who had just signed with the agency.  She worked hard and produced some good poses.  Laura has an individual look that makes more close up work a must, and Abbey, a trained dancer, appeared to be the most at home in the fashion genre as well as possessing the ability to defy gravity!

Here is a slide show of some of my shots from last night, together with a larger portrait of Laura.

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