So here we have the usual cliché shot of gondolas with St Mark’s basin beyond and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. What makes this version different, apart from the lack of blue from the tarpaulins of the boats, is that I made San Giorgio the focal point and allowed the rest to look after itself. The rain had already begun, and the thunderstorm was looming, meaning there was little light to shoot a sharp image. I did have a tripod allowing me to compensate by shooting a long exposure, which of course meant that the wind and sea pitched the boats into blurred patterns.
In doing so I think it captures more of the mood of the moment before the storm hit.
The view across St Mark’s Basin to San Giorgio Maggiore is one of this postcard cliché shots which demands a row of blue-tarped gondole vying for your attention in the foreground. I’ve succumbed to the temptation myself.
‘Dear Prime Minister, dear Minister,
‘Having prevailed against flood, pestilence, and war for more than thirteen centuries, Venice, the Queen of the Adriatic, and unparalleled UNESCO Word Heritage site, now, in a moment of relative tranquility, finds herself mortally threatened by the daily transit of gargantuan ocean liners, indifferent to the probable risk of catastrophe.
‘Since the flood of 1966, Italy and countless Italian and international supporters have contributed to the defense of the world’s most fragile city, eternally subject to destruction.
‘The absolute lack of respect presented by the outlandish spectacle of the ongoing obstruction and potentially destruction, of one of humanity’s pre-eminent monuments is not only dumbfounding but both morally and culturally unacceptable.
‘We urgently request an immediate and irrevocable halt to the traffic of the Big Ships in front of San Marco and along the Giudecca Canal putting an end to this senseless devastation.’
Thus read a petition signed by a group of celebrities including Cate Blanchett, Michael Caine and Michael Douglas that was submitted to the Italian government during the same summer that I shot the Serenade of the Seas preparing to negotiate the Giudecca channel.
The shot across the channel to Giudecca is a classic; it has content that gives the image depth (Giudecca in the background, the lagoon and any vessels upon it in the mid ground, and a few gondole with their mooring posts in the foreground. The picture is usually enhanced by the deep blue of the tarpaulins that cover the moored boats, but you’ll have to take my word for that.
I’ve had a number of different attempts at this image which you’ll see if you stick with me over the 365 days, using long exposures, different focal lengths, shooting in different lighting conditions, or as in this case, using the incoming tide for a little additional framing. I like them all, so maybe it’s just the horizon that appeals!
I know, I know. I’ve used spot colour, a technique that I usually despise but first let me explain myself.
This is Giudecca, a long strip of land separated from the other central Venetian islands by the Giudecca Canal, but unlike Lido, close enough to form part of one of the six distinct districts (sestiere) of the city; in this case the Dorsoduro district. Its name is thought to be a corruption of Judaic, and indeed in southern Italy a number of towns have Jewish enclaves that bear this name, so you might expect a historic reason behind the adoption of the word, especially as the island was originally called Spinalunga. The trouble is that there is no record of a Jewish connection, and indeed the Jewish area of Venice is well-known to have been in Cannaregio, for the small island where the Jews were segregated for centuries is where the word Ghetto originates.
But back to Giudecca. The coloured elements are a temporary artwork entitled The Sky Over Nine Columns which appropriately in this city is covered in gold mosaic, and the official site explaining the background features a spot coloured image of them, so I felt it Ok to follow suit.