This autumn, my fine art black and white monograph “Timeless” will be published. Over the following months leading up to the launch, I will share with you different aspects about the creation of a book, which is something most of us photographers dream of doing sooner or later. From the original motivation of the project to the final book launch, I will cover aspects like the photographic approach, the techniques used to capture the images and post-process them, the book conception, the selection of the images, the design, the choice of materials, the editing, the printing, the publication…
This project started a few years ago. I had always felt a very special connection with the city of Venice. In fact, who does not? For many years I visited it as another tourist, and I guess it was written that sooner or later I had to go back as an artist photographer. At the beginning, I took photographs without a clear objective in mind. The first thing I did when I returned and saw my first images, taken in a certain state of sub-consciousness, was to think about what for me was the real subject of my project? Why had I created those first images? Why was I really attracted to Venice? What would be the motivation of this project if I was to continue further with it? Doing this exercise helped me focus not on the ‘what’ I was photographing, but on the ‘why’ I was doing it. The answers to these questions would become the backbone of the whole project, defining my personal vision of the place and the way to photographically approach it.
I soon realized that my attraction to Venice had nothing to do with its character as a beautiful city, its unconventional setting, or its historic value. Time was the real subject, and Venice was just the visual metaphor. This realization did not shock me. For some reason, I have always been obsessed with the concept of time. “Tempus fugit”, “memento mori”. Time passes for us all and for everything, and before we can really call the moment “present”, it has already become past. For me, Venice is a surreal stage where time and space show a very special duality.
So I decided to make it a whole photographic project and devote myself to embarking on a long term exploration, filled with the curiosity of someone that wonders what lies ahead. I sat down and wrote an artist statement that would guide me through the project, and this was what I produced:
“Venice is not just a city; it is also a visual metaphor about the dual qualities of time and space. On one hand, there is a timeless character which seems to reign over the entire place. Due to the lack of references and its uniqueness, Venice seems to be an architectural mirage that defies the conventions of reality and seems to have been there since the origins of this world. Wandering around its canals and squares, it is difficult to imagine that it was all built by man, where once natural islands nestled in the middle of the sea lagoon. On the other hand though, Venice is the perfect metaphor for the passing of time, of change, of decay, of the ephemeral existence of a banal world anchored to reality. Rubbing shoulders with amazing palazzos and glinting cathedrals, a myriad of deliciously derelict buildings show the scars of time in their peeling facades full of character. Like a living organism, the whole city is aging… Silently, the floating city might sink in the future as the level of the sea rises.”
I wanted to photograph this double nature of Venice. I was seeking photographs that would capture ethereal views of an empty city which seems to float in time and space. As Minor White would have said, I was not seeking to photograph Venice for what it is, but for what else it is; a theatrical stage of squares, canals and alleys where the very duality of human existence is performed. Dream versus reality, permanence versus decay, memory versus oblivion.
As time went on and I realized what I was producing, the idea of creating a beautiful black and white book was planted in my mind. A seed that will hopefully germinate in a few months.
In next month’s post, I will discuss the photographic approach followed while creating the images that will be in the book.