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Posts Tagged ‘venice’

The last few weeks I have been travelling a bit around urban environments.

First, it was Paris. I was attending Paris Photo 2013, one of the biggest fairs of photographic art in the world.

With more than 55,239 entrances this year,136 galleries and 28 booksellers and publishers participated to the 17th edition of the fair. Paris Photo draws every year an audience of collectors, exhibit curators, institutions, and photographers from more than 40 countries.

During the many hours I spent there, I saw wonderful photographs and books, absorbing deeply inspiring work and had the chance of meeting some really interesting people, gallery owners and book publishers. I was also struck by the general interest photography is raising among the general public. The place was really filled with people from all over the world.

That being said, and if I am honest with you, I got a bit saddened by the strong presence of fashions and trends in the art market. Here and there, many different photographic artwork was displayed showing the very same kinds of subject matter, style and mood, as if a certain number of templates had overrun the mind of many different artists at once. Huge prints, pastel colours, long exposures, great expanses with minimalistic human presence was one of those templates. Even bigger prints, interiors of derelict constructions full of detail in great colours was another one. Shocking images showing nudes with lack of taste another… etc. In a certain way, it seemed as if many photographers had received a bunch of similar phone calls…

If art is the expression of personal vision and how a certain individual relates to the world, how is it possible that so many individuals start showing the very same kind of expression, all at once? Too much a coincidence. Maybe in the art world sometimes things start the other way around. The market asks for something, then the artist photographers provide it. In any case, I will never understand that procedure. For me, photography opens the door to a personal voyage, a catalyzer to a deeper connection, understanding and respect for those universal questions that haunt and lure us. Personal style evolves slowly, and reflects who we are and how we grow. If that mixes well with the current trend or fashion, great. If not, why care?. In fact, photographing what the trend dictates is the best solution for never be doing something original, always trying to catch the wave crest but never being able to reach it on time. Maybe I am just an ignorant, but if I were a photography collector, I would always try to buy what is not in fashion. That might be a good start point to get closer to “truer” artists, who produce what the gut and soul dictate, not what the market wants.

Do not take me wrong though. I had a wonderful time at Paris Photo, and the positive really surpassed the negative. I will go again next year, and who knows, maybe represented or published?… and well, even if that is not the case, there will always be a good dish of “Canard confit” waiting for me in Paris.

The second urban incursion was in Venice. During 5 days, we held our annual Photo-Immersion trip “Timeless Venice”. We had the chance of having with us a group of 6 fantastic photographers. Day and night we walked along the streets of Venice, soaking up its mystery, magic and timeless character. We had the chance of photographing not only the more iconic places, but also many other quite out of the beaten track. Day, night, sunrise, sunset, dawn, sunny, rainy, dry, aqua alta… we had the chance of experiencing very different weather and light conditions. All participants had a blast, and as I could see during the critique sessions we had at the hotel, all of them brought fantastic images. From here, I thank them all for their enthusiasm, friendship and great laughs!

I have no photos to illustrate this trip. I was so busy helping the participants that I decided to leave the camera at the hotel during the whole stay. Here I am posting a photograph from last year… not published yet on the website. Hasselblad 500CM camera and a good piece of Tmax 100 black and white film.

I will be visiting the floating city still a few times this winter for my ongoing project “Timeless”. Then, during the month of December 2014 we will hold again the photo-immersion trip “Timeless Venice 2014”. If you are interested, we have already published the information and the trip is open for registrations on our website, here.

NOTE: This is our secondary blog. Our main blog can be found on www.rafaelrojasphoto.com/blog

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Almost a year has passed since I visited Venice with my old trusty Hasselblad camera. Months later and after hours of developing, scanning and post-processing, my new on-going portfolio “Timeless” has been added to our online gallery. You can see the photographs here.

I still remember the first time I visited the floating city almost two decades ago. At that time, nothing could have prepared me for the surrealistic view of a city rising from the water. No matter how many photographs I had seen from Venice before, there I was frozen with a mixture of surprise and awe.

My photographic interest in this city might come as a surprise to some. For some reason, I have always preferred getting lost in a forest rather than wandering around a city… But 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… and dying. 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 after photographs which would capture ethereal views of an empty city which seems to float in time and space. Photographs where I could show the solitude and the silence of a place where human presence is never shown, but hinted, where extraordinary elements juxtapose with the banal and anonymous subjects found in the labyrinth of alleys and squares stand proud against the indifference of the world. As Minor White would have said, I was not seeking to photograph Venice for what it is, but for what else it is: a theatre stage of squares, canals and alleys where the very duality of human existence is performed. Dream versus reality, permanence versus decay, memory versus oblivion.

I knew from the beginning that I would use black and white film for this project. The quality and look of negative b&w film would help me convey that timeless character of Venice. Therefore, its wide latitude and non linear curve would allow me to photograph at ease during the night, in the high contrast of the dark canals lit by the lamps. I would also make the most of the reciprocity failure of film to photograph with very long exposures, erasing all moving elements, simplifying the compositions and giving the images a certain dreamlike and surrealistic look, as if the city were empty of inhabitants.

I have always loved the graphical strength of the square format, and this project became the perfect opportunity to use my Hasselblad system. No batteries, no LCD screens, no distractions. I got lost in the maze of canals, squares and hidden alleys and I quickly forgot I was using a camera. The goal was to focus on the emotional connection with the place and the moment. I opened my eyes and soul to the floating city, and the photographs came.

I will visit again Venice next November, but this time to lead a group of fellow photographers for our Photo-Immersion trip “Timeless Venice 2013. If you want to come with us you still have the chance. At this moment, there is one place left.

NOTE: This is our secondary blog. Our main blog can be found on www.rafaelrojasphoto.com/blog

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