Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, 2002

1 Salute

Exposure: c. 55s

This is the only photograph from Let Us Burn the Gondolas in which gondolas actually appear, and almost the only one in which the principal subject is an identifiable landmark: in this case, the church of Santa Maria della Salute, built to commemorate the end of a seventeenth-century plague epidemic. (The fog here therefore has a suggestion of miasma, to those with a sufficiently active historical imagination.)

The Salute is a ubiquitous presence in photographs of Venice, although it is almost invariably shot from one of two vantage points: the bridge in front of the Accademia gallery or the long waterfront promenade of the Riva degli Schiavoni. This image was taken from lower down and closer in, with the camera positioned on a wooden dock near the vaporetto stop at Santa Maria del Giglio, a location I visited in search of a quite different image: no. 16 in the main sequence, which was taken on the same night and from almost exactly the same camera position, but with the lens pointing in the opposite direction.

One might justify the inclusion of this image in the sequence in purely formal terms. The diffusion caused by fog in the upper, brighter half of the image (atmospheric interference, to do with light) is perfectly matched by the diffusion caused by the movement of the water in the lower, darker half (interference to do with time), whilst the reciprocal relation between these two elements is symbolized by the way that the mooring posts in the water are back-lit by the reflected light from the streetlamps.

But the real point of this image is that it fulfils every preconception of what a photograph of Venice is supposed to look like. It is a norm, from which every other image in the sequence deviates in one way or another. It is an easily recognizable point of departure for an itinerary that becomes increasingly unfamiliar as it proceeds, before it circles back again to its point of origin.

After all, cliché is an authentic aspect of the modern Venetian experience.

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