The travel classifieds at Journeywoman.com continue to tempt
and tease me. I sit at my computer and dream about all the
great experiences being offered and wonder how to make time
for some of these wonderful goodies. This Fall I finally did
it; following my heart to Italy I took part in Il
Chiostro's week-long photography workshop in Venice. What
an absolute treat!
train from Florence pulled into the Santa Lucia Station
located smack dab in the center of town. As I stepped
out into the sunshine my first glimpse of Venice exceeded
everything I had expected. Here, playing itself out
in front of me was an absolutely magical water ballet.
As far as the eye could see were boats of every size
and description, crisscrossing the canals, transporting
people and products in every possible direction. There
were no traffic lights, no screeching of tires nor
the ugly din of car horns. And, what all my guidebooks
had said about Venice was true -- the light here is
more beautiful than in any other place in the world.
What an incredible environment to practice my photography!
convent in a wonderful Italian neighbourhood...
Mironti and Michael Mele, the amiable directors of
Il Chiostro had prepared pupils with concise written
directions on how to get to the school's accommodation.
Though a novice to Venice I had little trouble finding
the Linea 82 vaporetto (water bus) and hopped aboard,
ticket in hand, ready to count off the four stops
that would mean I had arrived at the correct spot.
True to prior instructions Michael was waiting for
students as they got off the boat and led us on a
five-minute walk to our academic home for the next
week. The Convent Ciliota is a newly refurbished and
charming convent-cum-small-hotel located in a likable
little neighbourhood circling Campo Santo Stefano.
I won't easily forget the cafés in that square,
especially the corner shop that served the creamy
gelato -- my favorite blend of limone e cioccolato.
Or the internet café that served Italian red
wine "to go" in clear plastic cups.
was our classroom...
held in a deconsecrated chapel of the convent and
that's where I met my teacher, Pam Parlapiano, an
Italian New Yorker. I'll always remember her as "she
of bright red lipstick and a heart of gold".
My eleven classmates were there as well -- a most
interesting mix of genders, cultures, ages and picture-taking
ability. I needn't have worried about my lack of photography
expertise -- there were others at my basic level and
we, beginners, were offered enormous support by the
more experienced workshop participants.
day we all spent an informal hour of instruction with
Pam. Her classes were far less about "f-stops"
and shutter speeds and much more about capturing an
emotion and telling a story with each slide. Over
and over I heard her say, "If you have to explain
what's happening in your image, then you haven't done
your job properly." Pam had a wonderful way of
nurturing your creativity at the same time as never
accepting second best.
chose our subjects...
workshop participant was required to choose a focus
for the week and after our hour of instruction we
fanned out on our own to capture Venetian images that
fit our particular motif. Themes ranged from 'Good
Morning Venice' to 'Elderly Italian Couples' to 'Divas
of Venice.' Each evening our film was developed for
us and each morning it was critiqued. Our goal was
to produce, in that week , 24 'best' shots to present
in a class slide show. If we needed individual hands-on
help from our instructor, Pam made appointments to
meet us outside in the square and showed us how a
particular photo could be taken.
travel and learn experience...
learned that the word "ghetto" originated in Venice,
I decided to make this Italian Jewish ghetto and
the people living within it's boundaries my theme.
Perhaps I could learn more about this historic
place through the eye of my camera. That choice
meant five separate days of 40 minute rides on
the vaporetto to reach my destination, then much
time negotiating the security that exists in this
section of the city. At first I was met with great
suspicion. Why was I taking all those photos of
the buildings? Why was I hanging around in the
square? No, I couldn't take pictures in the synagogue!