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Venice -- Her Photography Workshop


Evelyn Hannon

The travel classifieds at 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!


Water, water everywhere...

The 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!

A convent in a wonderful Italian neighbourhood...

Linda 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.

Venice was our classroom...

Instruction was 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.

Each 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.

We chose our subjects...

Each 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.

A travel and learn experience...

Having 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!






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