Venice: Its mystery & magic

By Fabiolla Loureiro –

Venice obviously has some magical powers. How else could it have charmed, fascinated and ensnared its visitors for centuries. Many cities have canals. Other cities have baroque architecture. Yet no-one fascinates as Venice does – and continues to do with visit numbers climbing every year. Black and White Photographer Fabiolla Loureiro went looking for that magic. And found it. Everywhere.

Venice has always been a city I feel the need to talk about. The truth is that the city speaks for itself. Yet as a photographer, everything for me has another dimension, another look, other feelings. I know many photographers out there that only worry about technical details, as if photography was only a scientific, mechanical thing. But, my question is: can someone be so skeptical about photography in a city like Venice? A city surrounded by historical facts, dreamscape, unique architecture? I don’t think so.

Drunk on Venice

I remember the first time I visited Venice. It wan an ethereal encounter, kind of a surreal thing: like sinking into a glass of the finest absinthe where you float, breath and imagine things that you know couldn’t be real. It was winter, the weather cold and damp, the city grey, the water emerald green, and the ancient metropolis was not so filled with tourists as it is today. It was a long time ago.

That visual memory stayed with me throughout the years and became a desire to capture it in pictures, as my photography skills developed. This led me last year to return to Venice and stay long enough to experiment with the city as a local, take long walks during day and late night, as a proper flâneur. No obligations, just to feel the city.

I always love the chance to travel to Italy, but when it comes to Venice, the love affair turns even more obsessive.

Unique and unforgettable

When we talk about Venice, we can truly say it is a unique city. There is no other alike. Of course there are other cities with similar details, monuments and canals. Similar, not equal. Never equal. And I can say, none is as unique as Venice, none has its charm, none is that unforgettable.

Built on a series of banks of low mud between the tidal Adriatic waters and regularly hit by floods, Venice survives against all odds.

When walking around the city, especially in its empty areas, there is a considerable, almost a palpable feeling as if I am part of the subject. A relationship (as I like to think) almost as an incessant mantra, with that need to repeat, to be part of it, to worship. Me and the city merge into a single relationship, a dialogue with myself, in full solitude, where my fleeting look and yearning eyes connect to the essence of Venice.

To be able to register a city like Venice in black and white is to be able to unfold yourself to all its beauty and problems alike. I am not here to show images that will depict the city in a tourist guide way. Rather, showing the culture mixed with the beauty of it. To show how Venice did – and still can – teach us to be better persons surrounded by its art, literature, icons, photography. Show how people still live here and confront the tourist crowds. Candid frames of the city.

In a Venice minute

To photograph Venice is not only standing idle, watching time goes by. It’s more. You have to be present there; mind, body and soul. You have to embrace the moment, the atmosphere, as if you were part of the city, of what it was, is and will be. You can’t have worries or dark clouds in your mind. You have to be open to it, so you will be able to capture the Venice moment as it is.

Oftentimes when I was walking through the city, I caught myself torn between the anxiety of getting too close to my subject and another force that drove me on to get even closer. As the city itself seduced me. We are all drawn by the unknown. And Venice still is unknown in many senses. Specially for people like me that was not born in the city.

The mystery

What secrets are held behind all those old walls below Ponte dei Sospiri? Inside Palazzo Ducale? Within Hotel Danieli? Or in the corridors of Biennale Gardens? The truth is we will never know. The mystery that will always surround Venice is part of the beauty and hypnotism of the city. And that is why every year, millions of people visit and go sightseeing. And despite all its problems with disastrous floods, tourism, globalisation etc., Venice still stands, against all odds, in its unique magical fascination. As Napoleon once described: “The finest drawing room in Europe”, meaning Piazza San Marco, it is quite easy to understand the fascination that has led visitors for centuries to come to Venice.

I think Anaïs Nin perfectly described what I meant about the mystery of Venice:

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”

Anaïs Nin

A presto!

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About Fabiolla Loureiro

Based in São Paulo in Brasil, Fabiolla Loureiro has been working as a photographer since 2010. In the beginning she mainly explored fashion and nude, but in the last few years she became obsessed with travel (over 30 countries), and found herself involved with this freedom and opportunity that this kind of photography allows.

With minimum use of Photoshop, we realize in her street photography the practice of natural light, rain, silhouettes, high contrasts and cold nights. The preference with black and white comes from her inspiration, such as Brassaï, Robert Capa, Robert Doisneau, Saul Leiter, Elliott Erwitt, Sabine Weiss, Willy Ronis.

Urban chaos and the period between wars are also a constant source of study and reference. In addition, Fabiolla is one of the permanent artists of Andreus Gallery in São Paulo and since 2017 participates in an architecture/design project with Casa Portoro. In this project, she has more than 40 photos in exhibition, different measures, that are part of a few ambiances in the house in collaboration with some of the biggest names of architecture in Brazil.

In the last 2 years she had exhibitions happening in London, Bologna, Madrid and Paris, and now in March again in Italy. Her first 3 individual exhibitions took place in 2016 in São Paulo. In January 2018, she was selected as one of the members of Contemporary Art Curator, an online contemporary art magazine, that covers visual arts, events and connects artists from all over the world, and also part of Art Productions New York, a network of representation for artists with prestigious standards and vision.

Last year she returned to write about her travel experiences for us and launched her own blog sharing her influences and point of view on photography. In all those years, Fabiolla studied only 3 months at Focus Photography in São Paulo, being an autodidact artist. Now in January 2019, she received the Excellence Award from the Circle Foundation for the Arts Foundation in Lyon.

Fabiolla has also contributed with other articles filled with her beautiful pictures: Paris – Portrait of a City, Budapest at a glance and yet another Italian love story: Why you should NOT skip Bologna.

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3 thoughts on “Venice: Its mystery & magic

  1. Your grainy badly exposed b/w photos are the worst possible choice to represent Venice and all its glorious colours

    • Hi Jokka
      We are sorry you feel that way. There are indeed many ways to show beautiful Venice and its glorious colours. But Venice has many sides to it, depending on the traveller, and Fabiolla just captured the Venice she felt on her visit. There are no right or wrong ways to depict a city as magical as Venice, and I for one think the b/w photos brilliantly shows the dark mystery of Venice.

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