Dream of Venice in Black and White

Lisa Katsiaris: Il Redentore

All images in this article: Courtesy by JoAnn Locktov / Bella Figura Publications

What happens when a Venetian sees this city, so resplendent in the colors of the rainbow, wearing black and white? What a contrast to the Venice we know and whose colors we vividly recall from our children’s books. Venice, the mermaid blue, emerald-green, Istrian white city. During a thunderstorm in spring, colors are most impressive, when a circle of indigo black and seashell turquoise is surrounding Murano. This is the Venice we have come to expect …

The color-sensitive Venetian blinks and keeps turning the pages of JoAnn Locktov’s third book, Dream of Venice in Black and White, while Venice is losing her corners and limpid reflections, and gaining more in depth.

These black-and-white images JoAnn received from photographers from all over the world, portray Venice in all facets. Silent, joyous, secretive, veiled, expressive, happy, wistful and sad. Sometimes, the city looks even placid, but never does she look tame.

Wearing black and white, Venice is regaling us insights into times long past. This book leads you to imagine what Venice looked like in the 12th century, when the Doge’s Palace was feeling more like the landmark site it is, a medieval castle turned Mediterranean. Or, what the façade of the Basilica was like in the late 10th century, raw and still made from red brick stones, with no mosaics.

Turning the pages of this book, you get involved in an enticing kaleidoscope, a multifaceted Venice, which may escape even a Venetian born and raised in the city. Images in black and white are a contrast for the color-obsessed amongst us, which also shows when we post an image on Instagram. I know Venetians who can never ever decide which filter to use, ending up using none at all. No need for artificial filters emphasizing the light in Venice, whose constant reflections of sea and sun teach us so much on moods and seasons.

Now, don’t expect a book on Venice as city made from Istrian stones and secret gardens: Be prepared, Dream of Venice in Black and White will draw you in, taking you on an unusual journey, back and forth in time.

While the first two books of the Dream of Venice family contain views of Venice and insightful texts on architecture, the latest book also shows people, in a way that you cannot distinguish between Venetians and tourists. It’s what happens when you make Venice your home. A temporary home in the case of visitors, which Tiziano Scarpa, the Venetian writer, describes in the book’s introductory chapter.

If you ever wondered if Venice is a living city, here you can see valid proof and snippets of daily life. For example, the familiar image of people crossing the Piazza on passerelle during high water in winter. You can watch people buy fish at the market, return home from shopping, dance amongst the arcades, or walk into the sunset, crossing Ponte de l’ Lovo bridge, into the direction of one of the oldest, and overlooked, cafes in Venice.

Filippo Salvalaggio: Abbey Road

We need to hone our eyes to find our way around this unfamiliar Venice. When I last returned home for the weekend, I found myself looking around a corner, imagining what this particular haunt of my childhood must look like in black and white. Venice seen from this perspective gives new insights, bridging the past and present in your mind.

Sometimes we need to be counter-intuitive to make a statement. Venice is revered for her luminous palette. But when you remove the distraction of color, we feel her moods, we experience her history, and we take a step behind the theatre curtain to explore the living city. Black and white also has the capacity to transcend time, which reflects the perennial beauty of Venice.  JoAnn Locktov

So, accept the invitation to make out the stories behind the images, puzzles of fluid life in town. Venice, the great constant, that we all hope she will be. In fact, as Venetians, we are all convinced that she will be survive. Venice is the only constant on earth we trust. Everything else failing, we turn to Venice to gain quick answers, deep insights and energizing strength.

Now, these are feelings we seldom share with pur visitors, but Dream of Venice in Black and White puts them on the stage, so real and personified.

Geert-Jan de Bont: Elegant Venice

JoAnn Locktov succeeded in assembling the pieces of Venetian heritage, capturing by means of artistic images what Venice would like to tell the world, and her visitors, in this carefully selected collection of snippets of moments in life.

Venice consists of many voices and faces. But there are common traits, and there’s a lot of wisdom behind the scenes. The heritage of Venice, if you will. Venice became big because she was constructed on three pre-conditions that long-living cities and nations share: Values. Respect. Elegance, sprinkled with humor.

What struck me is how this book intuitively reveals a knowledge lost 100 years ago: The knowledge how to recover secretly, behind the scenes when hurt, and then, only then, rise and speak up. While Venice is portrayed as a city severely impacted by overtourism, her inner core is still alive. This is our heritage, our core values, which one can access behind and beyond the facades in town.

Heritage, knowing your roots, is a source of energy supporting Venetians in our times just as it did help those in the past: During the last fifty years of her existence as Republic, Venice was fighting serious issues. In danger of being side-lined when other merchant explorer nations entered the stage, infringing upon solid Venetian commercial territories, Venice, the pioneer, was gathering strengths in secret.

Outwardly, Venetians turned to Carnival, drawing in tourists, much like it happens today. Carnival employed as a means to disguise, soften and channel inner turmoil. Economic research on the state of the Republic of Venice, to which I had access while writing my thesis, shows that revenues from the spice business reached a 200-year peak in 1792, five years before the Republic ceased to exist. Life continued and hardship ensued. Yet, Venetians devised solutions to continue life in their city, withdrawn and in secret. So yes, there are many forgotten moments of our collective Venetian history, not visible to the visitor today.

After political turmoil in Europe during the Napoleonic Age had brought the longest-lived Republic on Earth to fall, the myth of Venice rose. Today, it brings thousands of tourists every day. Playing host is getting ever more difficult, and responsibilities towards the city are becoming blurred. How do the secret strengths of Venice manifest themselves in our times, and how can we benefit?

Maurizio Rossi: Lavoro in estinzione

In the past, Venice was three square miles of sustained determination with a singular focus on the common good. The shared values of the inhabitants created a legacy of courage, ingenuity, and dignity. JoAnn Locktov 

In history, Venetians had enough determination and courage to embrace change: The first thing every Venetian learns is that life cannot be taken for granted. Life in a Lagoon is forever liquid, we must arrange ourselves on unstable ground, but we do have a structure. Living in the Lagoon constantly reminds us of your roots, and a forgotten history, when Venice was playing a very different part in the world than just being a tourist magnet. Perhaps this is one reason so many people flock to Venice. And yes, there’s a special mix of timeless values that Venice has developed during more than 1,900 years of her existence.

Harnessing the Strengths of Raw Life in the Lagoon.

Life in the Lagoon teaches you to keep your eyes open. Amenities aren’t taken for granted, they are nurtured continuously. Venice as city exists despite, and thanks to, the forces of nature, channeled for hundreds of years of focused work.

Enjoy Kindness. Inclusiveness. Beauty in Moments of Everyday Life. 

Dream of Venice in Black and White shows how people live and move around Venice consciously. While Venetians used to work hard to shape their city, there have never been sharp boundaries between work and private life. So in Venice, there is time for a little break, and gather strength from small surprises you meet on the road.

Benito Jiménez-Sauma

Light at the End of the Tunnel. 

As a child I was asking myself, can we locate the source of this secret strength somewhere in Venice? My grandparents did have an answer to this question. For many Venetians, it’s the wide Campo della Salute, in front of the Basilica. This is where Venetians go, you can see it below in a luminous image which in my opinion, fully captures the secret strengths of Venice. (Hint for photographers: Only from here can you view both the Campanile and Doge’s Palace with gondolas in the foreground).

Dream of Venice in Black and White Book Give-Away !
This careful selection of images from photographers all over the world, captures the heritage of Venice, opening up an exciting journey for all of us. We are so happy that we may share one free copy of this book with you! Until 16 October 2018, we are hosting a give-away, which you can enter by signing up below, for your chance to win a copy of this extraordinary book. We will notify the winner via email on 17 October 2018.

Sorry, this give-away has expired! You can sign up for future give-aways from La Venessiana (gifts from Venetian artisans, writers, publishers, and more) here.

Mariano Bastianello: After the Rain

Disclosure: We would like to thank JoAnn Locktov for sending us a copy of her book for review, and for sharing images from her book with us.

Dream of Venice in Black and White, with English – Italian texts, is available on Amazon. Do take a look at the website of Bella Figura Publications, where you can see many more reviews and excerpts of all the Books of the Dream of Venice Family. In Venice, you can buy the book at the bookstores Libreria Studium (San Marco), Libreria Cluva (Santa Croce) and Libreria Toletta (Dorsoduro).


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