Hortus Conclusus. The Humane City. Midnight Blue, a color with a special meaning here in Venice!…
All images in this article: JoAnn Locktov / Bella Figura Publications
What happens when a Venetian sees images of her city in black and white? WITHOUT those colors of the rainbow, mesmerizing all year long (with the exception of two weeks in December, when Venice looks really drab). Our Venice is sparkling mermaid blue, emerald-green, Istrian white and crimson red. I’ve seen how during a thunderstorm in April, circles of indigo black and seashell turquoise water surround the island Murano. This combination of colors you’d expect to see in the Indian ocean impressed me most so far.. Yes, we are so lucky to live in such a place, and we take colors for granted.
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 reflections but gaining so much more in depth. And in history and imagination.
For her third book on Venice, JoAnn Locktov asked photographers from all over the world to share their favorite images. This collection is truly impressive: Silent, joyous, secretive, veiled, expressive, happy, wistful and sometimes sad. It’s like Venice has gone on a retreat overthinking ways to survive and flourish again. This is a city with a strong will to live!
Dream of Venice in Black and White shows Venice, the timeless city: Without the colors, the gap in time is bridged effortlessly, and you’re suddenly part of the Venice of the 12th century. When the Doge’s Palace wasn’t yet the landmark building that it is now, but rather looked like a medieval castle of Mediterranean origin. And when the facade of the first Basilica di San Marco, built in the 10th century, was still raw, made from brickstones and not clad in precious mosaics.
This kaleidoscope draws you deeper in the Venice of the past, a unique experience even for us Venetians who should know their neighborhood by heart, so to say. Because this book really takes us back to the times we want to explore, searching for the traces of our heritage.
Dream of Venice in Black and White holds a second surprise: All of a sudden, we are back in our times. This is not a book on a city all Istrian stones, it bridges the gap between the Venice of the past and the present.
To our times of easy travel and fast-paced lives, Venice has adapted. By now, she’s not just the home of Venetian families, whose ancestors have been living here for centuries, but a temporary one as well, to an ever growing number of travelers, as Tiziano Scarpa, a Venetian writer and novelist, puts it in the introductory chapter of the book.
See what living in a historical city is like in our times: People crossing the Piazza on passerelle during high water in winter. People buying fish at the Rialto market, returning home from shopping, dancing amongst the arcades, or walking into the sunset across Ponte de l’ Lovo bridge, into the direction of one of the oldest, and overlooked, cafes in Venice.
When I last returned home for the weekend, I tried to imagine which secret my neighborhood would unveil in black and white:
Without the distraction of color, we feel her mood, experience times long past, and we take a step back and reflect. Black and white also has the capacity to transcend time, which reflects the perennial beauty of Venice. JoAnn Locktov
Dream of Venice in Black and White encourages you to reflect and be creative, conjuring up stories behind the images. It’s like learning to put together the pieces of a city that will celebrate her 1600th birthday in 2021: Venice, the capital of the longest-lived nation state of the world: Res Publica Venetiae, La Serenisima. Between 421 and 1797, this city and Republic had been the great constant on the European map, and her fall left behind a gap and trauma, and most probably unresolved issues on the political stage. For Venice had been a great communicator and diplomat nation where people turned to during difficult times. Unique character traits, overwhelming and comforting at the same time.
JoAnn Locktov succeeded in assembling some pieces of Venetian heritage, capturing the hidden message that Venice would like to share with the world and her visitors.
Dream of Venice in Black and White unveals knowledge lost more than a century ago: The secret of recovering and regaining one’s strength after falling. Not just once was Venice hurt but she took the time to heal behind the scenes and only then, rise and speak up. This is why the core of Venice, despite being severely impacted by overtourism, is still alive. There’s this pride and strength deriving from our long history which will be key for the city to survive and find her place in the world again.
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 sidelined when other merchant nations entered the stage. Venice the old city state, while outwardly launching Carnival, was waiting out the storm behind the scenes.
Outwardly, Venetians were setting the stage for Carnival, which lasted six months per year and was attracting travelers much as it happens today. And they succeeded: Revenues from the spice business reached a 200-year peak in 1792, and clients switched back to their Venetian suppliers.
In Venice, the past and the present become blurred. As you can see in the image below, the Lagoon is an arcaic landscape, and the techniques to keep it alive haven’t changed. It’s this fact that connects us to our roots and history, every single day.
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 on their own terms: Venice developed a special mix of timeless values, lifestyle and ways of coping, and Dream of Venice in Black and White is revealing them:
The Lagoon is our lifeline and not just a backyard and backdrop.
The present and the future must be nurtured continuously. Venice as city exists despite, and thanks to, the forces of nature, channeled for hundreds of years of focused work.
Inclusiveness and beauty in everyday life
Dream of Venice in Black and White shows how people enjoy living in Venice. There’s time for a little break and joy from small surprises on the road.
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 strength of Venice. (Hint for photographers: Only from here can you view both the Campanile and Doge’s Palace with gondolas in the foreground).
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).14