Henry James despaired of saying anything new about Venice, but a score of excellent books have been published over the past century, exploring the history, art, and architecture of the city, and lamenting its transformation into a tourist theme park. The daily assault of giant cruise ships and and an army of day trippers has driven out most of the residents, and is steadily eroding the physical fabric. And yet, Venice remains a uniquely beautiful spectacle.
JoAnn Loctov is an American who lives part of the year in Venice, and this is the third elegant portfolio she has edited and published. Dream of Venice is the title they all share, and the first two featured extraordinary color images by Charles Christopher and Riccardo de Cal. This new anthology gathers black and white images by about sixty different photographers who offer a composite portrait of a city that eludes most visitors. Here is a world of shadows, natives enjoying a brief respite from the tourist hordes, and solitary figures silhouetted against a gray sky. Streets and squares fill with water, mist shrouds familiar landmarks, and a rare snowfall blankets the pavers. Tiziano Scarpa, an acclaimed Venetian writer, contributes an elegiac introduction, and suggests that the foreign aficionadoes of Venice might do it a favor by staying home, leafing through books of photographs like this. It’s a sure way to avoid the disillusionment of reality.
Dream of Venice in Black and White. Introduction by Tiziano Scarpa. Edited by JoAnn Locktov. Bella Figura Publications, $25)
Author: Michael Webb
Michael Webb Hon. AIA/LA has authored more than twenty books on architecture and design, most recently Moving Around: A Lifetime of Wandering, Architects’ Houses, and Building Community: New Apartment Architecture, while contributing essays to many more. He is also a regular contributor to leading journals in the United States and Europe. Growing up in London, he was an editor at The Times and Country Life, before moving to the US, where he directed film programs for the AFI and curated a Smithsonian exhibition on Hollywood.