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"Venice" (TantoPress, 2022)

"Venice" (TantoPress, 2022)


"Venice" (TantoPress, 2022)


Hardcover on leather

22.5x22.5cm, 64 pages

ISBN 978-1-3999-2387-3

30 tritones

Limited Edition of 1,000 copies

1st Edition

  • "Venice" Interview (B+W Magazine #268)

    Giacomo Brunelli’s neo-noir photography recasts a tourist’s paradise as an altogether stranger and more lonely place. He talks to Jon Stapley about shooting the streets of Venice.

    For photographers and lovers of photography, some cities will always be associated with the people who have captured them. Tokyo always makes me think of the grungy dreamscapes of Daido Moriyama, while the streets of Chicago call to mind the relentless, hawk-like gaze of Vivian Maier. And, no matter how much the city changes as the years grind on, I like to think that a part of Paris will always belong to Henri Cartier-Bresson. Some photographers spend their lives in one city; others visit hundreds. Italian photographer Giacomo Brunelli has to date brought his lens to bear on three – London, New York, and now, in his latest work, Venice. The results, shot in and around the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, are displayed on these pages. “I pick cities because they fascinate me,” Brunelli says, and Venice has long been a fascination for him. Born in Perugia, a small, walled city that sits almost in the precise centre of the Italian countryside, Brunelli remembers being captivated by Venice from a young age. Brunelli has achieved much over a storied career; he won a Sony World Photography Award in 2008 for his image of a snarling dog, and has had his work exhibited at the Barbican Centre and The Photographers’ Gallery in London, and even as far afield as the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Japan. His stylish images are immediately distinctive, and he seems to capture with incredible regularity the kind of ephemeral, once-in-a-lifetime moments that are the province of the dedicated, shoe-leather-abusing street photographer. 

    He’s self-publishing the book of his Venetian images, and the photographs bear all his hallmarks. Noirish and full of mystery, they take one of the planet’s most tourist-crowded cities and recast it as an altogether stranger place. Venetian iconography like the famous gondolas tends to fade further into the background, and we find ourselves drawn to the shapes and textures of the city’s classical architecture, following anonymous silhouetted people as they draw us into its quiet corners and overlooked spaces. I spoke to Brunelli shortly after he’d completed his last trip to Venice. With final selections made and the book’s publication looming, there was nothing left to do but pour a cup of coffee and settle in to talk about how he brought his distinctive gaze to the floating city. Brunelli is a devotee of 35mm film – but only while he’s working. “When I’m not working on a project, I just don’t shoot at all,” he says. “I never carry my camera. So between 2018 and 2020, between two of my projects, I probably shot maybe five rolls in total.” That average would shoot up just a tad in 2020, when Brunelli began the Venice project that would go on to span the following two years. “For Venice, I did four trips,” he recalls. “So, January, February, September, and just now I came back literally twenty days ago. I stayed probably fewer days than I did in New York, but it was the same way of working – returning to the same places, the same areas of a city, looking for inspiration.” Brunelli is of course not alone in his admiration for Venice – it’s one of the world’s most visited cities. But, as is evident in the images he captured, he found himself drawn to the quieter times, and quieter areas within the city. “I pay attention to the background. When I frame, I always keep an eye on the background, and for that, Venice is just amazing. You have Byzantine architecture, and you have the classic Palladian influence – you have all sorts of architecture in one place.” Brunelli was keen for Venice to be a chance to take his image-making in a new direction. “I wanted to work on different things, to have a different take on my approach. I wanted to depart from my approach on projects like “Eternal London” – people seen from the back, quite gloomy, quite dark – to something more experimental. I wanted to play with light, reflections, and different things.” It took a while to feel out this new groove. Brunelli spent the first few trips reacquainting himself with the city, finding his favourite spots to shoot and visiting and revisiting them. All this legwork left little room for experimentation – and as such, two years down the line from when he first embarked on the project, he found himself mulling over the idea of heading back to Venice one more time. “When I came back from my third trip, I was pretty sure that the project had been completed. I could have done the book already with the maybe 30 images that I had selected,” he says.“But I decided to do another trip because I wanted a challenge – to be as free as I could, and push more in terms of experimentation.” It paid off. There are several images from that final, more experimental trip that made it into the book. In one, the balustrades of the Rialto Bridge are thrust into the foreground, while beyond, softly out of focus, is a more typical Venetian scene of gondolas on the water. In another, an anonymous woman’s shadow is cast over a canvas painting. They’re unusual images, requiring a little concentration to parse, and for me anyway, they’re a huge part of what gives the collection its strange, captivating magic.  “These seven or eight images from that last trip really helped me define the whole project, and the book,” says Brunelli. Though he may be finished exploring the streets of Venice – for now – Brunelli is embarking upon a whole new adventure with self-publishing his work. He describes how he has relished being able to control the entirety of the process, including the scanning, the printing, even picking the type of paper on which the book will be produced.  However, this means that he has had to face the unfortunate reality of creating and publishing a photobook – which is that once you’ve shot the images, you’re not done, not even close. It’s all very well having reams of negatives and stacks of prints, but someone has to go about the business of cutting them into a coherent selection – and when you’re self-publishing, that someone is you. “I shot 69 rolls for New York,” says Brunelli. “For this one, I shot 34. In the darkroom, I’ve probably printed smaller 5x7 versions of maybe 500 images. From those 500, I’ve selected down to about 150, and then the third and final selection is about 30 images. I worked with the Photographers’ Gallery, and they helped me a lot in terms of this editing.” Clearly then he has to be quite ruthless with his own work? “Yes, it’s very hard. Probably one of the hardest parts,” Brunelli says. “You need to step back and say, ‘Okay, let’s look at this work with different eyes.’” Referring to the images that don’t make the cut, he says, “I’ll always believe the single images are great. When I’m carrying the camera, I’ll look for the perfect shots. But the narrative of the book and the project is far more important. You select your story through the images, and the sequencing.” So what, then, is the story of the project? “The story, of course, is the story of love for the city, and being fascinated by Venice. Given that, I would say I wanted it to be a little bit romantic, a celebration of its beauty. I’d always wanted to challenge myself, and shooting Venice is a challenge, because you have in your mind so many images of the city. And you want to have your own word on it.” It’s true – Venice is a heavily photographed city. It’s one of the most photographed cities in the world in fact, a list on which it’s rubbing shoulders with London and New York, Brunelli’s previous projects. It’s quite an achievement, I think, to have found such a distinctive spin on such a well documented city not once, not twice, but three times. “The more you go, the more you are fascinated by the magical little corners where you can appreciate a city’s authenticity,” he says. “Which in Venice, is still very, very strong.”

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