Michele Berlingeri takes us on a street dive around Rialto Bridge, in a time of year where this city is still asleep and therefore so different as we all know it. Venice!
Michele, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a 38 years old photographer born and raised in and around Venice. I first approached photography in 2009, after purchasing my first camera with my first salary, and little by little I realized I was literally obsessed with photography. A few years ago, I finally left my old job as a software engineer to try and dedicate myself to full-time photography. Despite the difficulties I found, I’m finding and I will find, I’m happy to carry out this change!
What was your approach in finding a suitable location for your street dive?
I chose the Rialto area because it is the part of the city where the urban souls blend more smoothly: there are indeed many tourists, but the cheap taverns and Venice’s most important open-air market still attract many locals. I only had a limited amount of time, so I felt Rialto was the location with the best potential to address your street dive.
Please tell us a bit about the area and the people who live there.
In Venice you can walk around with your camera and shoot anywhere and everywhere, capturing any situation, at any distance, without worrying about being unobtrusive or invisible and without any fear. Nobody will react badly, get angry or chase you for kilometers! A true paradise for me! Seriously, Venice is one of the best known cities in the world, and it’s difficult to find something new and unexpected that has not been said, written or shot before…among all the cities I visited, Venice is for me, simply, the most beautiful one to get lost in. And I’m lucky to live close to such beauty.
What did you want to achieve during your exploration? Did you have any stories or themes in mind?
No, I left home without any specific ideas, trusting the city would suggest me a way to take photos. Once in the area, I found an entire district being renovated, which is very unusual for a city like Venice: work in progress, scaffoldings and restorations. The (few) tourists were gathered inside the cafés and restaurants because of the cold, and only a few locals -mostly elderly- walked around chilled on their way to the local fish market. So, the theme became obvious to me: try to show a Venice that was unusually normal, almost unaesthetic, try to capture the ordinary in a city that is not ordinary …
How did it feel to you to have just limited time to shoot a photo series?
It was very stimulating. I believe restrictions are essential to inspire creativity: in my opinion, having too much freedom can become paralyzing… and participating in your “game” was, in this sense, a good exercise. This made me change my natural way of thinking, the way I imagine my street photography… having to shoot all photos in one single street made me realize how rarely I remain in the same place for more than just a few minutes. I am usually more like a bird of prey: I sniff, I shoot and then I disappear.
But you forced me to stop, standing like a plant, that very slowly absorbs the nourishment off the street. A drastic and important change for me! You pushed me to focus on little things, on micro-variations, waiting, and dominating my natural impulse to shoot. An important exercise: thank you very much for giving me this chance…
You like to travel a lot. How does Venice differ from other cities in the world relating to Street Photography?
Venice is unique and everybody knows why. From the street photographer’s perspective, I think that the main peculiarity is the “time” element. Walking in the city is like walking into a different dimension where time moves just a bit slower, enough to upset our inner rhythm. The absence of any vehicle on wheels is the main cause, but it is not the only one…even venetian people seem to have absorbed the laziness of the peaceful flow of water in the canals. It is unusual to see anyone hurrying on the street, as it is unusual to see anyone check their watch.
When they discover my venetian origins, many photographers tell me “Venice is beautiful, yes, very good for postcards, but not suitable for the street. In Venice nothing happens.” I can guarantee that things happen, indeed, they happen in an odd way! The thing is that everything happens at a slower pace and, to feel it, one’s inner “clock” should not be synchronized on the chaotic world outside. Venice requires this little effort from those who enter it and it is, in my opinion, really worth it.
When looking at your portfolio you are not a street photographer per se. Why do you like to shoot on the streets and what do like to capture besides that?
It isn’t easy to answer, perhaps because to me it isn’t easy to define what street photography is and what its limits are. I like to think of street photography as an “attitude”, as the ability to be surprised by what flows around us, breathing the street and taking up its pace … according to this, I consider myself a 101% street photographer: I love the uncertainty and unpredictability that this approach gives me. I don’t know what I will find when I go shooting on the street, I feel like a blank page. What I especially like is, in the evening, to go through the pictures taken during the day and try and recognize in them the mechanisms, often unconscious, related to the state of mind or mood that lead me to choose that shot. This is, to me, a way to investigate myself using my own eyes.
Where can we find more of your work?
I am also one of the founding members of Mumble (http://www.mumblecollective.com), an Italian street photography collective founded in 2016. Check it out!
Thanks Michele for sharing your photos and stories with us!
Date: 14 December 2016
Duration: 2 hours
What to see: Ponte di rialto, Mercato di rialto, Canal grande