Ten days of Venice Carnival: wonderful, all these beautiful masks, these costumes. They come along as historic members of former high society, others are completely masked or show up as fantasy figures. A photographer’s dream – at least it seems like.
We all know, images are a crop of reality. The reduction either compresses real life or serves as an idealization. Latter is the case in many Venice Carnival captures, proving the myth.
Don’t get me wrong: The costumes, many of them self-made, are awesome to look at. It is mainly the presentation that differs in images and reality. So let me take you out to the streets for the bald truth.
It always looks like the costumed would wander through Venice all day, standing around in the most beautiful places of town. Well, this is true and it is not. Yes, they do walk around and from time to time they pose in remote places with beautiful backgrounds. But you have to know when and where they are. It is an insider business. Not often you’ll find them by chance. The truth is: Either you go with a workshop or you have contacts to the costumed people.
Even in the early morning or off the beaten track - if you are lucky to meet - you will most probably not be alone with the masked. About a million visitors in Venice during carnival means a million chances somebody else also headed your direction. But with some luck you might be glad to be with just a few others around.
Usually visitors, searching for quick mask captures, will stick to the far from remote St. Mark's Square and - around sunset - to the nearby island of San Giorgio Maggiore. But don't believe you will be alone there. Be prepared for a rough shooting.
Everybody wants his carnival capture. Professionals, amateurs and tens of thousands of travellers considering themselves neither one nor the other. All of them will be around the masked. Capturing Venice Carnival close-ups therefore is more a fight than an intimate portrait shooting. Especially the last weekend of the ten days, when carnival celebrations reach their peak, the crowd in town is incredible. One day I got stuck in St. Mark's Square (during best light conditions) only because I had the stupid idea to capture the masses. Until I made it out the sun was down already.
Summed up, this does not mean you shouldn't visit Venice Carnival, but do not expect the charm you might think of viewing all these glossy beauty images published around the globe. For the city and the whole region carnival is big business. For you it will be a wonderful unique but also quite an ambivalent experience.
See you next year? Detailed shooting tips will follow a month before next carnival season.