Chris Bickford – Scenes from a Venetian Carnival

Chris Bickford

Scenes from a Venetial Carnival

This week the world’s most ancient and wide-ranging bacchanal kicks into high gear, as millions of revelers across the globe celebrate the ancient rite of Carnival.

From Bulgaria to Brazil, from Haiti to India, from Colorado to Trinidad, from Alabama to Australia; in a thousand cities, towns, and villages on six continents, everyday people will don outrageous disguises and step out into a world of of mutually suspended reality.

They will set aside their workaday personas to strut their stuff in a mind-boggling array of parades, masquerade balls, and street parties. Swept up into an annual celebration of collective mayhem, the participants of Carnival will lose themselves in a world of fantasy and revelry.

Office clerks will become Roman gods. Secretaries from the suburbs will become Amazon queens. CEO’s from uptown will don Harlequin suits and play the Fool. Construction workers from the backstreets will transform into fantastical  gangs of Mardi Gras Indians. These dramatis personae and many more will participate in a ritual that has been celebrated every year for over a thousand years, and whose roots reach back deep into the mists of human prehistory. 

Call it the anti-Christmas if you will, for Carnival celebrates the devil in us all. It upends all traditional roles and realities, and allows our pent-up dreams and fantasies to breathe the sweet air of carnal existence for a brief period of time.

From a psychological point of view, Carnival is often described as a period of sanctioned insanity, when unconscious archetypes and alter-egos are summoned from the dark corners of our souls and given a license to roam free. From an anthropological view, such rites are practiced in a vast diversity of cultures all around the world: fixed expanses of time wherein traditional hierarchies, taboos, and conventions are upended, and the Fool in all of us is permitted a day in the sun.

Or so it should be, in an ideal world. In reality, the spirit of Carnival is often hijacked and controlled by corporate sponsors, private event coordinators, profiteers, and civic restrictions. In its most famous locations, Carnival is big business, and millions of dollars are exchanged for thousands of metric tons of beads, feathers, sequins, and plastic masks. Parade routes are controlled, barriers are erected, police officers enforce order, and street hawkers do brisk business in cheap China-made costumerie. 

It is the same story the world around: as deep as the urge is to unchain Dionysus and let him dance his wild dance in a mosh-pit of collective ecstasy, even stronger is the heirophantic directive to contain, to control, and to profit from the dark strange energy that he represents. Witness the corporate takeover of rock and roll. The sexualization of advertising. The backfire and bootlegging of Prohibition.  We wage constant battle in society between order and chaos; and the pendulum swings back and forth, back and forth, in perpetual motion, in perpetuity.

Carnival as we know it was unofficially adopted by the Catholic Church in the Late Middle Ages, as part of Christianity’s endless campaign to absorb, transform, and co-opt the pagan religious practices of the conquered and converted. In its earliest years, Carnival was actually celebrated inside churches and cathedrals; bishops would dress as women, paupers would be crowned Pope, all of the ecclesiastical establishment would be mocked and lampooned, and unspeakable acts of lechery and debauchery would be committed in plain view of all. Even as holy a temple as Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris was, during the weeks of Carnival, turned into a den of iniquity.

As the centuries wore on, Carnival evolved into a more secular and civic celebration, and each town and country developed its own traditions and rituals. As European explorers sailed the seas and conquered far-off lands, the rite took root on many a foreign soil, where it grafted itself upon indigenous and imported cultural practices to produce ever-more diverse incarnations and permutations. 

As Carnival settled into a rut of quaint traditions in Europe, it flourished in North America, South America, and the Caribbean, drawing on the irresistible power of African and Amerindian spiritual practices. Carnival was King in Louisiana, Cuba, Haiti, Trinidad, Brazil. In the Old Country, Dionysus began to hide himself away from the sweeping fascism of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Inquisition, and the rise of nation-states.

But one city in Europe continued to celebrate Carnival with ever-more elaborate and decadent enthusiasm: the floating Republic of Venice, gateway to the East, queen of the Adriatic sea. As Venice devolved from the greatest sea-power in the Mediterranean to the most decadent pleasure-den of Europe, its Carnival grew bigger, longer, and more extravagant.  At its apex in the eighteenth century, Carnival lasted all winter long, and half the city wore masks in public at all times. Canals would be drained and turned into gardens of earthly delights, and all of Europe’s aristocracy would converge for weeks of masquerade balls, secret trysts, and public spectacles.

Eventually, however, imperialism got the best of the thousand-year Republic. In 1797, Napoleon’s army marched into Venice, looted its most precious talismans, and sold the island to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Carnival withered into nothing under the disciplinarian rule of Venice’s northern neighbor, and in time it was banned outright.

Carnival slumbered for over a century in Venice, until in 1979 an enterprising coalition of artists, students, and business owners staged a revival. The first few years saw a surge of enthusiasm and growth, as the people of Venice embraced their heritage, unearthed dusty books describing the old celebrations, and created a new Carnival: a strange combination of Italian commedia dell’arte, Roman mythology, eighteenth-century foppery, hand-made ornament, and pure fantasy. Those who played a part in the revival speak of he early days as glory days, full of unbridled creativity, a rediscovery of Venetian identity, and some truly memorable parties.

The rest of the world soon took notice, and within no time the Venetian Carnival once again became host to the European aristocracy with lavish balls in ancient palazzos. Along with them came the Eighties jet-set, as well as hordes of college partiers and make-believe enthusiasts from around the world. In the space of ten years the Mask of Carnevale went from virtual non- existence to coronation as the iconic and ubiquitous symbol of Venice.

Nowadays you can’t throw a stone in Venice without hitting a street vendor or window-shop hawking cheap plastic imports of La Maschera;  and higher-end boutique stores vie for the title of the “original” mask- makers of Venice. Tourists parade around in nylon clown suits bought earlier in the day for thirty euros; and the coordination of the festival, once run by the city, has now been farmed out to an event-planning company in Milan. Corporate control is ubiquitous: giant ads and massive video screens take over Piazza San Marco, dwarfing the human celebration below. Dionysus has, once again, been bought and subdued.

But still, underneath all the commercialism, crowding, and plastic waste, the spirit of Carnival lives on. It exists in a netherworld between the real and the unreal, and one need only cock one’s head, breathe deeply, and give in to the spirit of mischief and fantasy to find it in Venice. The kids are still holding drum circles under ancient colonnades; the city’s young beauties are still being paraded through the streets and alleys borne on pallets held up by the city’s Gondoliers; and the Angels still fly all over Piazza San Marco, communing with their human consorts over birdseed and stale pastries. Rich internationals still arrive at the water-entrances of ancient palazzos to take part in elaborately-staged balls. And somewhere in an alleyway, a young couple is exploring love, or something close to it. You can find Carnival, if you seek it. You just have to use your imagination.

This photographic series is a fantasy, created from moments of reality wherein fantasies are enacted. It is not so much a document of what Carnival is, as much as a vision of what Carnival dreams itself to be; or, perhaps, what I dream it to be. The images were constructed from a collection of three year’s worth of photographs taken in Venice during the weeks of Carnival. Each image merges a scene from Carnival with a texture from an old wall, a canal reflection, a window display, or perhaps an old church.  The visual effect is to marry the make-believe scenarios enacted by contemporary Carnivaliers with the long arm of myth, memory, and history sealed within the weather-worn stones of Venice, creating a dream-like drama that straddles the bookstore categories of historical fiction and fantasy.



In Venice, as in any ancient city, history is etched upon the walls and the walkways. Centuries of the slow creep of decay–a history of floods, storms, deep freezes and crackling summer heat–have painted abstract passion-plays upon the stone and stucco of the city’s architecture. These walls have seen the rise and fall of the Venetian Empire, the flowering and decline and rebirth of Carnival, the countless dramas of one of the world’s most unusual cities being played out on the streets, along the canals, and in the shimmering lagoon that has always been her greatest treasure. As they say, if these walls could talk, well they’d probably speak Italian…

When I first began compositing images together in this way, I had no real intention or understanding of what I was doing.  It was simply one of those ideas you get, lying in bed, waiting for Morpheus to take you across the bridge of consciousness. But as the first few images began to take shape, I sensed that I was on to something, and I have continued on, somewhat giddily, combining images and blending them in various modes and levels of opacity, just seeing what happens. Some combinations work, some don’t. Some to me seem utterly sublime, whereas others are more gateways, storytelling devices, ways of filling out the picture. You will notice that some of the images border on the abstract and surreal, whereas others merely add a painterly texture to a more or less realistic image. Towards the completion of a series for presentation, my aims have been geared mostly towards consistency, flow, and color balance, as I have worked to create a kind of a journey that has cohesion as well as variety, and which moves in and out between the sacred and the mundane, between the real and the surreal.

It is my sincere hope that you enjoy these images as a gateway into your own imagination, and that something within them stirs something within you, as I in turn have been stirred by the whole project, from its uncertain beginnings all the way up to its present incarnation. I’ve already written too much but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the friends I encountered who made me feel welcome in a strange city and whose generosity and connections opened doors that otherwise would have been closed to me. I also haven’t touched on the preparation, process, and logistical hurdles that go with the territory on a project like this, nor have I spun any tales of the fun and the stress and the half-lies I told and the journalistic lines I crossed to bring you this little collection of vignettes. There are a few stories on my Travelogue if you are interested, but most of them are half-told too; it seems always as soon as one conflict comes to resolution, a new progression invariably begins, the infinite playlist of a life lived in half-lives, which knows that the only way to keep traveling through the jungle is to grab the next vine as the one you are holding reaches its apex…

Anyway, enough with the metaphors and the flowery language. If you’ve read this far I thank you for your patience and participation. Perhaps it will inspire you to find Carnival in your own time, in your own place, in your own mind. Many adventures to you, and may you keep your dreams alive.




Chris Bickford is a freelance photographer based on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

He has worked as an assignment photographer for National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times, The Daily, Milepost Magazine, and Captain Morgan Rum, among others. His photographs have also appeared in Time, Newsweek, Outside, and Surfing magazines, as well as a number of foreign and in-flight publications.

His photographic work on the surfing culture of the Outer Banks made its debut on Burn in 2009 under the title After the Storm. His work-in-progress on death, rebirth, and ritual in New Orleans was also featured here in 2011. He has exhibited in solo and group art shows in North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Michigan, Miami, and New York City.

He is available for assignments worldwide, and also does the occasional speaking presentation at high schools and colleges. He is currently working with a number colleagues in an effort to form a new style of interactive photography workshop.


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Chris Bickford




30 Responses to “Chris Bickford – Scenes from a Venetian Carnival”

  • Loved the whole thing, Chris, except the pix with pigeons in them. Those I don’t like, not that there’s anything technically wrong with them; I just don’t like pigeons. Or seagulls. Or Canadian geese. They’re all vile little bastards that spend their most of their waking moments trying to find new and ingenious ways of crapping on me and my car. I really liked the pix with the masks. Why? I don’t know, I just did. Some things are like that.

  • I really enjoyed reading the text, it was thoroughly written and made me feel a little bit sad for carnival… and a little frustrated. I am so glad you took the time to go into such detail, not only in regards to Carnival itself, but into your motivations as well.

    The idea for the images is brilliant, to blend those two together; though in reality it was a little hard for me to get past the effect. As meaningful as each texture is, because of the history each one represents… the finished images still come across to me as a cheesy after effect. I know they are so much more that, but it’s hard for me to see past it. If there was another way to blend the scenes and the textures which would make your methods and images distinctive from those produced by iPhone apps… the series would be absolutely perfect.

    I think this is one of the most exciting series I have seen in quite awhile and the idea you have is excellent. But if I hadn’t read the text, I’d have thought your decision to add those textures to be of poor taste.

  • These images transport the viewer into a magical world, an intriguing ethereal realm that seems beyond reach. Glad to see pictorialist techniques used by a top-notch COLOR photographer, with great effectiveness.

    Thoroughly enjoyed this series, congratulations!

    (Don’t like pigeons either, but what the heck, Venice is full of them …)

  • Wow! The stuff of spooky dreams. Velvety.

  • When I saw who the photographer is, I knew it would be good but the opening photo made me wonder if it might be something trite at the gore, gussied up with a bit of texture to give it a bit of different kind of look. But no! It is brilliant, unlike anything I have ever seen before. Also, it causes me to wonder a bit about the strictures of photojournalism in the digital age. Certainly, it is manipulated to the extreme – and yet at its core is photojournalism. It tells a photojournalistic story in a way that adds so greatly to the impact, yet nothing seems contrived about it and it conveys the spirit the photographer writes of perhaps (but I am not certain) beyond the ability of conventional photojournalism to do.

    And so much work and thought into the application of those textures – nothing at all like simply slamming on Instagram filter at all. I wonder how much time went into each image on the average – not just when you were sitting at your computer, but when you were walking about, eating, sleeping, the images building themselves in your head.

    Chris Bickford – you have put me in a place of awe and wonder.

  • Frostfrog there is lots of this sort of stuff around. We get the Primary School kids (7-10 year olds) into these techniques pretty much from day one. It is like the wonder of watching a print appear in a chemical bath but as a digital thing. It is digital alchemy, the kids to take shots with a point and shoot, self portraits, those of others, colorful scenarios/objects, some textures etc. These are camped together as layers usually about 5 then playtime with blending modes, difference, subtract and pin light are favorites as there are dramatic changes.

    It can all become a bit of a one shot pony and my take is that Chris has gone a bit overboard and sacrificed subtlety for technique……….

    ……. Apps like snapseed (previusly Nik now google) and PixelEx by Simpa studio ply a similar trade

    More stuff for you Mr F Frog here and there are lots of other sites . Kids love doing this stuff but eventually get bored with the predictability of it all as technique too often over rides content.

  • Sorry PixelEx by Simpa studio is a SITE app…. not a creative app it can be a bit wayward in nature but a interesting take on things.

    There is FX studio, BeFunky Photo Editor, iDarkroom etc

  • My first reaction was: “Wow!”

    Chris Bickford has long been one of my favorite names at Road Trips and BURN, so like Frostfrog my eyes perked up and my mind quivered with anticipation when I saw his name and the opening shot. I was not disappointed. In fact, it exceeded my expectations, and the magic only got better as the essay progressed.

    After watching it twice and reading the comments above I went back and read Chris’s statement. It is well written and informative and is a welcome addition to the series of images, but is in fact, at least to someone with a smattering of knowledge of Venice and its history, unnecessary. Everything he says in words has already been revealed eloquently in the pictures themselves… the history of carnival, its modern revival, the decadence and textured layers of Venice, the blending of dream and reality.

    Venice is one of the most photographed places on earth… to breathe new life and originality into an elaborated portrait of Venice is a real challenge that Chris has fulfilled beautifully. The goals he writes about are ones that I think he has more than accomplished in a sustained work of consistent mood, texture, and palette and yet filled with variety. The technique, and the results, seem to me to be ideally matched to the subject, which is what sets this work apart from many other exercises in compositing.

    After seeing Lijie Zhang’s essay “The Innocent” I thought, “What a tough act to follow.” Now, with Chris Bickford’s feverish dreams of Venetian carnival, BURN has cranked it up even a further notch. What’s next?

    And Chris himself should feel confident that he need never rely on or revisit this particular technique or look or subject… he has done it, and is free to move on in whatever direction may strike him.

  • Excellent Chris…I would love to have a print. You need to get this work into a gallery.

  • “The eye identifies itself not with the body it belongs to but with the object of its attention.” -Joseph Brodsky (Watermark)

    “For darkness restores what light cannot repair.” ― Brodsky

    “In Springtime, O Dionysos,
    To thy holy temple come,
    To Elis with thy Graces,
    Rushing with thy bull-foot, come,
    Noble Bull, Noble Bull”
    ― Plutarch

    Come then in our cunning and in our carving for we are composed and inhabited by time and that time rivers through us feverishly as blood and plaster dust and cum. We are more than time’s dust fallen from the walls and abacuses and rhyme but are explosions of the thought and frought battle encased in our aging shells and exploding selves. We, like our cities and our seas, fractured, entropic super novae that cornices the world both inside and out. Were we only more often and more fearless in our bull-footed exercise of that.

    Venice, as Brodsky reminds in his remarkable book on Venice, ‘Watermark’, is a city haunted and haunting, not by a crusty and slavish nostalghia for the past and its history (though it is inescapable to spend even an hour getting lost amid the sway and sinking of her palazzos and piazzos and canales to not feet pulled by her ghosts) but a city hulled by its collisions and above all that most Dionysian of fevers: time. Time not beholden to the winding and chiming of gears but time as it pitches against our bodies that way voice and and body and biting lip pitches us past ourselves and into a relm of alighted possibility both frozen and cracked spreading. Venice, not a city to burry and carry away the music of the decaying and the dead (as with Mann) such as the city of Varanasi, but a city that forces you to unbuckle yourself, whether the electric color of Carnivale or the stentch of fetid August or the blanketing chill of December, and to peel away what you brought with yourself to her. What better place to rebirth all that you once imagined yourself to be and not to be. That is the Venice that I cherish and steer inside me.

    What I love about Chris’ exploration isnt that these pictures and this story look like Venice (what in fact does Venice look like, could ever look like?) but that it feels very much like part of what Venice does to a visiter or inhabitant, it fractures and it re-arranges and forces reimagination. After Paris and New York, Venice seems like the most photographed city on the planet and yet most of what I experience in the pictures of Venice seem somehow wholly wrong of what I feel when I’ve been there. Some of this is accomplished in the beautiful intensity of Chris’ color choices and of course his choice to layer images (which for me is less a choice made for aesthetic attention or experimentation but as a choice of language that replicates the experience of Venice itself in all its maddening physicality: the walls, the dust, the stench, the flaking away, the submerged squares, the waves of undulation, the echos along the back streets and the body-slapping fucking of the waves against the walls and bridges’ underbellies and gondola paddles and merchants humming chatter, and all those pinging sounds in the hotels and palazzos and cafes and pigeon-winging). The layering and sandwhiching of photographs and the resultant palimpsests, of course, is a technique that is part of the history of artmaking (montage, cutups, papermache, school kid gluing, etc) but I think it would be wrong for viewers to see it as just an effect or just as a ‘clever’ attempt to make the pictures more interesting in their complexity and layering. No. In fact, all technique works when married by principle, or is derived from the heart of the choice itself. The layering here and composing makes absolute send when one is reminded of both the fever and diorientation of Carnivale but also of the city and the experience and the aftermath itself. Both a delerium and an exhaustion, and all those bread crumbs and discarded masks and wardrobe and lint and stained tablecloths and scattered bed sheets.

    Less a exploration of Carnivale then a feverish recounting of the spin that happens when Apollo’s chariot is hooved over by the cloven step of the bull, and that bull are more reckless and more elemental self, exploding and expiring.

    And lastly, what I have loved always about Chris, as a photographer, is that he is able to handle both color (always gorgeous) and black/white in his projects with skill and lyricism and personal commitment to his own, very much Bickford, madly loving life. What better way to celebrate Carnivale then to unmask oneself and to fuck with all your might until rashiment…..

    and yes, i ‘made it to the end’ of the statement :) I cherish Chris as a photographer and as a writer who not only writes well but writes with openness, detail and a love of both expression and erudition.

    My mask is off to you Mr. B! So so happy to see this here in all its collisions and reshapings….

    Over the beast doomed to the fire
    this is the chant, scatter of wits,
    frenzy and fear, hurting the heart,
    song of the Furies
    binding brain and blighting blood
    in its stringless melody.”
    ― Aeschylus, The Oresteia


  • Ah, Bob Black, you are such a mad poet! Thanks you for your words and quotes and your wit and your kindness. And thanks to those of you who have offered your comments and opinions. I appreciate the time you’ve taken to share your thoughts.

    I’m glad that on balance most of you enjoy the work and that it works for you in the way that it works for me. I know that doing this kind of thing leaves the door wide open for criticism, and I knew I was going to get some posts about the style being over-done or cheesy or whatever; but to those of you who see it that way, I’m just sorry that it didn’t reach you, or that you got hung up on the technique. Yes, a first grader can make photographic composites. S/he can also ask profound questions about life, make really good art, and charm the pants off of people. And yes, Instagram and all the other apps have made everyone a photoshop ninja. But I feel like you’re missing the point if you harp too much on whether or not it’s “easy” to do this or whether or not there’s a lot of “stuff like this” out there. Yes, the world has gone photoshop mad, with fake HDR and sub-sat and slick noise filters that make photos look like plastic sculptures. Some of it’s good, some not. And it’s art, obviously, so everybody’s going to react in a different way. I personally really like the look that this project has taken on, and I’m really jazzed by the way it’s coming together. I wouldn’t have put it out there if I felt otherwise. And all these trends in digital photography don’t diminish it; rather, they just widen the boundaries for more possibilities.

    Robert Larson, I do take your comments to heart, and will keep them in mind as I continue to refine the piece. I will shamelessly admit that I flying by the seat of my pants as far as this kind of style and technique goes, and most of it I’m doing through trial and error. But for me that has been part of the fun and discovery. That being said, I’m no hack when it comes to digital imaging and photographic aesthetics, and I work hard to refine these images, and yes, I spend a lot of time on them. It’s not just the textures, it’s also the color balance, the minute tweaking of opacity of different layers and blending modes, the detail, the compositional balance, the sequencing. My edit for this presentation and for the new “look” is quite different from earlier edits I had before compositing. Some photos take to this kind of treatment, and some don’t. Some can handle a lot, some can only take a little. Some pictures come alive when you merge them with an old wall texture, and others that were once favorites get relegated to the B-roll until or unless I find a texture and blend that works for them. It’s a delicate balancing act, and though some may disagree, I feel good about the balance I’ve struck with these photos. There is always room for improvement and refinement, of course, and I will continue to do both until I feel that the work is complete.

    In my own self-critique, I would say that what the project needs is MORE…Because I did not start this project with layering in mind, I did not make accounts for how a particular photo might be used in a composite. I was thinking like a photojournalist, and looking to create complete pictures. And though I think that the photojournalistic style of the images is essential to the feel of the piece (thanks Frostfrog for acknowledging this), I also think there is room to take things a little bit further into the realm of fantasy and/or eroticism. Looking at the slideshow myself, I feel myself wanting one or two pictures at the end that go over the edge into the kind of erotic fantasy that lies at the psychic core of Carnival.

    Bob I like your idea that the technique is more about a language than an aesthetic. That is very astute and actually helpful to me in continuing to conceptualize this thing. Of course the aesthetic has to be strong for the language to be heard…and which one is more important in the end I can’t say. The poets have often said that language is merely a device to let the music of the poem work its magic on you. In other words, though we need content and story to bring us in, it is ultimately the rhythm, the harmony, the aesthetic, the visceral experience that stays with us once the details of story and language have left us…but the argument could easily be made conversely, that the music is the vehicle for the message. That’s just another mystery I guess, the dialectic between what images mean and how they feel.

    Akaky, I’m sorry you don’t like the pigeons, but that image in particular, when it came together, really gave me a charge and motivated the rest of the project. The off-kilter columns, the crowd of people all looking at something, but they know not what, this ghostly bird rising over the throng…There are numerous details in the photos that keep adding layers of interest, which is why I have chosen the ones I’ve chosen. And that photo in particular, I wish I had a thousand like it.

    Gerhard, I’m tickled pink that you referenced Pictorialism. That makes my day. I think the early Pictorialist movement was one of the most interesting (and sadly one of the most under-appreciated) eras of photography, and I have always been a fan. The relationship between the turn-of-the-century Pictorialist photographers and the French Impressionists has always been a source of inspiration and interest for me. And Sidney Atkins, thanks for your vote of confidence. You’re right, I may never use this particular look again, but I’m glad you think I succeeded here. I hope always to be able to marry the mood with the subject, and that is usually what informs the decisions I make after clicking the shutter.

    I’ve always maintained that there is art that makes you say “YES!”; there is art that you know has something to it but you have to work at a little to understand; and then there is everything else. And if it’s not the first or second, then don’t waste your time, life is too short.

    Again, Bob B, thanks for the poetry and the insights. And to everyone else who took the time to look, think, and comment. Oh, and prints are for sale and follow me on facebook and all that other shameless self-promotional stuff…

    Buon Carnevale to you all,

  • Atta boy!!!

    Someday Chris Bickford will be in photography textbooks!
    Dope! 2 thumbs up from another “venice” lover…
    Smiling.. Different “venice” though but stil venice..:)
    Hugs, congratulations

  • Chris, congratulations for this. It is utterly drop-dead hush my mouth gorgeous. It screams out to be expanded.

    I had no idea about the history of Carnival. You’re clearly as accomplished a writer as you are a photographer.

    With you totally on pictorialism. Remembering what I’ve seen of your work, I can see the influence.

    Really delighted to see this here.

  • Panos don’t wish that upon Chris photography textbooks are fading away ipads,notebooks, smartphones etc are the tools of education

  • CHRIS :))))

    “And all these trends in digital photography don’t diminish it; rather, they just widen the boundaries for more possibilities.”

    Couldnt have put it any better! And, just to make sure you know, that what i love about this series and your aesthetic choices is that they look or feel as an afterthought or using a particular artifice to lend ‘uniqueness’ or ‘gravitas’ or whatever to the work, but that the layering and collage actually works (for me) organically, particularly given the content of the images and the story (Venizia, Carnivale). IN this sense, it feels like language to me: both the voices of Carnivale/Venizia and the voices of the pictures (and people) in them seem to be speaking, whispers, shouts etc. All that visual collision. and like language, it seems part of the pictures core and body…the interesting to me about photography (as opposed to reality) is always the silence and yet somehow the silence pokes at us with sound in our heads and that’s why i saw the technique as closer to language, bubbling forth….as Auden said, beyond the shell of inconsequential fact, there is that deep welling of silence and the words come tumbling forth, maybe, as a shield against that, and yet for me, the words ring out, echo and give shape and meaning and that’s what I really dug about this choice…it just feels part and parcel of the work, not as a intellectualized choice…and ALWAYS, the best things come from that delicious accident of discovery and than reworking and thinking and refinement…and that’s all hear chris :))…and the complexity of some of the images works all the more in union with the images that are more ‘simple’…

    tiger tiger burning bright Bickford! :)))…

    really looking forward to see an even longer chain of melody from this world :))

    big hugs

  • ooops, typo (running to teach), CHRIS, I meant to write:

    “what i love about this series and your aesthetic choices is that they DO NOT look or feel as an afterthought or using a particular artifice to lend ‘uniqueness’ or ‘gravitas’ or whatever to the work, but that the layering and collage actually works (for me) organically, particularly given the content of the images and the story (Venizia, Carnivale)…”

    may be a poet, but i’m not the best typist in the world….and i positively suck at Photoshop,..another great think i love about the work…on a technical level, its great craft you’ve achieved!


  • Bob and Chris himself covered and hammered what would be my main point… The balance, the confrontation, the boldness. Photography being embraced and celebrated as art, as language, as aesthethic, streams, particular, seductive, conflicted,sensual, out of the box, magic, lyrical. It seems quite a hard task to bring a concept to meet all those variants…to tame them, to complete them …it seems challenging enough to mix the right visual tools, creative techniques, the emotional sensitive meaninful approach and to preserve the core…to have what to say, to deliver it, to open up for fragiles lines of interpretations. That is the reason Chris’ work will always intrigue me , it entails every one of those trails of wonder.

  • Chris, I definitely did not mean to imply that you are a hack (so I hope you did not read it that way)! You’re spot on with your self awareness that the project needs more. Some of the mixtures work better than others… by that I mean, some are more distinctive. With more images to choose from, my one criticism could be easily wiped away. I’m with you when you mentioned that by getting hung up on the technique- me and maybe others would be missing the point. Criticizing post processing techniques is indeed a little bit petty. But it should be pointed out that myself and others may indeed be petty about such things; that way, you can move forward with all the information at your disposal. Though, it seems like you were already prepared for such responses!

    If you keep hearing the same feedback repeatedly, then I hope you’ll consider experimenting with a different technique which might bring the work to a new level… while keeping the heart of the project intact.

    Press on regardless!

  • Chris.
    Definitely like the content but,similar to a few other opinions, I feel the technique overshadows
    the base image somewhat.
    I like the idea that the layering is one way to create some depth or a bit of a tactile feel,
    similar in some ways to Bob’s use of very defined and coarse grain,but at the same time don’t feel
    that the overlaid textures relate in any way to the content in a lot of the cases.
    #16 is my favorite ‘blend’ as the texture is sort of there but sort of isn’t but helps create some
    foreground to background depth.
    I come from a very commercial background so see this sort of textural layering all the time in commercial
    applications to illustrate a particular theme so I feel that if you want to integrate texture into a
    more editorial,and informative, realm then I think you have to find the sweet spot so that it
    somehow breaks the boundary of simply texture for texture’s sake.

  • Criticizing post processing techniques is indeed a little bit petty. No way is it petty it is part of the creative process and dictates the result. Using the blend mode has this tendency to create a flat plane, a two dimensional veil over the image. There are methods to override the flatness. The method also can make an ordinary look great
    As a slideshow a bit same same as individual images in a neutral context they would work better but I do understand how the results here can entrap some of the audience. On that level visual intent is successful.

  • I liked 4, even with the pigeon, the best, and then 14; that guy looks like Buster Poindexter playing Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. And the pictures look really good if you listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as you look at them, for what seems to me to be fairly obvious reasons.

  • Well that would make sense Akaky,since you can’t shake a stick in Venice without hitting a Vivaldi concert. Try listening to it dialed in to “Tobias Hume” on Pandora. That’s actually what I listened to most while working on it. Tobias was an interesting character. English mercenary soldier who composed for extra cash. He played the viol, which is kind of like a cello with frets on the neck, which makes it easier to play adjacent strings contrapuntally or harmonically. Beautiful stuff.

    Panos, you know, flattery will get you everywhere with me, big boy:) No seriously good sir, thanks for the props. And yes, different Venices, but strangely related….

    Roberta my sweet sister, I am always appreciative of your support. And I promise I’ll get those materials down to you regardless of the exhorbitant shipping costs:)

    Gordon, thanks for your comments on the writing. I have a habit of creating overly complex sentence structures, probably as a result of too much grammar in school. I’m glad it came across okay. Pictorialists unite!

    I went to Venice last winter to finish this project; and were I to keep all the images fairly straight, I think it would be done. But whether or not in its current incarnation it hits the mark 100%, there’s really no turning back at this point.

    For me the story and vibe hinge around images 1, 5, 16, and 22. These were the ones that “just came”. Images like 4 and 23 were created with more intent, by taking the motifs that were developing and applying them more consciously; and they thus have, I think, more of an “illustrated” look to them. #23 was a last-minute addition, something that came together just last week; and though it can’t be passed off as anything other than an image forged in the digital darkroom, it still really works for me. And like the earlier images, the end result was a total surprise. I had no idea that that laughing mask was going to look so creepy once I put it behind a layer of water. The contrast with the praying mask, the obvious symbolism, that’s why this project keeps holding my interest. Stuff just keeps appearing, out of the cracks, up from the water…

    It’s strange to think of this project as “new”, since I’ve been working on it since 2007. But it feels new to me, kind of like discovering something new about someone you’ve loved so long you had started to take them for granted. I’ve still got some things to work out and some pieces to add, but I’m so grateful for the happy accidents that spilled all over my Venice series. It’s definitely made things more interesting.
    You think you’re almost done, turns out you’ve just begun…

    Gee ma, I made a rhyme.

  • dreamy..
    it has it all..
    ‘you think you’re almost done, turns out you’ve just begun…’

  • Wendy!! lovely to hear your sweet voice

  • Chris, Congratulations!

    It is very different work from your old works. So I was slightly frightened. But I thought your intention immediately…It is like fossilized reality or fantasy.
    The role of Carnival is a bridge of the disparate.

    I’ve just remembered the film ‘Russian Ark” of Aleksandr Sokurov.
    Like this film… Your work makes me to be in carnival.
    I enjoyed your work very much. :)))
    Thank you.

  • KYUNGHEE :))

    yes, i also thought of Russian Ark too :))…but figured i’d added enough words on my original post :))….Russian Ark: conflation of time….

    I suspect chris is now wobbly-kneed this AM in Nawlins…i expect he’s shooting in N.O as we hum :))

  • Bob,

    Ah, You thought of Russian Ark, too.
    Yes! conflation of time.

    Thank you..:)))

  • pretty gnarly chris..

  • Chris, congratulations! I enjoyed your work very much. I also revisited some of your earlier works and could see different inspirations leading you in different ways as you evolve. I found it interesting how color and white painted faces in the Venetian culture were so alive than the silence/serenity of color and painted faces in the Japanese but both true to the local culture itself or is it that they are true to the photographers themselves?

  • Imaginative, daring, original and surprising. Beautifully introduced and superbly executed. Wonderful work, Chris! I look forward to seeing where it will lead you next…

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