He struts his way across Piazza San Marco, sauntering painfully slow through a crowd of thousands of photo-snapping carnival goers. Step … pose for some photos … step … pose … step … His pale expressionless hollow-eyed mask contrasts with his black and red feathery tricorne hat and deeply folded black robes.
I estimate his trajectory through the crowd and work my way to a point about 20 feet ahead of him just to his left side. My position should put the front façade of St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) directly behind him when he reaches me. I stand firm as the crowd shuffles around me. His tall feathery headdress slowly works its way in my direction above the swirling crowd.
When he is 6 feet away, I kneel down on one knee, the crowd between us slowly separates to give him passage, and giving me a clear view. He steps forward, pauses briefly to give me a contemplative pose, and I’ve got my shot on the Fujifilm X100T. My low angle looks up through his graceful face with nothing but Basilica in the background.
I’m at the 2019 Venice Carnival, and this is one of the recipes I follow again and again attempting to capture the colorful costumed revelers roaming and posing about the piazza, while trying to get clean timeless backgrounds absent of the crowds surrounding them.
Others pose for the crowd in front of building facades or along the waterfront to give us photographers Venetian representative backgrounds. I patiently wiggle my way into the surrounding forest of SLRs, point-and-shoots and smartphones, wait for eye contact or a graceful pose and get my shots too.
Venice Carnival (Carnevale di Venezia), a festival of parades, masquerade balls, concerts and street performances. It is famous for its long tradition of revelers parading around in Renaissance-era masks and colorful costumes. The celebration is a visual extravaganza, drawing 3 million visitors to this annual 2 week event that typically spans February and March.
As I take these photos at Venice Carnival, I can’t help but ask myself: Who are these people? What motivates them to hide their identity behind elaborate masks, and then flaunt themselves openly in public? What fantasies are they living out? What lies beneath their public masquerade?