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Marina Black


Postcards from Italy

There are two Venices: one that is always celebrating something, making noise, smiling, and leisurely spending time on the Riva degli Schiavoni—the waterfront; pigeons, tides of tourists, and tables in front of the cafe Florian with glittering objects. It seems that except for two – three winter months, there is a restless idle existence here year around. You only need to watch the tides of human waves in the morning on the Ponte della Paglia, hear the faint noise of multilingual conversations and the gentle rustle of footsteps on marble slabs, sit with the elderly under the arcades of the Doge’s Palace, or visit St. Marco to gaze absentmindedly at the mosaics on the ancient floors.
And then the evening falls. The lights dim, the birds retire to bed, and Florian and Quadri set up tables on the square. Music is playing. Time flies, like a child, with no worries or concerns.
This life has its own charm; but it can often be accompanied by melancholy. You can get tired of the music, of the shiny windows, and the eternal rumble of a strange crowd. Venice might make you feel lonely; it does not enlighten like Florence or Rome. It is worthwhile to venture a bit further from St. Marco to experience an outpouring of different emotions than those found on the square. Narrow passageways suddenly strike with a deep and quiet air. The footsteps of a rare passer-by sound from far away and then suddenly fall quiet; their rhythm leaves a trail that guides the imagination into the world of memories. And the water! It mysteriously draws and absorbs thoughts, just as it absorbs all echoes here, and a deep silence descends upon the heart.
From 1786 to 1788, Goethe embarked on his grand tour of Italy in search of personal transformation. My first trip to Italy began more prosaically when one day I walked into an antique bookstore. After my eyes had grown accustomed to the dark, and dusty atmosphere of the shop, they were drawn to a box of antique postcards, many of which were filled with images of Italy from as early as the 1920s. The postcards capture details of the personal lives of people traveling through Italy. I struck a bargain with the owner to buy a box. She wrapped it up in old newsprint and tied it with a pink ribbon—the classic way to carry the world. Thus, the “Postcards from Italy” began.

Italy is a place of contradictions where the past is always present. “The Grand Tour” served as a rite of passage, a time- and space-distant photographic “correspondence” with myself and others, and an exploration of the powers of imagination. Although all the images were photographed in various regions of Italy, instead of a travelogue, they serve as a metaphor, and capture the minutiae of personal reflections on the fate of human culture, an inquisition into dreams and reality, and the elusive nature of storytelling itself for those who are passionate about things great and small—that is, Italy.

Marina Black is a photographer living in Canada.
Her work is represented by Galerie VU’ in France, Lumina gallery in Norway

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