La Serenissima – the supremely ‘serene city’ – is world-famous and still invisible. The only one who can explain this contradiction is a person who knows the city inside and out. Venice native Federico Povoleri explores his home from a unique perspective, helping us see the magic beneath the surface. It’s a magic that reveals itself only to those who respect and understand the former republic.
Venice was once one of the richest and most influential cities in the world, built precariously on poles and small islands in a lagoon, with international trade relations extending all the way to the Orient. It boasted countless art treasures and a unique political system. Today, Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and threatened like an endangered species.
Photo was taken from an island in the Venetian lagoon called Giudecca, where Federico Povoleri lives. The 17th-century Baroque-style Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute features in the background
Taken in the aftermath of a typhoon that struck on November 12, 2019, causing some of the worst flooding in Venice’s history. In a chapter called ‘The Great Flood’, Povoleri writes about his memories of the typhoon. He says: ‘It was a night nobody would forget. It was only 15 minutes before midnight when a sudden wind arose, full of unheard violence. During the following 15 minutes a typhoon, or perhaps a cyclone, or only God knows what, invaded the city demolishing thick boundary walls of brick that define the river banks, raising, dragging and swamping craft of whatever tonnage. The fury of a sea driven by air pressure smashes windows, doors and gates of buildings, palaces and hotels, it pours into houses and upturns dinghies, motorboats and gondolas in the lanes. It’s a disaster that the Venetians have never seen in all their history’
A huge cruise ship anchors in the water near Saint Mark’s Square. Povoleri writes: ‘The passage of the big cruise ships as far as San Marco is a good deal for the dockers. For the city, however, it is a catastrophe… Gigantic cruise ships push themselves in front of the facades of antique palaces. Sometimes they emerge from the fog, at other times they spoil with their massive presence the wonderful light of the dawn or the sunset. Some maintain the opinion that they strengthened the progressive development and vitality of the city; for others, however, they only personify the greed for big profits of the few who hold influential posts’
Genuine craftsmanship has become rare in Venice
Wildlife and organic matter in the lagoon was able to recover somewhat during the Corona break
The city, which is a museum in and of itself, bursting with history and countless tourist attractions, is every year been forced to defend itself against the onslaught of millions of tourists a year. The city suffering from regular floods – something Venetians are accustomed to – but particular floods in 1966 and 2019 left lasting damage.
Photographer Federico Povoleri captures the feel of the unique lagoon city. His black-and-white portraits of the city’s people, architecture, and daily life creates a wistful love letter to his hometown while warning us of the creeping destruction that threatens this incomparable beauty.
A desparate man, who’s lost his home and his job, stages a protest in central Venice in front of police
Giudecca, where Federico lives, is considered to be the coldest spot in Venice. The inhabitants jokingly call it “penguin island”
Snapshot onboard a ‘vaporetto’ boat, Venice’s public transport
Water from above and from below; everyday life in Venice can be very wet
Only a few locals still characterise the cityscape
April 15, 2003: fire strikes the Molino Stucky hotel
Every year, before the start of Lent, Venice hosts a carnival where locals get dressed up in elaborate costumes and masks for the occasion. This image features a person in traditional carnival costume. The book’s summation of the spellbinding image? ‘Fascinating water reflections of timeless effect’
VENEZIA – Through A Venetian’s Eye is published by teNeues, www.teneues.com, £45