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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

Strike a Pose ベネチアの流行

Updated: May 6, 2023

A red dress almost never fails in Venice. Probably the easiest color to photograph in Venice, red costumes do well against black backgrounds, Venetian interiors and of course on gondolas. And photographers seem most attracted to red costumes.

My beautiful friend from Latvia, Ker Satomi in a stunning red dress this year.

Most of the full-masked costumers are actually from nearby countries. (The local Italians nowadays prefer painted faces and historical costumes)...Italian or not, most artists, writers, and designers, at some point in their career, pay inspirational homage to the city. And it’s addictive. Once you’ve cruised the Grand Canal viewing the Gothic palaces and churches, there’s no going back; you’re hooked on the romance and beauty that echoes around every corner of this medieval city build around water.

"Holyflower! Look into the eyes - bewitch.

She humbly lowers her gaze and immediately flares up with new interest. dizzy, pretending to be innocent, and she herself will outline a new victim.

Sighing passionately, burning with the fire of charm, fading away with an unattainable flash of innocence.

And only light laughter will remain in memory and will come in dreams." - Ker Satomi

Ker's poses are very animated and she actually moves quickly with each click (a rarity amongst Venetian masked costumers because the costumes make it difficult for them to move fast).

The mask is a Volto type - a simple style that covers the entire face. These full-face masks were known as “citizen’s masks” originally worn by the common folk during the Carnival of Venice for their simplicity and ease of anonymity. It has been worn for centuries during Carnevale and is commonly seen even in modern times and has many variations in terms of decorations and style. It is typically worn with a three-cornered hat and a cloak, which adds to its mysterious aura. Unfortunately, because of its restrictive design, its wearer cannot eat or drink anything without taking it off. This is the mask that comes to mind for most people whenever they think about the Venice Carnevale.

The elaborate costumes are all self-made by the models themselves. They easily rival those of the best fashion designers. The models themselves actually spend months making a costume. Usually it is at least 6 months, with daily work of 6 hours a day.

For this simple portrait, I just stood Ker at the entrance of a dark tunnel so everything behind becomes dark. Only natural lighting is used. It is often difficult to use things like studio lighting or reflectors on the very busy streets of Venice during Carnevale. This is my signature black background technique that is very popular amongst my masked costumer friends.

I tend to get many questions on how I get to photograph the Venetian Masks and how I manage to get them to do poses like this for me. Basically, it's the same everywhere, you need to communicate with and respect the models. Most masks have been at the Carnevale for years, if not I never ask them to do anything. These models can easily tell a professional photographer from amateurs just by looking at how one holds a camera. They are often well aware of where the natural lighting is coming from. Most times, they decide on what pose they like to do and many times, even where they want to be photographed. The ratio of models to photographers is also an important factor. Usually 1 to 1 or 1 model to maximum 2-3 photographers is the best combination. Any more it becomes too crowded and the chances of getting good photos becomes slimmer. And having been to the Carnevale for years, they have often already made special appointments with their favourite photographers and friends for their photo sessions. And private arrangements are usually difficult to come by because it really takes hours to get ready a costume (and hours to take them off thereafter) and not everyone attends the full 14 days of the festival. So models will only do certain locations once.

For mask photos, much of the magic is in the eyes...the direction and mood at how they look at you/ the camera. It is very difficult for the model to look at multiple photographers at the same time.

A major hassle of photographing masks at the Venice Carnevale is the crowd. Everyone wants a photo when they see a masked costumer, and nowadays almost every person is armed with a handphone with a camera function. Many of them will not take "no" for an answer (to the ire of many masked costumers). Things like stray flash, people suddenly jumping in front of your cameras etc can be quite challenging occurences. That's why nowadays the best costumers and their photographer friends tend to "hide".

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