As a photographer focusing on architectural heritage, the opportunity to work on the carnival of Venice sounded like a dream come true. The carnival is like a passage to the XVIIIth century that anyone can take, a one-way ticket to Casanova's Venice. In short, a winning combo for someone as passionate of history as I am.
But instead of playing the game in an extravagant gown on St Mark's Square, I was here to take pictures of people. The photos would be expected each night by my contact in Paris, for immediate publication. This time, I could not avoid the crowd like I usually do. I would have to be part of it and overcome my fears. The same fears which had led me to shoot architecture over portraits in the first place.
My contact at Venise1.com had given me all the tips I needed to be prepared: "Go and ask people where they will be at a specific time so you get a nice light, away from the crowd".
But how do you talk to people? How do you start a conversation with complete strangers who never asked me to be here nor to take their picture? This is the story of my life. And of all introverts.
After landing in Venice on a Saturday morning, I started to take pictures from afar, holding my Sony A7R firmly between my fingers. Despite the excitement, the first pictures were blurry, badly framed, like the first series of pancakes. So I started to get closer and closer, isolating the costumes away from the rest of the crowd and finally getting the shots I wanted. But I wasn't the only photographer interested in the most beautiful costumes of the carnival.
Several shots were ruined by a more confident and experienced photographer, who simply grabbed "my" models by the hand. Anger and frustration started to grow in me. And I could hear the words of my contact at Venise1.com: "You'll have to expect rude photographers who will push you to get their shots. And shameless children passing in front of you, although they're more charming".
Obviously, I am neither a 60 year old man with a Nikon D4S and its 70-200mm lens, neither a charming six year old who's not conscious of social conventions yet. No, I'm a skinny 29 year old with a mirrorless camera and its kit lens.
But I decided to change my strategy anyway. I, too, put on a mask. The one I called "Tamara-the-fake-extrovert". The same mask I use to get a job during an interview, to convince a landlord I'll be the best tenant ever and to make a speech when there is no other way out.
Do you know how I do that? This fake extrovert mask is actually driven from my introvert skills. Introverts master the art of conversation, as long as there is only one person to handle. We are not afraid of intimacy, we care about people and create meaningful connexions in no time. Even when it's only a matter of eyes looking into a camera. Although we hate making the first step, we gain more and more confidence as the conversation evolves.
Whether they were other photographers around or not, I stopped seeing them. I probably became again this six year old kid who's not conscious of social conventions yet, and who gets the shot he came for.
I was speaking with my models, asking them where they were from, sometimes in French, sometimes in Italian. It really helps to speak to people in their native language. They become intrigued, look at you and start having questions too. I could then thank them for playing the game and wish them a happy carnival. For each photo, I was with my models for a minute or two, at most. After what I would disappear in a puff of smoke, trying to catch my breath in the compact crowd of Venice.
Fear 0 - Tamara 1.
See more of my pictures from Venice Carnival on Venise1.com