“The Venice Series” (1985 - 1995)

When I was young the things I was best at were skin-diving, billiards and drawing. To skin-dive well you have to forget about the water and breathing, in billiard your opponent, the cue and the felt, in drawing the pencil and paper, and in all three it is the absence of intention that perfects your gesture, making it harmonious and efficient.


I began to draw when I was five. At eighteen the distance between object and image consisted solely in the time it took to outline it, shade it, colour it.This is because I stopped: you cannot be both architect and labourer of you own fantasy, one of the two takes all the possible pleasure and either the making becomes a waste of time or imagining and infinite repetition gyrating in circles.


Photography has allowed me to invert this process, to wait for the existence of an image rather than plan it. To recognise it, sharpening my emotions like the sensitivity of my hands over the years. We train the hand to the stroke so the hand becomes the stroke; the body to the water so the body becomes the water, the eye to feeling so that your eye recognises your feeling for the world of things, or can perceive their feeling.


Today I know that is not the image of the reality that compels me to portray part of it, but in its image I can search for the source of my feeling. Like an easy-going bloodhound I observe reality, and with the technical expertise of a demolition professional I look for that single point where, hitting just once, dead on, I will bring the superfluous to collapse leaving that essential emotion that struck me. This is why the entire Basilica della Salute is in its angel sentinels, the Giudecca is a stroke of charcoal and Colleoni is a man on horseback riding out for better of for worse.


I am not interested in the coitus infinitely interruptus of thematic exposition in twenty portraits, two hundred catastrophes, two thousand landscapes ed two million afflictions!; everything is found in one single thing and is therefore a portrait, a flower, an affliction to the very heart, once and for ever.


One day my cat and I were before the open defrosting fridge. Suddenly, in the total silence he began to stare at it getting nervous. Twenty second later, with a great crash, the entire sheet of ice in the fridge collapsed.


I have always taken very few photographs. Rolls could be of only five shots as far as I am concerned and just one would last me a whole year. I do not photograph people because people do not interest me. It would be presumptuous on my part and on theirs, because after early adolescence nobody is as they were anymore, they are as they try to appear, and I am not interested in appearances. I believe that whoever is whatever they do, and whatever they do for themselves. I do not need to help anyone to cross the road and it is worth nobody’s while to follow me as I haven’t a clue where I’m going, not do I care to know. Anyhow I’m growing old: lately the world, even that which I have made with my own hands, can no longer speak to me.


Enthralling beauty, love at first sight becomes more and more rare. Often I go round and round a place for hours, trying to understand what detail speaks to me and what it is saying but I remain unconvinced, unsatisfied, I take no photograph. I go away with the feeling that I have left something important behind and that I am not yet ready or sensitive enough. From twenty-five years of photography I could save thirty photographs, and I would not be sure of a single one.


But perhaps learning to draw means to imagine, learning to swim means never to surface again and learning to photograph means to stop.

Michele Alassio, 1995