“The miracle of beauty asks everyone to change direction”

I was born in 1956. My father was kept a flower shop in Campo SanFilippo and Giacomo. I spent my childhood in that Campo, where everyone knew each other. Before the Bridge of the Canonica, on the left, there was a butcher, and his huge cat would lie in the middle of the street all day. He would not move even for a cannon and everyone had to climb over or crawl on the walls, in order to pass. The “calle” was all his as Venice was all mine. My friends and I used to play between San Zaccaria and St. Mark's Square. I fell into the water at least twenty times, in summer and in winter, and every time someone saved me, but I only realized I was a miraculous child around ten years of age, when I looked up and suddenly realized that I was surrounded by constant beauty since everything I saw walking through the city was profound, moving, unsurpassed: the light in the San Marco basin, the tireless movement of the water, the splendor of the mosaics, the proportions of the buildings. Many places in the world lose their charm for a simple downpour, but my city retains its charm and its strength under any circumstances.
They are just variations of absolute perfection in a Bach style.
Then, slowly, everything has changed, and what surrounds me now is not my city, but its cadaver kept alive artificially. Today I live in an unlivable city where nothing has been thought of for the residents, but for those who stay temporarily, and we Venetians are only the unpaid movie-extras of an uninterrupted movie set that will never produce a movie, because the business is to keep shooting, and to not do something in. I am convinced that only those who live in a city should have the right and the power to decide what their present and future should be, and that this simple rule has been completely forgotten in the last fifty years, giving to an infinite mix of nullity the keys to an immense and unrepeatable patrimony.
But I am also convinced that it is possible to stop for a moment, think it over, and take back what, as Venetians , is undoubtedly and solely our property.
Many years ago I was asked to give a photography lesson in a secondary school. I explained to the children that it’s impossibile to talk about photography without, first, knowing what is or isn’t an image, so I asked them to think of their mother's face, to fix it mentally: immediately after I took a postcard, I made it into a thousand pieces and I threw into the air asking them to do the same thing with their mental image. Nobody could do it, because a mother is an image, not a postcard, and an image, to exist, must go beyond itself: it is made of memories, affection, love.
In the same way, even today, I would not be able to snatch an image of Venice, not even in a postcard. And I hope that, like the butcher's cat, it is still possible to get in the middle and force everyone to change direction.

Michele Alassio