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Naked in Venice

6 March 2016

Of course, a nude photo shoot was never part of the plan. After efforts to organise life modelling and performance events in Bucharest had amounted to nothing in January, Esther and I decided to use our few spare days at the end of February as a relaxing holiday. Somewhere nice, not too cold, beside the sea… so we went to Venice. The weather forecast was for rain throughout, but we would have a good time.

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Part 1 – Venice

We’d taken rooms in an apartment on the island of Giudecca, just opposite Piazza San Marco in the Venetian Lagoon. Neither of us felt a particular compulsion to do all the things that tourists are meant to do in Venice but it is a city of romance and a city of art, and when art is a part of your being, then either you will find it or it will find you. Even our landlady turned out to be an artist and former life model.

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Another extraordinary coincidence was the surprise discovery, on our third night, that my friend Glynis Ackermann was in town. She co-performed ‘Foil‘ at the opening of ‘Liquid Rooms / The Labyrinth‘ – billed as an “experimental video and performance arts festival” – at Palazzo Cà Zanardi the evening before. I sent a message to ask if she would be repeating her nude art performance the next day.

Come the morning of Sunday 28 February, Glynis hadn’t replied but we resolved to go along to Cà Zanardi anyway and see what we would find. One way or another we were certain to see plenty of interesting contemporary art. First, however, we would engage with some altogether more historic Venetian Gothic splendour, visiting the magnificent Doge’s Palace at Piazzo San Marco. Poses were tried and spied.

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Part 2 – performance

We made it to Cà Zanardi around four o’clock in the afternoon. Although able to enter unimpeded, it was apparent that staff and artists were midway through preparing for a performance that evening. They advised us to come back at 5:30pm, so after admiring some of the art on the walls, we wandered around the back canals, the walkways and bridges to kill time with coffees at the Tortuga pub.

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Back at Cà Zanardi we had no sooner arrived than the performance began. Not Glynis this time, but some mesmerising improvised dance by Marjolaine Uscotti and a male partner against the backdrop of her ‘Tangenze‘ video. With complimentary prosecco, we watched two performances. Just as a third was about to start, Glynis entered the room. She was as delighted to see us and we were to see her.

Sadly we learned that Glynis’s performance had been a one-off, but we had no regrets that such a lovely unexpected convergence had brought us together at this place. The three of us went for dinner together, chatting about life, art, and a world of possibilities. When Esther and I eventually waved Glynis goodbye and ran home through the rain, it was with feelings of joy and inspiration.

Part 3 – Lido

Next morning, we found the weather had much improved. Sure, it was overcast, chilly, with clouds foreboding rain, but our moods were bright. We had a late brunch, left our Giudecca apartment, and took a vaporetto across to San Marco from where we would get a connecting service to Lido di Venezia. Glynis was already on her way back to Switzerland, but Esther and I were going to the seaside.

We walked directly across the narrow width of the island to its long eastern shoreline buffeted by the Adriatic Sea. This was very much the Lido out of season, with all its grand old hotels shuttered, and with banks of sand piled high to protect sun terraces from the elements. With winds and lightly spitting rain at our backs, we strolled hand in hand along the near-deserted beach.

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Apart from the occasional dog walker and a handful of surfers in the distance, we had the place to ourselves. So I thought: why not have a spontaneous nude outdoor photo shoot? We rolled the idea between us as we walked further. Yeah, let’s do it! First we glanced around for somewhere to leave our clothes. We let a jogger pass by. Nobody else was in view. I said, “I’m doing it.”

Part 4 – nakedness

On a concrete groyne down by the water’s edge, I started to undress. Heavy coat first, then shoes and socks. I handed Esther my little Canon Ixus camera and looked in all directions; still no-one else in view. Jeans and boxers came off next, and finally fleece and shirts. It was bitterly cold, with wind and rain raking my skin. We would be quick: first I stood at a distance, then came nearer, then turned as if gazing along the coast.

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This was not fine art nor great photography, but it was raw, and it was real, and it was exhilarating. I speedily dressed and took the camera from Esther. It was now her turn, yet she had even more clothes than me to fight herself free from. Still no-one else was in view, and soon enough Esther was naked. She took the same positions as me and, being a true professional – even when on holiday – put everything into the poses.

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It occurred to us subsequently that, in this weather, under cloudy skies, with nothing recognisably Venetian in view we might just as well have bagged these images back in England. But we didn’t; this was Venice and we were well pleased. Only when the last of Esther’s clothes were back on did a passer-by appear and stand watching us. They were too late… the job was done.

Part 5 – Giudecca

That evening on Giudecca we had pizzas and wine at our local restaurant. It was our last night in Venice. What was meant to be a straightforward vacation – a change of scenery away from our beloved London – had turned into something magic that whet our appetites for more artiness in a variety of forms. We wanted to perform, to model, to play, and to be at large in the world.

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Next morning we wandered along the waterfront and partook of leisurely coffees before setting off to the airport. For the first time since our arrival, the sun was out in a sky of brilliant blue. Venice had never looked more beautiful, yet now it was time to go home. There are futures in which we return and immerse ourselves further in this unique city. Let’s see if we can make them happen.

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From → Art

One Comment
  1. “Prudence in Venice” – if you ever need a title for these shots! 😉

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