Venice: Outside Looking In

Venice: Outside Looking In

By |2015-11-16T19:36:34+00:00Nov 16th, 2015|

I’ve had the good fortune of leading or co-leading a number of workshops in my career and with all of these events, my students rallied around me so that they could improve or refine their skills around landscape photography. After all, that’s the genre of photography I spend most of my time in, either creating or educating. A good workshop finds itself at the intersection of its students’ challenges and the leader’s ability to provide thoughtful guidance without coddling.

Recently, I had found myself in a bit of a rut that eventually began materially impacting my creative process. What led to this rut and what I’ve learned from it are topics that I’m going to save for future posts but suffice it to say that I needed to shock the system, so to speak. I just wasn’t sure how. The answer came in the form of an announcement by David duChemin, a photographer and author whose work has inspired me countless time. I specifically cite David as an inspiration in my book, The Visual Palette, and am so thankful to have a quote from him on the inside flap of its front cover.

In David’s announcement, he stated that he was trying out a new type of workshop—one that would be very intimate and geared to help each student create a tight and connected body of work with the beautiful city of Venice as our backdrop. The subject and nature of this portfolio collection would be borne through collaboration between the student and David.

For whatever reason, I knew that this was an opportunity I needed to seize and within a few minutes after posting the announcement, I reached out to David to let him know that both my wife, Nicole, and I would be applying to join. For the first time in my career as a working photographer, I was paying to be a student in a workshop and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

To keep from letting this post spiral right out from under me, I’ll share a lot more of the intricacies about this workshop and what I learned for subsequent posts and a new eBook that I’ve started producing. For now, what’s important to know is that my biggest fear with traveling to Venice was that I would leave it with a collection of photos that I would expect myself to have taken. For some reason, that thought terrified me and I let David know this. Fortunately, David is a wonderful mentor with a refined eye for teasing out the sizzle from the steak. Over the course of the week, our collaborations and reviews helped me chip away at the fears, stigmas, and doubts I had about exploring what the artist—the real artist—inside me was begging to create. That realization, in and of itself, spawned a creative renaissance within me and I’ve been feverishly laying out my thoughts so that I can share them with you.

Now, I’d like to share with you my portfolio series I created during this pivotal workshop. It is called Venice: Outside Looking In. Making these photos was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done as a photographer. It embodies all of the fears and doubts I’ve ever had about entering the amorphous and often misunderstood world of street photography. My goal with this series was to connect each of you to Venice by providing you with a sense of place and to guide you to emotionally invest with each frame by bubbling up the enormity of what a single moment of life can hold if you just allow yourself to see it.

I hope you enjoy this body of work. I am so excited to share everything else that has resulted from it and welcome you to join me for this ride.

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  1. lcamara November 19, 2015 at 9:36 am - Reply

    Well although they are great photos my feeling is Venice is not a dark, dreary city and these photos make me feel like it is. It is just not the Venice we’ve seen so many times. Why all black & white? I would like to have seen some in color to make a comparison especially to see if they evoked a different feeling from me.

    • Brian Matiash November 19, 2015 at 10:29 am - Reply

      Thanks for your thoughts here, I appreciate it. The last thing I wanted to do -with this series- is create photos that “we’ve seen so many times.” Rather, this was a very personal body of work that conveys some acute challenges I imposed on myself. And because these photos are meant to be shared as a cohesive body of work, my choice to stylize them all in black and white was very intentional and I wholly stand by it.

      Again, I do appreciate your thoughts and welcome your opinion.

      • Nicky Jameson November 19, 2015 at 9:39 pm - Reply

        I think they are beautiful photographs and as an artist you must pursue your vision…. However if you hadn’t mentioned it I would never have guessed they were of Venice at all – apart from the ones with a Gondola. So I get where Icamara is coming from. I think of Venice as vibrant and uplifting… somehow these feel dark and – dare I say it – depressing. Perhaps that was the point. I can only talk about my personal feelings on seeing them of course.I like the ones of the fishmonger,and the photos with the gondolas.

  2. John Lebeck November 19, 2015 at 10:23 am - Reply

    I agree with Icamara that Venice is a colorful, dynamic city. It would have been nice to see some bright colorful photos, too. I realize that this is “art” and that you are the artist” – so you are free to do your own thing. For me I would have liked to see a more colorful side of the city.

    • Brian Matiash November 19, 2015 at 10:31 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comments, John. As I mentioned in my reply to Icamara, this series was not meant to share the “more colorful side of the city.” I certainly took (and shared) a bunch of more typical, color photos from Venice (, but my intention was to keep those separate from this project.

  3. Craig Magina November 19, 2015 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Nice series of photos, they evoke a feeling of “photos of the past,” especially the lady and the cloths line. The only one that throws me off as I look through them is the painter. It feels modern, maybe because it is so bright compared to the others. My favorite one is the girl in the store. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed seeing a different view of the city.

    • Karl Maskos November 19, 2015 at 2:46 pm - Reply

      wow I appreciate seeing something different! I can only image the work/struggle that you went through to get images that were different from what might have been expected. I really enjoyed image 10, because is simple, it demonstrated live by the canal, and the timing would make : Bresson: proud. THis encourages me to pick a theme and work it. To try to stretch myself. Bravo

  4. holiday4086 November 19, 2015 at 11:45 am - Reply

    I love the “fish monger” in photo 2. He makes me smile, still.

  5. Sean Howard November 19, 2015 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    Brian. You impressed me from the moment I met you. Your kindness and thoughtfulness were palpable. Both you and your wife are amazing people and I am beyond honoured to now count you as friends.

    What I didn’t expect was to be so moved by your work. I’d spent time reviewing your work prior to the workshop and I expected brilliantly executed photos that were bright, colourful and stunning vistas of venice. What I got instead was the quiet you. As you say, I got to see what the artist inside you sees of this magical city. I witnessed and felt what it was like to be an outsider. Damn.

    What matters most is how you feel about your work, as I’m sure you know. But I want you to know that this work fucking moved me, dude. Can we swear in disqus? Will this be marked as spam now? lol

    And without going into too much detail on private matters, I am beyond proud that you reached out and grabbed the moment on that final day. It would have been far easier, I’m sure, to just walk away and not confront that place inside you. But I’m so glad you did.

    All my love, dude! And colour me f’ing jealous of this series.


  6. Cal Mukumoto November 19, 2015 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    Without a doubt you and Nicole are outstanding photographers. Why is it that I gain comfort in knowing that you are learning and looking for inspiration? I guess it makes me feel not so alone on this journey. David DuChemin is also an inspiration. I wonder how it must feel to be back near the spot where he fell 30 feet and broke many bones. But stepping out and taking chances is where we find growth. This series of photos is great, each in their own way tell a story and are visually appealing. Thanks Brian!

  7. Larry Lato November 19, 2015 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Great B&W photography Brian. Your work is always so vibrant and colorful so this is quite the change. You demonstrate a mastery of your craft!

  8. Kim Braley November 22, 2015 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Each photograph tells a story and each is expertly done. While as a whole the body of work may be dark, it is a unique portrayal of a much-photographed place. As the artist, it is entirely up to you to choose how you wish to portray your creativity. Beautiful!

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