We’re kicking off our series of interviews with publishers we admire with JoAnn Locktov of Bella Figura Publications. I was intrigued by something she said during a conversation recently, which helped to shape this article. Even given the extensive number of interviews she’s fielded, there are still questions she has never been asked and I welcomed the chance to delve into how she made her choices as the editor and publisher of Dream of Venice in Black and White.
For Ventophiles who have not come across the trilogy of books about Venice published by Locktov, which also includes Dream of Venice and Dream of Venice Architecture, the beautiful black and white addition to her Bella Figura Publications imprint is a must have! Many of the photographers listed on the bottom of this page sell prints.
JoAnn Locktov on Publishing DoVBW
STP: Why did you choose to publish a book in black and white that represents a city noted for her colors?
JL: I’ve always loved the raw elegance of black and white whether it was street or fine art photography. There is timelessness to black and white that perfectly reflects the enduring seduction of Venice. Each book in the “Dream of Venice” trilogy has taken on a greater sense of urgency. We often think of black and white photography as implicating a certain truth. Devoid of the distraction of color, I wanted to this book to command attention.
STP: Why did you choose this cover?
JL: The cover image by Lisa Katsiaris was shot at dusk in a perfect storm of time, location, and weather. It is a surreal representation of the city as a dream state, suspended in time. In the foreground are the bricole, the wooden poles that have been used for navigation in the lagoon since the 15th century. I believe they represent the perfect synergy between the Venetians and the water that surrounds them. For me, they are an iconic symbol of a relationship in perpetuity. Il Redentore, the 16th century Palladian church rises out of the mist, reminding us that Venice was born from the water, not land. She began with nothing, and became everything.
STP: Who is Gianni Berengo Gardin and why is the book dedicated to him?
JL: Gianni Berengo Gardin is a Venetian photographer, now in his eighties, who has become intrinsic to Italy’s collective consciousness. His captivating and controversial work has always contained the vital element of truth. In 2015, his “Venezia e le Grandi Navi” exhibit documented the cruise ships obliterating Venice and her Lagoon. The images brought worldwide attention to the destructive sea monsters. In studying his work, Berengo Gardin taught me about the strength of black and white photography as an arbiter of humanity. The dedication was my way of acknowledging the spirit and significance of his work.
STP: Who is Živa Kraus and how is she involved with the book?
JL: Živa Kraus is originally a painter from Croatia who came to Venice almost 50 years ago. After working with Peggy Guggenheim, she dedicated her life’s work to photography. Živa has exhibited many of the most important photographers of the last four decades. In Venice she has an intimate gallery space in the ghetto, where she curates international exhibitions. A percentage of every book sold will be donated to her gallery, Ikona Venezia. Živa wrote an essay for the book, which includes her profound conviction, “The camera always sees the interior of the person behind the lens. Any photographer sees as much light as he has within himself.” It is my hope that the book will also bring new visitors to her influential gallery.
STP: Who is Tiziano Scarpa and why did you want to work with him?
JL: Twenty years ago, when I first discovered Venice, I also discovered the work of Tiziano Scarpa. He had written Venice Is A Fish, an irreverent and intimate non-guide to Venice. It is Tiziano who famously observed, “Getting lost is the only place worth going to.” Tiziano’s writing is often untethered to the mundane physical aspects of life and floats above us like mischievous putti. There are many Italian authors who have written about Venice, but it takes a Venetian to fully understand the crevices between her stones.
STP: How were the photos chosen?
JL: I used several criteria to choose the images. The first was simply composition. The second was a bit more visceral: did the image provoke an emotional response; what did I feel looking at the photograph? If the answer was nothing, the image did not proceed to the final benchmark, which was narrative. I was looking for photographs that traversed time, in the sense that although an image is one moment in time, I was watching an entire story unfold. The Venice of Calvino, Brodsky and Scarpa does still exist if you deliberately try to find her. These images are a reminder of what we are at risk of losing, unless there is a radical intervention.
STP: Tell Sharktooth Press readers about the photographers.
JL: There are 56 photographers in the book and they come from ten different countries. The photographers are both professionals and amateurs––I made no distinction. The process of discovering talent is one of the most joyous and gratifying responsibilities I have as an editor. My choice for inclusion was based on the photograph and not the quality of the camera or the career goals of the photographer.
Like the artist Marisa Convento in the above image by Cristina Vatielli, JoAnn Locktov has a fascination for creating, which shows in her three titles on Venice, all available on a number of platforms listed in the sidebar on her Bella Figura Publications site.