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Venezia è sogno


I believe that one of the most difficult subject to photograph is Venice: worse than the Coliseum or the Trevi Fountain, of the changing of the guards at Buckingam Palace or of Niagara Falls.

The only possible elements of novelty in photographs of these places are the figures of our companions posing against these well-know backdrops. Such photographs leave those who have taken them with a sense of melancholy that may border on discouragement, as they are the irrefutable proof of the truth of Claude Lévi-Strauss’ affirmation in “Tristes Tropiques”: Travel, magic treasure chest full of fantastic promises; you will no longer reveal your treasures… I would like to have lived at the time of “real travel”, when travel offered all its splendour in a spectacle not yet muddied, contaminated, damned… We live in the era of the “end of travel”.

This letter, finally freed of the stereotyped interpretations that had embalmed her, showed herself with an absolutely novel freshness. It must be said that Ms. Severi already had to her credit a similar experience that had allowed her to free the image of Capri, embalmed in its saccharine clichés, worn-out by having been over-seen, by too many postcards, by the blanked of the well-know and of musty folklore, giving Capri a new, fragile authenticity. This time, the surprise is that Severi’s photographs seem to have a very relative bond with the present but they also allow the vast Venetian painting tradition to seep through.

This is not “pictorialism”, as it would have to be accompanied by a precise will on behalf of the author, but rather it is and effect of reality when it manifests a magical dimension. This calls to mind that quote from Shakespeare, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on”, an abyssal affirmation that we hesitate to explore, allowing it to merely echo within us.

Yes, Venice is not a dream: it is dream, it is not only the atmosphere created that gives the impression of being in another dimension, but also the object represented that seem to have an oneiric consistency.

These are photographs that seem to be the fruit of the epitome of instantaneousness, simultaneously acting as sounding lines, fishing through time and bringing to the surface fragments of that which our too-rigid optical view considers the past. I know of no other such examples.


“Venice is a Dream” is an attempt to lay claim to a unique and extremely personally approach to photographic research.

Only in the previous, aforementioned volume by Ms. Severi, printed in June 2008, but “filmed” (almost as though in were a movie!) in the months of January- February, did the authoress begin to show us photographs that I would metaphorically define “scratched, almost as though the photographic tool were fitted with claws that she used to her liking, both to create fascinating linear streaked effects and to create other, softer effects with all-around sweeps, or cascades of semicircles, large or small, that seem to almost want to embrace the subject of the photograph.

In “Venice is a Dream” the authoress “scratches” her “signature”, but here we can see that Maria Pia Severi goes one step further: in such a far-reaching work, beside to so-called “scratched” photographs, by now typical of her tried and tested style, we find other, clearer ore more evanescent images, wherein the artist, perhaps she too enchanted by the fascination of the lagoon-city, seems to almost restrain herself from discomposing places and persons or masks, and treats them rather with an unusual delicacy, like a passionate lover, at times ardent and impetuous, others delicate and sweet, allowing the primordial aspect of the images to filter through, in their essentiality, but nonetheless impressing each with a touch of poetry and, dare I add, magic.

But let us accompany the artist along the “ideal” journey where she would lead us: a day in Venice, from morn to evening, in the enchanted city during the famous Carnival.