Rampant Tourism Threatens Venice

(This is part of an interview JoAnn did with Ytali.com)
"It is now a badge of honor to be considered an intellectual hack by the mayor of Venice. We hacks see the devastation that the cruise ships and rampant tourism are causing. We see the inflated rents and illegal short-term rentals. We see the struggles of artisans, residents, and Venetian shopkeepers. We see the crowded calle and the disrespect. We see that the stones, which have existed for over 1,500 years are crumbling. Literally. This is not a metaphor for the loss of cultural integrity (hastened by the mayor’s misinformed proposition to sell the art work of Klimt and Chagall). The stones really are crumbling. Our steps, all 30 million of us that visit each year, are wearing down a city that can no longer sustain our love.
We are the foresti, the outsiders. Some of us come to Venice to replenish our souls, to experience her beauty, her food, and her art. We don’t buy cheap souvenirs and we don’t picnic on monuments. We search out artisans wherever we can find them. And we’ve become brokenhearted."
"We‘re witnessing the demise of Venetian civilization. As the cruise ships exponentially grow in size and number, the residential population falls. Are there many contributing factors? Of course, but this inverse relationship epitomizes the issue."
"When Calvino’s Marco Polo was describing Venice to the Kublai Kahn, he explained, 'Without stones there is no arch.' Without Venetians, there will be no Venice. How can we, the people who are privileged to cross your bridges in our lifetime, help stop the exodus?"


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5 New Things I've Learned In Publishing

With photography from my new book

One would think after publishing two books in a series, I would have it all figured out. Not quite. With the third book in the “Dream of Venice” trilogy I went in an entirely new direction. Rather than one photographer and 36 writers (like the first two books) I flipped the ratio and had one writer and 56 photographers. In the most radical change, I left the sumptuous world of color for the raw elegance of black and white. As the tourism, climate, and economic situation in Venice become dire, my urgency to bring attention to the city increases. It could only be black and white photography with its provocative history that could capture the intensity I wanted.  

With only one writer I had a bundle of attributes I was looking for, and only one name on my list. When you’ve admired a writer for 20 years, the opportunity to work together is a publishing pinnacle. When Tiziano Scarpa agreed to write the book’s Introduction, I knew this book­­­­­­—that had been a figment of my over-active imagination—was actually going to exist in the world. Now for the photography and 5 new things I have learned about publishing… 

1.  Ask for What You Want

I had a concept for the book and I had the writer of my dreams but it was a photography book and I had absolutely no idea what the photos would look like. I wanted photography that spoke to the intimate beauty of Venice and her audacious nature. Would the photography go beyond the clichéd images that I’ve made a career of avoiding? There was only one way to find out. I had an open call for submissions. The only stipulation was that the image had to be black and white. I didn’t care where the photographer lived, if they were an amateur or professional, or if they used an iPhone or pinhole camera. The submissions flooded in from 10 countries, and they were remarkably relevant to the story I wanted to tell. 

(photography by Pietro De Albertis, 2016, "A manina")

2.  Listen to What the Book Wants To Be

We often hear of writers channeling their muse, but as a publisher, I also need to listen to what the book wants to be. In the first two “Dream of Venice” books there were no people in the photographs, by intention. When I started receiving photographs for the third book, many of them included people. Initially aghast, I soon realized that these people were the heart of the book. They set the tone for both Tiziano’s Introduction and what the book finally came to be. I would never have guessed this when I started but it became abundantly clear as I proceeded to edit. Had I stayed stuck on my prior “no people” stance I would have ignored what this book wanted to be. 

(photography by Mriganka Kalita, 2017, "The Long Wait")


3. Trust Your Instinct

The cover is always a challenge. It needs to work from so many different perspectives. For this book, I was dependent on the images I had received, and tried many before we made the final decision. The cover is not “typical” for a book about Venice. There are none of the most famous structures we are used to seeing: no Basilica, Rialto Bridge or Ducal Palace. Much to the chagrin of some, there is no gondola. But my goal was to present a more enigmatic Venice. Those readers that are deeply connected to the city will understand the legacy of Palladio and the wooden bricole. And for those who are unfamiliar with the structures on the cover, the image will lure them inside. With so many experts telling us what is the correct graphic for a cover, sometimes all we can do is trust our own instincts. 

(book cover photography by Lisa Katsiaris)


4. Amplify Your Creatives

The well of creativity runs deep and I feel it is my responsibility to develop and promote the creative people I work with, not only as a means to sell books but also in an effort to acknowledge their work. Unlike most publishers, I don’t expect that the onus of marketing should fall to the writers and photographers.  I will naturally seek out press for media coverage, but I also create opportunities that are directly supportive of the talent that I publish. A recent example is an interview series on Ytali, where once a month we publish an interview with one of the photographers in English and Italian. This is a dedicated effort to explore their work more deeply.

(photography by Maurizio Rossi, 2016, Lavoro in estinzione “Bepi Suste“)


5. Know When You are Done

Initially, I was publishing just one book, Dream of Venice. But halfway into the process, it became very clear to me that it would become a series with multiple books. But how many, I really didn’t know. While I was working on the second book, Dream of Venice Architecture, the idea for the black and white book arrived simultaneously. Now the series would have three books, but how many more? When I commenced work on the third book, Dream of Venice in Black and White, I had another epiphany. But this time it was to tell me that this series would be a trilogy. Could I develop more “Dream of Venice” topics and keep going? Yes, easily. But the series is a complete trifecta and now I will explore different ways to tell the story of Venice.

(photography by Cristina Marson, 2017, La pescatrice di sogni)

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JoAnn Locktov is the is the founder of the award-winning craft publishing company, Bella Figura Publications, and is an activist and advocate for the preservation of the city of Venice. Her views on Venice, both political and cultural, have been featured in podcasts, blog posts and articles, some of which are gathered at her Bella Figura Publications website.

Bella Figura Publications: http://bellafigurapublications.com/

Dream of Venice: http://bellafigurapublications.com/welcome/

Dream of Venice Architecture : http://bellafigurapublications.com/dream-venice-architecture/

Dream of Venice in Black and White: http://bellafigurapublications.com/dream-venice-black-white

JoAnn Locktov: http://bellafigurapublications.com/about/

Ytali (the photographer interview series): https://ytali.com/autori/tutti-gli-articoli/joann-locktov/