I shot this series in 2019, before the global pandemic shut down Italy and most of the world, and at the time I never imagined that the city would find itself empty in the way that eventually became the following year. While the series is prescient in that way, capturing these images was my way of mourning a city that I saw as decimated by a pervasive influx of tourists; over the past decades, the local population has decreased to around 30 per cent of its previous size as people move out to escape the throngs of tourists.
Shooting at night is always a mix of adrenaline and catharsis, and being out alone in the dark with only my camera really connects me back to my craft, tools and visual impulses. I’m always acutely aware of the inherent feeling of anxiety in darkness and shadows, something inherited from our cavemen ancestors who viewed the night as a time to hide away or stay on guard. As I was shooting and would hear footsteps approaching from a distance my heart would race as I waited for that unknown person to round the corner and reveal themselves. To me, this felt like an authentic sensation that people in Venice – and indeed all ancient cities with their maze-like streets – must have felt. I love that thrill and connection.
These night-time series – like my earlier work Midnight Modern – are a way for me to explore the architecture of a place while trying to imbue a certain feeling of uncertainty, anxiety and mystery. In this instance, I avoided photographed anything ultra-modern, which would give away when exactly in history these images were taken. Instead, I enjoy ambiguity of either when or where the photographs were shot.
Words and photographs by Tom Blachford