The 500th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice occurred on March 29, 2016. On that day in 1516, Doge Leonardo Loredan created the Venice ghetto by decree. Its purpose was simple, to physically segregate people based on religious differences. The term Ghetto originated then, and we continue to use it to describe an area of forced isolation.

While we were aware of this milestone prior to traveling to Europe, visiting the Ghetto on that exact day of the anniversary was serendipitous. The crowds were light, probably because the ceremony and concert were held that evening at the Fenice Opera House. There were several tour groups in various languages and an ample number of Venetian police officers. While walking south on Calle Ghetto Vecchio, a narrow, carless street, I made this photograph of two officers, helmets off walking casually through the Ghetto.

Back home, I did some additional research about the Venice Ghetto anniversary and became interested in the contradictions embedded in this scene and implied by the 500-year time span.

Notably, this very street that was once a prison is now described (Source: Venice Ghetto 500 website) as “a crossroads of cultures, a gateway to the understanding of the history of Jewish civilization, and a symbol of freedom beyond walls.” The police, once employed the ghetto to imprison its residents of the district are now serving and protecting their descendants. And, when I simplified and removed some details from the police, they became the shapes of two leather-clad male companions evoking a wide range of persona also shaped by the passage of time.

I began the series with a digital photograph I made on that day and continued to explore a variety of materials.