The 500th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice occurred on March 29, 2016. On that day in 1516, the Venice Ghetto was created, by the decree of Doge Leonardo Loredan, to physically segregate people based on religious differences. The term Ghetto originated here and continues to be used today 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 was held that evening at the Fenice Opera House. There were several tour groups in various languages and an ample number of Italian police. While walking south on Calle Ghetto Vecchio, a narrow, carless street, I made this photograph of two poliaiotti, 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 understanding of the history of Jewish civilization, and a symbol of freedom beyond walls.” And, the police, once employed 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.
This series begins with the original digital photograph and continues with explorations using a variety of materials and techniques including, charcoal, acrylic paint, spray paint, Rives BFK and medium density board.