photography & art direction: Matteo Mescalchin
production design: Andrea Mescalchin
Subject: Squero Dei Rossi
Partners: Lighttools.com - Chimeralighting.com
Location: Giudecca, Venezia, Italy.
The project #Gondola400 is a tribute to the ancient craft
of the Venetian Ax Master; a precious craft that is representative of the value of Italian handcrafting excellence. The project is designed to create a unique collection of photographic images absolutely authentic in content and original in style.
“When I conceived this project, I strongly wanted my brother Andrea to be involved, for his ability to turn good ideas into executive projects. Both of us liked the ambitious idea and, seeing it as a professional challenge, we decided to promote the initiative as an official project of our studio. We worked together on the production design, myself as a photographer and Andrea as production manager, developing the project over about a year. That timeline is in harmony with the production timeline of a gondola at the 'Squero Dei Rossi,' which became the hero of this photographic project.”
The making of an authentic Venetian gondola is a handcraft unique to the world. Interestingly enough, it’s a process involving long-time tradition, engineering, and customization requiring a skill set that is learned and refined over an average of 20 years. Roughly 400 hours of high- quality work are necessary to manufacture a single boat. While being strictly accurate to the original design that has been preserved for centuries, each gondola is tailored to the individual body features of its gondolier, like height and weight, in addition to some aesthetic personal finishes and decoration. #Gondola400 takes its name from that idea: a collection of 400 pictures all handcrafted in honour of each hour of work necessary to craft a single gondola.
The final photography collection is meant to show the hidden beauty of the ancient knowledge and passionate work of the Squero (Italian name for a boatyard). Due to ‘historical changes,’ only four Squeros are currently operating in Venice. We believe the Squero is a relevant and precious piece of history in Italian culture and it’s become a great inspiration for the photographic work of our studio, as we share their values of hand-making, dedication to work, and attention to detail. It is worth mentioning that the whole photoshoot observes a shooting style and method that never interferes with the real work of artisans on set; as such, we never asked workers to pose for pre-set pictures or whatever made-up situation. Thanks to refined lighting techniques and taking light as a single tool for the visual language, the project genuinely works around the subject, creating visually engaging atmospheres and pictorial situations - respectfully observing rather than directing the subject.
The project has several goals, ranging from photographic challenge to cultural promotion. Most importantly, it’s meant to offer a collection of images that elevate the product - the gondola - while showing the very unique labour performed at the Squero, depicted through an innovative editorial work. The challenge was creating really authentic images without compromising on any photographic asset, such as careful composition, refined lighting, and image quality. In fact, it’s not always easy to keep up with high-profile photography while keeping the whole photoshoot production in sync with the subject’s working timetable and also dealing with environmental hurdles like a dusty set and tight working space. A high level of quality and meticulous care is evenly spread throughout the whole body of work; it also considers image quality from a visual and technical perspective, as all 400 shots are taken on Hasselblad digital medium format, delivering the best image to the public.
Most of the previous photographic works have been shot purely under available light conditions. From an artistic perspective, the project has reversed that traditional approach, bringing in modern lighting techniques as our main tool in interpreting the subject.
Although there are very few pictures shot using natural light, the project was intended to overlap a layer of refined lighting as visual interpretation, over the reality of the scene as a subject. It leaves workers free to perform their routine work without interventions over their movements or poses, meaning the shots are permeated with great authenticity. In fact, the working method we adopted has allowed a harmonious match between the routine work at the Squero and the construction of multiple photographic setups. From a lighting perspective, the project is dominated by the use soft light with great attention to directions and occlusion to shape the atmosphere accordingly with the image style.
#Gondola400 is an independent production of our studio, and we collaborated with the ‘Squero Dei Rossi’ as the subject. Among others, technical partners of digitalmovie.it are lighttools.com and ChimeraLighting.com, these partners have shown continuous support of our studio by using our work to showcase their top-notch light shaping products in use.
“I craft my lighting using mostly soft light from different sources. Each light plays a role into my picture based on softness, direction, intensity and occlusion. I work with Chimeralighting modifiers simply because I believe they are the best products for light shaping across the film and photography industry offering time tested solutions and yet up-to-date and durable materials. Then using both Original Soft Egg Crates and Ultrasoft Egg Crates from Lighttools, I take full control over softlight creating visual depth and really modeling the scene to my taste. Having Soft Egg Creates in front of a diffusion is like turning a kitchen knife into a scalpel.”
The project officially kicked off on July 2019 and, similarly to the traditional manufacturing time of a gondola, it has been designed to operate over different shooting days across a whole year. The final image gallery is not meant to show the making of a single gondola from start to finish. Instead, it will bring to life the quality work of the Squero Dei Rossi on several different boats, including some maintenance and repair operations as part of the Squero’s routine. The complete gallery of 400 photographs, as well as a selection of 40 best shots, will be managed by our studio and made available for different publications consistently with the informative intention of the initiative. Moreover, a curated behind-the-scenes gallery will be displayed on our website at www.digitalmovie.it, showcasing the making of the project, and also providing descriptions, lighting diagrams, and production notes.
Follow #gondola400 evolving project also on digitalmovie's IG profile here.
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