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Ambacht in Beeld Festival 21 & 22 September 2024
NDSM Loods, Amsterdam-Noord

| Venetian crafts

Herman van Doorn -

Exhibition photographer Herman van Doorn:


“In 2016 I started the “Venezia Quotidiana” project, documenting daily life on the streets of Venice. Gradually the desire arose to get behind the doors to get to know Venice and in the following years the “Venezia Artigiana” project developed. This project led to research and documentation of ‘remnants’ of craft activity in Venice.


There is an apparent contradiction in many Venetians’ view of mass tourism. Originally, the crafts were necessary for the inhabitants themselves, for shipbuilding, house building and, as with glass, to a large extent for export. As fewer inhabitants remained, there was less need for craft work for maintenance, for example. Which led to a need to sell the craft products to tourists. Which in turn means that these products will be copied and produced en masse by companies. Of course in a qualitatively inferior form. But that does not interest most tourists. Hence the conflict, on the one hand, the city needs the economic benefits of tourism and it provides a certain amount of prosperity, while the abundance of tourists only damages the city. The struggle against this abundance waged by Venetian citizens can serve as an example of the efforts of Venetian craftsmen to survive.


We can see that in the fight against the monstrous cruise ships that until recently could sail right through the city. Many attempts are made to draw attention to the ancient lace, the traditional glass blowing, the traditional mask makers and the fishing industry through festivities. All professions practiced by craftsmen. The most famous examples are the glass industry on Murano, and the different methods of lace-making, with needle and thread or bobbins, on Burano and Pellestrina respectively.


The construction of gondolas and everything related to it. The work in the yards, the blacksmith, the foundry, the cloth weaver, the joiner, the woodcarver, the gilder, the upholsterer. Wearing masks was commonplace in Venice from the Middle Ages. That is why this craft also occupies an important place in history and continues to exist, even though the hand-making of masks is only practiced by a dozen men and women. Most of the masks that one encounters while walking through the city are mass-produced in Eastern European and Asian countries and of worthless material.


For me and fortunately for anyone who attends this festival and has a warm heart for crafts, crafts can certainly be viable. After decades of neglect, in recent years we have seen a revival of appreciation for genuine handicrafts.


My project aims to make a portrait series of the Venetian artisans that makes it clear that they are an indispensable part of Venetian culture. Through this way of photographing I want to show that they form a unique unity with the space where their work takes place. A portrait in three layers, of the space, the craftsman or -woman and these in combination with the space.”


Exhibition at gallery NDSM Fuse in the NDSM Loods.

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