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Venice - a decadent, hedonistic bazaar, a dreamland. Like a sensual, magical spell. It is vintage James Bond meets the ancient world, where time stands still. Gondoliers, Venetian masks, Baroque costumes and ancient Moorish architecture. The land of Casanova and the Doge's Palace. The sun sparkles off the sea in a golden haze while gondoliers come and go in slow motion, to the sound of seagulls and chiming bells from St. Mark’s Square. Polished teak speed boats pull up to watery doorways that lead into surreal, pastel-bleached alcazars.

Venice, her potency captures me every time. Getting lost in the maze of small cobblestone streets is a daily ritual of pleasure. Many times I found myself wandering back in the dark of night hearing only the sound of the water, and the clomping of footsteps of others close by meandering through the paved alleys.

Venice was always going to be fun. I had a bunch of new samples, my camera, and no set plan. As usual, I was surrendering to what would unfold. On walks to St. Marks Square, I would see the smooth-operating gondoliers rustling up rides with tourists. "Gondola, Gondola!" I couldn't help but be charmed by their look in straw hats, tailored slacks, and striped shirts. After taking my first ride, I knew I had to photograph the guys wearing ENKI. It turned into a four-day campaign shoot.

I remember joking with Nicola ( left, top photo ) and telling him he should be an Armani model. He laughed and said to me in his Italian accent, “Jesse, I'll still be here in ten years if you come back.” Instantly, I saw myself sharing a joke with him ten years later in the very same spot. Some things stick in your memory - like the time I was lost, trying to find my way home in pitch black darkness. I walked over a small bridge, turned the corner, and found an incredible bespoke mask shop, glowing in the night and playing Vivaldi. I could never find it again, which made it all the more dreamlike. Walking through the sea of tourists around town, I felt like I'd stepped back in time to ancient Venezia. That's when I met the elegant Walid and Marco in their yellow and red Baroque outfits selling tickets to the opera. I knew I had to photograph them too. Over the next few days, Walid would send me his location so I could find them to shoot, and our stories began to unfold.  

A huge thank you to the Venetians and gondoliers who so graciously modelled for us - Nicola, Andrea, Ricardo, Walid and Marco. Thank you, guys. When I returned, I was in Sydney for only two weeks before I found myself booking a ticket straight back. I felt I needed more shots, and really, I needed more magic. It's true, for a creative, that Venice is a magnetic labyrinth in all seasons.





Photography by Jesse Walker.




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