This is the first in a series of guest post by Robin Yong. Robin is a travel photographer from Singapore who specializes in people portraits in locations like Italy, Ethiopia, Cambodia, and many others. Every year, he comes to Venice for the Carnival and has built an impressive collection of photographs and stories from that charming event. In this post, Robin introduces us to one of his favorite locations to conduct shooting sessions in the city. Stay tuned for more posts to come from Robin.
Next year, Robin will be co-leading with me a photography workshop in Venice at the time of the Carnival. Interested in exploring the locations described in these articles and having some quality, private time with some of the models depicted in his photos? Head over to the workshop page to get all the details and sign up!
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Every year during Carnevale di Venezia, the world’s best costumed models and the world’s best photographers meet in Venice. The models have spent months designing and making their own costumes with the expectation that they will meet the best photographers who will reward them with brilliant photos. Usually, no payment is required and for most people, everyone meets at dawn at San Marco Square, with most people leaving by 10AM, when the tourists arrive.
For the more popular models and photographers, private shoots are the way to go. Details of the costumes are traditionally kept a secret, although some models will leave their favourite photographers clues or even send them pictures of the costumes before hand so that the epic photo shoots can be planned.
This is my 3rd year in Venice, and having a reputation of never saying “No” to any model, I found myself fully booked for photo sessions way before the Carnival.
Some models even book a year before the Carnival. They will email me to discuss about a theme or concept, and we will think of a suitable place in Venice to do the photos. The more ambitious ones will try to rope in models with matching costumes for more dramatic role plays. Fairy tale characters, dark costumers, Victorian period costumes are all popular themes for the masked models.
The Acqua Alta bookstore is one of my favourite places for photographs. This a quirky little bookstore in the heart of Venice that mostly sells used books. The books are haphazardly set up to fill every available space, including a gondola and a bathtub set on the floor. Those implements are undoubtedly useful whenever the water level rises enough to cover the floor of the shop, as happens so frequently in Venice. It is such an unusual and fascinating place to stage a shoot.
Last year, I remembered a model with a Pied Piper of Hamelin costume from 2014 and I sent her an email during the 2015 Carnival telling her how nicely I thought the surroundings would match her costume. To my surprise, she replied immediately to say that she was in Venice as well and had the same costume with her, in addition to another new costume. We soon met at the bookstore and did a beautiful set of photos that later went on to grace the cover of my coffee table photo book “Fairy Tales in Venice”. Thereafter, I had quite a number of emails requesting for private shoots at the bookstore.
About the author
Robin Yong is a travel photographer from Singapore and a doctor specialising in travel medicine. He spends most of his time in Australia and Singapore, with frequent travels to Cambodia, Japan, Ethiopia, France and Italy. He particularly likes to do portraits, especially of people in their traditional costumes. His favourite subjects are the Venetian masked models, the Indochinese Apsara dancers and the very elusive Japanese geishas and maikos – all very mysterious people to most photographers. He then turns these photos into picture books and gives them to the models, much to their delight. The best way to follow Robin’s work is on his Facebook page.