The catalogue of the Venice Biennale costs 85 Euro and is the size and weight of a Smart Car. This is light for a car but heavy for a catalogue. Eight trees died to make each one of those mothers, which you cannot, as far as I can tell, buy as a PDF. Hence I was not the only one snapping smartphone aides-memoire as I walked through the exhibition.
I came to the Biennale looking for answers, but it was only afterwards that I realised what question I was asking. Now I can see that I wanted vindication and guidance in my own directions in photography, and I found it, but not in the way I had expected.
I wanted to see famous photographers asking themselves the same questions that fascinated me. That would mean I was on the right track. Yes?
I did see that - a bit - but what I really saw was a bunch of very different and absorbing work. I saw diverse work by artists who cared deeply about what they were doing.
If the tone of this piece this seems abrupt and staccato, it’s because I’m writing after three days of solid immersion in the Biennale, surfacing only briefly and occasionally for Campari. I’ve also written a general reaction to the Venice Biennale in another essay here. If you find my style in this piece a little blunt, the first piece will explain why this is so.
Even with the distance of just one day I am finding some of the things I’m saying brash. But this is a reaction to the Biennale so I will leave it as it stands in the hope that this will convey what it was like to be there.
I will very briefly critique the five photographic artists that I thought were best. Counting down from five to one - but the order is based on my own interests and prejudices.