The gondola is the most emblematic symbol of Venice. Before a major means of transportation, it’s now a touristic – and expensive! – attraction. But it’s still used by Venetian to cross the Grand Canal (traghetto).

The number of gondolas in Venice has dropped from around 10 000 in the 1500s to about 400 nowadays.

Gondola in the Venetian island of Burano
Venice (Burano), Italy, 2003 – Yashica FX, T-Max 400, 50mm Contax Zeiss f/1,4

To become a gondolier (gondolieri), you need 400 hours of training during six months to get the practical skill to handle the gondola.

According to an article in The Guardian, in 2017, there was only one female gondolier in Venice. Alec Hai, a transgender man, was the first female to become a gondolier in 2010.

Shot location on Google Street View

I’m not sure about the exact place where I shot the gondola but it could have been here or close from here, even if the wooden stakes are gone.

A gondola is always black… except in Burano

Burano is a Venetian island, less than 10 kilometers from Venice. It’s very close from Torcello, an other Venetian island, referred to as the parent island from which Venice was populated.

Burano is famous for its colored houses: you need to be really in love with Black and White to put a Black & White film in your camera when walking around! Of course, it was before everybody got a digital camera…

The very few gondolas belong to people who use them for their pleasure, not for tourists. In Venice, all the gondolas for tourists are black: a sumptuary law of Venice required that gondolas should be painted black. But in Burano, if you’re lucky, you can see a red or a yellow gondola. If you see a colored gondola in Venice, it probably comes from Burano.

You can see a view of Burano on Google Maps. And a photo shot from a gondola by the french photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

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This photo is part of the A Black and White Portfolio gallery: see all the images in fullscreen or download the FREE eBook.

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