Cristiano Volk – Sinking Stone

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Review by Gerhard Clausing

This photobook by Cristiano Volk is all about the mysterious and historic Venice, Italy. It is a novel view of a place that has been incessantly photographed, resulting in zillions of predictable tourist snapshots that imitate tourism brochures. The city is built on islands, always poised to battle the surrounding sea that threatens the historic structures. Not only that, Venice must also endure gigantic hordes of tourists who are a threat to the very structures which they admire and help support through their tourist money. How do you depict a city gradually sinking into the sea that is encroached upon by massive cruise ships as well as by the forces of nature?

Volk offers us a refreshingly different and very creative approach to all of that. The images show minute details and grand gestures lacking particular purpose. We get glimpses of tourists photographed from awkward angles against a context of bits of gradually decaying historic structures and icons. Color is used sparingly, almost in a musical crescendo fashion to build up tension and hint at processes that seem unstoppable. This judicious and graphically staggered use of color has also been compared to the tonalismo technique of painters. Furthermore, rather than showing us a seemingly satisfying totality of Venice in the form that is viewed and reproduced by tourists, Volk confronts us with many jarring fragments that often flash by as in a short but powerful dream.

This photobook contains 44 brilliantly sequenced color images that evoke many associations. The sequence stays interesting from beginning to end, making us curious about past, present, and future, and not just about Venice, but also concerning environmental issues on a global scale. The threat of flooding, to name just one, and the deterioration of infrastructure are universal phenomena. Cristiano Volk’s direct visual approach, while it helps us recall the colorful history of places, is also a warning, reminding us of the ultimately impermanent nature of things. We come away with a feeling of great uncertainty – what’s to become of places that previously withstood many other challenges?

On the artistic side, I am very pleased that in his depiction of a city Volk has gone way beyond the traditional methodology of such genres as street photography. This project is an excellent example of making a statement by presenting ambiguities; this kind of fine art requires the participation of the viewer to reflect on issues that affect us all. Congratulations!

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Cristiano Volk – Sinking Stone

Photographer: Cristiano Volk (born in Trieste, Italy; lives in Staranzano, Italy)

Publisher: Witty Kiwi, Turin, Italy; © 2019

Stiff embossed cover with open-spine (naked) binding; 56 pages, paginated, with 44 images and a visual register; 19.5 x 29 cm; printed in Italy by Ediprima Srl, Piacenza

Editors: Cristiano Volk, Federico Clavarino, Carsten Humme (Leipzig)

Photobook Designer: Federico Barbon

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