Going Baroque in Venice

A photographer's dream assignment

Words: Richie Williamson, Photography: Richie Williamson
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In the summer of 1984 Alain Burger, my photo agent in Paris, and I went to Rome for an assignment to cover the Night People of Rome. This was an assignment that I had presented to Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine as a continuing travelogue that I had been doing for them through out Europe. I took my large 4×5 Camera as my weapon of choice and away we went.

I was fortunate enough to have met a wonderful person Massimino Semprebene while there who basically gave me the keys to the city. He was a protégé of Federico Fellini and had access to all the artist, Socialites and young Actors from Cine Citta. Through Massimino, I met many of the noble families of Rome both old and young. I photographed them in their homes, hotels, Ateliers and in Cine Citta as well. Notables were Marina Lante Della Rovere and her daughter Lucretzia, Prince Urbano Barberini and Princess Ines Torlonia who invited me to come to Venice the following season to experience the Balls and festivities of Carnavale. Interview Magazine was ecstatic at the prospect and I of course accepted Ines’s invitation.

Alain Burger again accompanied me, as well as Katherine Milan, my assistant, and Lindy King, a notable hair and makeup artist. We arrived and got to work. Ines Torlonia and Marina Lante Della Rovere were great hostesses and arrange for me to attend all the Balls of the Season. The Paris Opera Ballet, complete with Nureyev, presented a gala performance at Teatro La Fenice and the La Fenice Ball. The Cat and Mouse ball was of special interest as the proceeds from the Ball paid for the upkeep of all the cats of Venice of which there are many.

The Enrico Coveri Ball at the Palazzo Moretti was the grandest. It was like being at Cinderella’s Ball. This event was (as were all the Balls) a White tie affair. I saw astonishing displays of great jewels on these grand women. Ancient Baroque pearl fantasies, Ruby extravaganzas and emeralds were in such abundance. It was a dazzling site to say the least.  The host gave each guest a beautiful cape and mask. It was a sit-down formal dinner for over five hundred guests held it one of the biggest old Palazzos on the Grand Canal. After dinner there was a full orchestra for the adults and a quirky mod band for the younger crowd. Every notable Italian was there and quiet a few of us Americans as well.

I spent every glorious moment attending parties and “pajamas” the morning after ball breakfasts. Many of these event were given by the “local residence”. I saw many of the incredible palazzos on the Grande Canal resplendent with 17th century furnishings, magnificent chandeliers and some of the most beautiful silver and crystal  that I have ever seen in my life.

I have had many wonderful moments traveling with my camera. I have to say this Carnavale was truly the most exciting and glorious experience of my life. I will always cherish this memory and I feel fortunate to be able to share these photos as a testament to this fun event. I would also like to thank all the wonderful people who included me and contributed to this great celebration. I also thank Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine for publishing all these photographs.

Mr and Mrs Amos have known Richie Williamson since they met him at a party in New York in 1985. Texas-born Richie has been based in New York City since the 1970s, when he set up Aerographics , a design and commercial art studio, with partner Dean Janoff. Together, they were the original set designers for Studio 54. Richie began his photography career in the 1980s, working exclusively in fashion and portraiture for Interview and Details magazines and clients Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman. In 1994, Richie and Dean started Wild Kind Productions, writing, shooting and editing features and music video for artists such as LL Cool J, DMX, Jay Z and Beyonce. Richie’s passion has always been about the visuals. He usually functions as a director of photography, utilizing the camera and lights to tell his story. His many interests have led him to explore all aspects of the film craft including writing, directing and shooting. Recently, he has completed a series of documentary projects, including The Children of Hurricane Sandy. He continues to find inspiration and stimulation in this most forceful media.

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