Lucien Samaha - Venice From Above

Several years ago as I was reading submission guidelines for a commercial photo stock agency, I came upon a statement that if a person is “recognizable”, a model release would be required. Ever since, I have sought to explore identity in photography from a variety of angles, through collaborative portraiture as well as voyeuristic recordings.

In April of 2001, I was invited to collaborate with the Austrian art collaborative Gelatin in producing their humorous Venice Biennale “flip book” entitled “Nella Nutella”. During a moment of relaxation, while leaning out the window above one of the main Venice thoroughfares, I found myself in the ideal situation to photograph pedestrians from an almost perfect bird’s eye view.

When someone recently saw one of these images, she exclaimed “Gabriella!!!” for despite the fact that these photographs are From Above, they are rich with the individuality and personality or their subjects, so much so that they might be easily recognizable, or at least identifiable with a particular stereotype.
Although we are not certain it is really Gabriella, the name stuck. The rest of the names are also anecdotal.

These images not only celebrate individuality, but also movement and purpose. By removing the persons from their natural environment, namely the pavement or Earth itself, the personality is accentuated but the movement becomes absurd, particularly since in these images, the movement is the purpose. From Above the pedestrians become surreal as they are compressed with the appendages either extending out and away from the body or totally hidden by clothing and/or accessories.

I took these figures to another level by placing them in communities where they might play against each other, and in most cases they stubbornly remain indifferent to each other, as they continue to seek their own destinies.