The Master Forcole Maker


Dorsoduro, Venice (OSM)

When I was in Venice back in 2012, by sheer luck and curiosity I stumbled into the workshop of a gifted craftsman and artist, Saverio Pastor. He was patient enough to let me take pictures in his workshop for maybe an hour. I came home with dozens of images of forcole, only to discover that he indeed was famous for those pieces not only to be useful to the gondoliere – the venetian oarsmen – but in highest esteem for their beauty, so high that they even found their way into the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

I was not self-confident enough at that time to ask if I could take images of Saverio himself, but I found the images of the forcole beautiful enough to send him a a set of prints in a folio cover roughly a year later, when I had finally managed to do reasonable prints. And these prints served as a door-opener when I came back to Venice in 2015, and at that time I asked for permission to photograph Saverio when he was working. So the images in this gallery are not staged, but taken during real work, in just the available light of the workshop. But in my eyes (of course I am biased, but still …), even after having re-visited them several times in the past 18 months, show deeply rooted craftsmanship and artistry that I have experienced only very rarely on other occasions, namely with a violin-maker and some musicians.

Next weekend I will create a set of prints, probably again on Canson Baryta, but I will also try some images on Hahnemuehle Bamboo, which gives a completely different optical and tactile experience. I cannot predict the outcome, but it is certainly worth the experiment.


  1. Very nice, Markus. A departure from your usual work and a great story. A collection of those images would make for a nice submission to Lenswork magazine.

    1. Thanks, Tom. Yes, I “stole” the brown toning from Lenswork. But as I didn’t succeed to get my selection (of other images) into Brooks Jensen’s “seeing in sixes” compilation, I am somewhat reserved to make another try.

  2. Excellent photo, love the ambient light and the gesture. Interesting story about, very nice you managed to connect with him. Time and good connection with your subject are among the key points for a good photo. Well done!

  3. Thanks, Roberto. These are series I am still proud of, and I long to work this way again. Presently I feel too stressed, so I resort to promenading and snapping images here and there, but especially when re-reading Robert Frank’s book, assembling more coherent work bodies certainly has to be seen as an important step forward.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.