Its essence? Disguise

Tradition, mystery, transgression, carefreeness, lightness, and fun – all of this is the Venice Carnival, one of the most anticipated festivals in the lagoon city.

Once a year, the narrow streets and squares turn into a grand open-air stage where everything seems possible, thanks to the guarantee of complete anonymity.

Disguise is the essence of the Carnival, the very essence of the celebration, where masks and costumes become essential tools to create the atmosphere of this time of year. And it is precisely here that this unique photographic journey will take you: to discover who is behind the mask! We will enter the finest Venetian mask artisan workshop, get lost among over 15,000 handmade costumes by Venice’s first professional, and be enchanted by a milliner and her old steam informant.

Workshop details

4 days
€ 890


The Venice Carnival has a history dating back over 900 years, beginning in the 1200s when the Serenissima Republic officially declared it a public celebration. Through disguises, the strict order between social classes, genders, religions, and hierarchical structures was subverted. It was a good opportunity for the ruling class to quell social hatred and boost the morale of the poorer part of the population.

With this new festival, the first artisan workshops, schools, and techniques for mask production were born and developed. In 1436, mask-makers were officially recognized as a profession.

Our photographic journey in Venice starts here, at Ca’ Macana, the oldest artisan workshop creating papier-mâché masks since 1986. We will have the opportunity to follow the creative process of mask making, capture the unique aspects of this ancient art, and tell the story of how a Venetian mask is born through our cameras. Each mask is a unique piece, handmade from a plaster cast and is the expression of the artist who creates it. The materials used for decoration include precious fabrics, real feathers, Swarovski crystals, as well as gold and silver leaf. The masks produced in this workshop have been chosen for various films and theater productions, such as ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’

Every mask needs its costume, and that’s why we will take you to Stefano Nicolao, the most famous costume designer in Venice, and director of tailoring at the Teatro Stabile Friuli Venezia Giulia in Trieste. He is also a teacher of Fashion Design and Historical Cutting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. Nicolao opened his cine-theatrical tailoring in 1980. Guided by the Maestro, we will have the privilege to discover the secrets of this magical world filled with sketches, precious fabrics, trimmings, buttons, accessories, and wigs. Nicolao Atelier works for the most important operatic and theatrical productions worldwide, from the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Washington to the New National Theatre of Tokyo, and many more. They have created costumes for numerous film productions like ‘Marco Polo,’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ ‘Casanova,’ ‘The Tourist,’ and many others.

But a costume, especially when it represents the most classic Venetian masks, needs its hat. Our photographic workshop continues at the Hat Workshop of Atelier Pietro Longhi, where Anna, the milliner who prefers to be called hatter, along with her faithful steam informant machine over 100 years old, will show us how to make a Tricorno, the hat that completes the most famous Venetian costume: the Bauta. Even today, it’s the only operating hat workshop in the Veneto, supplying hats to reenactors and collectors across Europe.

Our photographic journey through the history of Venetian costume will conclude with a carnival party, as is customary during Carnival. We will witness the official opening of the Carnival, enjoying the spectacle that marks the beginning of the celebrations and the traditional Water Parade led by the ‘Pantegana’ made of papier-mâché, one of the symbols of the Venetian popular carnival.”

Inspiration gallery

Stops and itinerary

Collective meeting at Santa Lucia train station in Venice by 10:00 AM. To immerse ourselves in the magic of Venice from the very beginning, we will walk to Ostello Combo. Here, we will already begin to breathe the history of Venice as Combo is a grand monument that, starting from the 12th century, was first a convent for the Crociferi, then a Jesuit convent, a public school, and finally a military barracks. We will have lunch together to get to know each other and conduct a brief workshop introduction.

After checking into our rooms, we will head to the first stop on our photographic journey: Ca’ Macana.

Return and review of the shots.

Dinner at Combo (at a discounted price) or on your own.

Depending on the number of participants, we will plan two separate sessions (one in the morning and the other in the early afternoon) to visit Nicolao Atelier. This is to facilitate each photographer’s subject search without disrupting the laboratory’s activities.

The group not engaged at Nicolao Atelier at the time can focus on editing.

Lunch on your own.

Late afternoon dedicated to reviewing the shots.

Dinner at Combo (at a discounted price) or on your own.

Breakfast at Combo and transfer by minivan to the third stop of this photographic journey: the Hat Workshop at Atelier Pietro Longhi, located in Noale, about half an hour from Venice.

Packed lunch provided by the hostel.

Return for the review of the shots and the editing session.

At 6:00 PM, we will head out to reach the water parade that marks the official start of Carnival 2024.

Dinner on your own.

Breakfast at the Combo.

At 10:30 AM, we will walk to the Erbaria, where we will await the arrival of an exceptional procession of masked rowing boats led by the legendary “Pantegana” made of papier-mâché, one of the symbols of the Venetian popular carnival, ready to burst in front of the Rialto Bridge in a flurry of confetti and streamers, symbolically giving the green light to the Carnival 2024 celebrations.

Lunch and free time.

Return to the hostel for a theoretical lesson on reportage, review of the shots, and editing session.

End of the workshop.

Necessary equipment

  • Digital camera (DSLR or mirrorless);
  • A set of lenses according to your availability and photographic style. A good telephoto lens is recommended;
  • Laptop for editing sessions. The accompanying photographer uses a Canon camera with EF lenses and will gladly lend it in case of need

Workshop objectives

The Venice Carnival is famous worldwide, but almost no one knows what happens in the places where it becomes what it is known for: the masks and carnival costumes. We will have access to places where it’s not usually allowed to go, and the goal of the workshop is to build a photographic narrative about the uniqueness of these environments and the people who work there. We will see how an original mask, costume, and a series of accessories are created, allowing you to create a reportage from a unique perspective. Choosing the subjects will be, as usual, the most challenging part in some cases, but you will be assisted and guided throughout the journey.

We will conclude with a ceremony that marks the beginning of the actual Carnival on the Grand Canal.

What the fee includes and does not include

  • 3 nights in a twin superior room with canal view with breakfast at Combo, in Venice;
  • Tourist tax;
  • All breakfasts;
  • Transfer by minivan to Atelier Pietro Longhi;
  • One packed lunch;
  • Entrance to artisan workshops;
  • Photographic teaching.
Not included
  • Transfer to/from the workshop location;
  • Lunches and dinners;
  • Anything not expressly indicated in “What’s Included”.

Useful information

  • The workshop will be activated with a minimum of 6 participants and will accommodate a maximum of 8;
  • Venice in winter is very cold and humid, and you may encounter the phenomenon of high water. We recommend having a raincoat, an umbrella, and a waterproof camera case with you. In case of high water, you can purchase shoe covers, but we recommend having a spare pair of shoes;
  • Venice is a city where you walk a lot, so we recommend comfortable and tested shoes;
  • Itineraries may be modified for logistical needs and/or adverse weather conditions

Terms of payment

  • Reservations can be made until 12/18/2023;
  • To confirm the reservation, a deposit equal to 30% of the workshop cost will be required. The balance must be paid by 01/04/2024;
  • Payments can be made via bank transfer or Satispay;
  • The start of the workshop will be confirmed upon reaching the minimum number of participants, set at 6. In the event that the workshop is canceled by StoryWorks, the deposit will be refunded.

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