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National Geographic

Is Venice Vanishing?

Most photographers in Venice wield small point-and-shoot cameras and attempt to capture something like a postcard city. It's the Venice of dreams rather than the sinking, struggling Venice that exists today. But National Geographic Photographer Jodi Cobb went to Venice with a different mission: to show it as it is — beautiful, yes, but also sad and suffering. Her photos appear in the August issue: "Vanishing Venice."

Cobb has traveled the world to document places and people. She was the first woman to win the White House News Photographer of the Year award (in 1985). She was one of the first to document intimately the lives of Japanese geishas, and to photograph in China after it was reopened to the West. Compared to her other assignments, Venice, probably one of the most photographed cities in the world, must have seemed like old news.

But there's definitely a story to tell there. Venice, which indeed has a longstanding tradition of tourism, has in recent years faced an identity crisis. As acqua alta, or high tide, causes irreversible infrastructural damage, the cost of maintenance is almost unsustainable. One funding solution has been to open the flood gates to the tide of tourism. It's a mainstay for the Venetian economy, but also a curse for Venice locals. The population has diminished remarkably in the past few decades. Will there still be a Venice in 50 years? Or will it merely be a drowning museum?

Cobb's photos show us the Venice rarely seen in guidebooks. View more of her photos and read the story here. Also check out an interactive map of Venetian flood patterns.

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