Different people have different theories about why the island of Burano is so colorful. Some, Italian photographer Mirko Saviane admits, believe the bright buildings are meant to guide the fisherman as they make their way back home. Others suggest that once upon a time the houses were painted to signify which family owned the property; as the artist puts it, “different family, different color.”

Burano is about two hours from Saviane’s home, and he’s walked its streets a thousand times. The island is only 0.2 square kilometers (0.12 square miles), and it’s normally filled past the point of bursting with tourists.

Still, Saviane’s Burano is not the Burano of the guidebooks. He lies in wait for the streets to clear to the point where only a solitary figure occupies his frame. Initially trained as a painter, he believes firmly in Henri Cartier-Bresson’s notion of “the decisive moment.”

Saviane never stages his photographs, and he typically avoids tourists, feeling drawn instead to the local community and the rhythms of their daily lives. For him, the real drama lies in silence, not in noise: “Mine is an approach that tends more to subtract than to add,” the photographer writes.

Although we begin by speaking about color, Saviane hastens to remind me that for him, “it’s not all about color.” It’s about the perfect composition, captured at an instant that can never be reproduced. Every time he visits Burano, he sets out with the intention to make pictures that can “stand on their own.” The story needs to resonate in every single image; no frame is wasted.

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All images © Mirko Saviane