The project, embracing several decades of the history of Italian photographic culture filled with famous names, gives one a clear image of the succession of photographic groups and artistic trends, describes the unique situation of the mutual influence existing between Italian cinema, philosophy, literature, and photography.
The current ROSPHOTO exhibition based on the collection of the Centre for Photographic Research and Registration (CRAF), is unique already by the fact that its exuberant title fully corresponds with the span of works presented. Indeed, this project, embracing several decades of the history of Italian photographic culture filled with famous names, gives one a clear image of the succession of photographic groups and artistic trends, describes the unique situation of the mutual influence existing between Italian cinema, philosophy, literature, and photography. As has been mentioned by the well known criticist Cesare Colombo, the mere existence of the abundant collection that the selection comes from, was not enough to guarantee curators' success. However, their choice of material proved perfectly thought-out.
First to be mentioned among early postwar-time master photographers presented in the exhibition should be Luigi Crocenzi who played a great role in the development of photography as art. As defined by Walter Liva, one of the exhibition curators, Crocenzi initiated the «true interaction of literary and visual texts».
In 1946, La Scala housed the historical concert with the orchestra conducted by the great Arturo Toscanini. Tullio Farabola's photograph of this event is included in the exhibition. (Farabola is known also for his documentary series on the life in Italy under Mussolini). Photographs by Elio Luxardo and Ghitta Carell give us a view on the development of portrait photography, the genre that was not dependent on political environment. The exhibition also introduces authors whose work was essential in the late 1940s – early 1950s for the development of the style of such influential magazines as Epocha and Mondo. Among these were John Phillips and Mario de Biasi, as well as Walter Mori and Federico Garolla. The work of La Bussola group that sought to communicate through photography the philosophy of Benedetto Croce, is represented by the names of Giuseppe Cavalli and Vincenzo Balocchi. Cavalli is the founder of his own school of photography, a talented theorist and educator, which makes him an example quite characteristic for Italian photography. Another example of coexistence of various artistic projects is the life of Italo Zannier, the leader of Friulian photographers group, author of a number of monographs; equally interesting is the combination of artistic and educational activity of Roberto Salbitani.
The postwar period in Italian photography embraces several principal trends of development that are represented in our exhibition. One should start with the idea of «the long journey back home», the journey first carried out by a group of artists who travelled to Calabria and Sicily. Further expansion in geography (which, however, did not exceed borders of Italy) was accompanied by the addition of names: Fulvio Roiter, Carlo Cisventi, Piergiorgio Branzi, Alfredo Camisa were joined by masters like Herbert List, William Klein, Paul Strand, Werner Bischof, not to mention Henri Cartier-Bresson. This is how photographs were created that became true symbols of Italy.
The postwar period is marked by similarities visible not only in geographical ambitions. It is characterized by what can be called competition between cinema, photography and literature in their assimilation of the territory of neorealism. (One should mention the most consistent of the neorealist groups, GFNF. In the 1950s it included Gianni and Giuliano Borghesan, Italo Zannier, Aldo Beltrame, Carlo Bevilacqua, Toni Del Tin and Fulvio Roiter). However, the inherent social thrust of neorealism, its dominant idea of «truth-ethics», dictation of content over form were compensated by the experimenting with the language of photography.
In the end of XX century, Oliviero Toscani (his works are a part of the exhibition) shall say: «It's not the images that shock us but the reality in them. People feel indignation when looking at an image of a starving child but forget about it as soon as they turn away from the picture». This statement of the winner of several «Cannes lions» and the creator of the Benetton's overpowering strategy is remarkable not only for its being unquestionable. The artist who brought Vatican's wrath down on himself and whose works instigated countless scandals (take, for instance, his photographs of American prisoners on death row), his inventiveness and unparalleled sharp vision have equally contributed to his fame.
As to the first postwar years, the necessary equilibrium was maintained, in particular, by the effort of La Gondola union. As Walter Liva comments, «…members of the circle tried to reconcile social actualite with subjectivism, documentalism with artistic interpretation, as is visible in the works by Paolo Monti, Gino Bolognini, Luciano Scattolo, Toni Del Tin, Alfredo Bresciani…». The history of Italian photography, as proved by the current exhibition, is rich with examples of art unions that, despite clearly specified manifests, gave their members the freedom necessary for individual and independent thinking and development. This allowed for such distinctive and strong masters as Mario Giacomelli, Giuseppe Moder, Alfredo Camisa, to work, so to speak, under the same roof. These circumstances in the evolution of Italian photography ushered in a row of outstanding artistic phenomena.
Already in his neorealistic works dating back to the 1950-ies, Antonio Migliori anticipated the emerging of the genre of graffiti. Mario Giacomelli, taking up potentially neorealistic topics, for example when shooting at a rest home in the South of Italy, managed to create poetic compositions devoid of mundane details where the narration is built upon the laws of fantasy rather than the ones of the real world.
Naturally, changes that happened in the world introduced new names in Italian photography. Thus, the emergence of the first paparazzi Tazio Secchiaroli was brought about by the beginning of the epoch of well-being, the 1950-ies. In 1962 Secchiaroli became Sophia Loren's personal photographer. The advent of the new social group, the intellectual Bohemians, instigated Ugo Mulas's interest which eventually led him to making his famous photographs of the American artists.
In 1960-1970s, Italian photography faces new challenges. In 1968, Giorgio Lotti makes a large-scale photographic description of the country, evaluating threats incurred by the industrial civilization. Roberto Salbitani focuses his work on the absolute aggression of advertisement in the urban environment.
The voyage tradition continues itself in the works of Paolo Monti, Italo Zanniero. This theme, incessant to Italian photography, is to be picked up again in the 1970s in the mutual project of Luigi Ghirri, Giovanni Chiaramonte and Guido Guidi.
In 1968, Gianni Berengo Gardin proves true to the neorealistic tradition by capturing harsh lives of the patients of the country's mental asylums. The same year makes known the name of Franco Fontana, the photographer to become world known for his inimitably refined use of color. It was not much later that Guido Guidi's landscapes came about as bright demonstrations of the nature of sign in photography.
We are forced, in order to keep up with the format, to end this text with a short and incomplete list of names.
The current exhibition represents Italian photography as a truly unique cultural phenomenon of the XX century. As such, it seems to represent the ideal state of art where the ability to soar high comes from its standing on firm ground.
This is what provided for the arrival of Paolo Gioli's fantastically daring experiments; impeccable architectural compositions of documentalist Gabriele Basilico; Gian Paolo Barbieri's subtle fashion images; Antonio Biasiucci's anthropological photographic explorations; Massimo Vitali's fearless war reportage, and many other works created by the outstanding masters belonging to several generations of Italian photography.
The exhibition supported by Italian Institute of Culture in Saint-Petersburg.
CRAF – The Centre for Photographic Research and Registration was founded in 1993. The CRAF performs historical-scientific researches on friulian authors and territories; carries out initiatives for the improvement of photographic culture in all its respects (e.g. the international exhibition of Spilimbergo Fotografia/ Spilimbergo Photography); promotes photographic campaigns on/about the regional territory; plans the acquisition and preservation of photographic funds.
Among the latest acquisitions there are: the series of pictures taken between 1922 and 1926 by Paul Scheumeier on behalf of the Institute of Romance Glottology of Bern; a series of prints made by Ugo Pellis between 1925 and 1935 for the Italian Linguistic Atlas; the whole series of pictures taken by André Kertesz in Gorizia between winter 1914 and spring 1915. The collection also includes the archive of Aldo Beltrame, who was one of the founders of the "Gruppo Friulano per la Nuova Fotografia"/"Friulian Group for New Photography"; the Crocenzi fund, made up of thousands of negatives, 3000 original photographs by representative authors of the Italian post-war photographic culture (Balocchi, Cavalli, Giacomelli, Mulas, Scianna et al.); the collection of letters with authors and personalities (1947-1983) of the Italian culture and a library with numerous and important photography books.
Italian style in art that initially emerged in literature and cinema, to spread further to art photography in just several years
Great masters of Italian photography in Alinari Museum collections
Dedicated to phenomenon important to contemporary history of photography: the shift of technologies
Retrospective of one of the most outstanding masters of contemporary art photography in Italy
Seaside in different parts of the world: in Naples, Thessaloniki, Chicago, New York, Geneva and Saint Petersburg
A solo exhibition by a contemporary Italian photographer
Works of two well known Italian photographers, masters of landscape