Photography Claudia Cavatorta and Paolo Barbaro
Italian and American Photography 6
The Origins of the Photographic Collections 15
American and Italian Realism 32
Beyond Neolrealism 51
Mirrors and Windows 66
The New Landscape: Further Developments 80
CSAC Archive Series This art and design book series is published in digital-first format in English and in Italian. The aim is to share the unique collection of the CSAC archive internationally, with academics, curators, students, and those interested in 20th and 21st-century Italian painting, graphic design, fashion, architecture, photography and industrial design. The series is a collaboration between CSAC at the University of Parma and the Publishing department at Bath Spa University. Titles: Photography: Claudia Cavatorta and Paolo Barbaro Graphic design: Lucia Miodini (forthcoming) Fashion Fine Art Architecture Co-Directors: Katharine Reeve and Francesca Zanella
CSAC Archive-Museum The Centro Studi e Archive della Comunicazione (Study Centre and Communication Archive), known as CSAC, is a research centre of the University of Parma. This unique archive contains over 12 million original art and design works from initial sketches to finished pieces. This is a wide-ranging collection covering Italian visual communication, fine art, photography, artistic and design research, industrial design, fashion, advertising and architecture from the first decades of the 20th century. The story of the archive began with artists, photographers and designers donating works of art and their personal archives to the University of Parma through their connection to Arturo Carlo Quintavalle. The Art History Institute and Quintavalle organized exhibitions from 1968 and these continue today. Due to the enormous historic holding, which has grown over four decades, today activities are mainly devoted to the preservation and the enhancement of the collections, which are organized into five sections.
Museum of CSAC University of Parma at the Abbey of Valserena
CSACâ€™s collection is now archived Valserena Abbey, a Cistercian abbey founded in 1295. It is also known as the Charterhouse of Paradigna, being located in Paradigna just a few kilometres from the town centre of Parma. CSACâ€™s collection and curators moved in from 2007 after an impressive restoration program dating from the eighties. Here, a new community of students and researchers are at work, developing exhibitions, catalogue publications, research projects, and dissemination activities. In May 2015 a new permanent exhibition opened on the Abbey site representating the history of the archive. Francesca Zanelli, Director, CSAC
Italian and American Photography
or the visual culture of Italy, the period after the Second World War was a definite turning point. It marked the end of the Fascist regime and a long period of an inward-looking, self-sufficient attitude that had affected artistic and intellectual production. Now, in the post-war years, began a phase where the steady dissemination of cinema, literature and illustrated periodicals from abroad contributed to the formation of brand-new imagery, which soon resembled a kind of cultural colonization. Italy, a country with a significant historical artistic tradition, found itself having to cope with a profound transformation, in the face of which, its many traditional tools, analytical
Copertina del catalogo New Photography USA MOMA New York Istituto di Storia dell’ Arte dell’ Università di Parma 1971.
methodologies, interpretative models and approaches to the communication of images proved inadequate.
Stories Inside and Outside of Neorealism
Copertina del catalogo Parola Immagine Manifesti dal Museum of Modern Art di New York, MOMA New York Istituto di Storia dell’ Arte dell’Università di Parma 1971
In this context, the story of photography was extremely significant since, despite growing in popularity, it was kept on the side-lines of the art system and its studies. In Italian schools and universities, humanistic and technical cultures were categorically separate. History of art was a discipline that differed considerably from the history of applied arts, while photography,
which was present within all these fields, remained confined to a technical role. The Study Centre and Communication Archive of the University of Parma (CSAC) was the creation of an art historian, Arturo Carlo Quintavalle. Photography was one of the archive’s five sections, in addition to fine art, graphics, industrial design, fashion, and it immediately attracted a different degree of attention. Within what was the first university research centre that systematically dealt with photographs, photography came to be studied with philological attention using discriminating state-of-the-art tools – as with other works of art and visual communication material,
ranging from comics to advertising graphics and photo-novels. An important role in the designing and implementation of this new study model and in the spread of the new approach to photography, was the comparison with the American situation – the primary reference point for photographers operating around Neorealism but also, later, for artists close to Pop Art and conceptual research. For the first time in Italy, CSAC showed the work of photographers from Roosevelt’s New Deal programmes: Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, Arthur Rothstein, Jack Delano, Marion Wolcott, Gordon Parks Jr. New American photographers were
Copertina del catalogo New Photography USA MOMA New York Istituto di Storia dell’ Arte dell’ Università di Parma 1971
Copertina del catalogo Ugo Mulas Imamgini e testi Istituto di Storia dell’ Arte dell’ Università di Parma 1973
also shown from Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Joel Meyerowitz, to Paul Caponigro and many others. The work of these contemporary photographers was presented at CSAC through a show from MOMA in New York (1971), which was followed by an exhibition dedicated to the work of Dorothea Lange (1972) and, in 1975, a selection of prints focusing on social photography which were purchased from the Library of Congress in Washington. Additionally, in 1973, the first retrospective exhibition was held of the recently deceased photographer Ugo Mulas â€“ the most single-minded reporter of Pop Art in the United States. The result was a sweeping analysis of
Copertina del catalogo Luca Patella Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione, UniversitĂ di Parma 1977
photography as a significant part of contemporary artistic production and, in parallel, a model for the use of photography as a social survey tool, keenly aware of its own language and specificity. In the immediate postwar period, American social photography was seen as a story in pictures of a democratic country that was in many ways contradictory. Thanks to the publications of E. Vittorini, the photographs of Lange, Evans, and Shahn were presented as an ambiguous model of an idealized fiction. The analysis of the different events and intentions â€“ the relationship between humanity and the environment for Lange, the aesthetics of
Copertina del catalogo Mario Giacomelli Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione/Dipartimento Fotografia, UniversitĂ di Parma 1980
Copertina del catalogo Schifano fotografo Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione/Dipartimento Fotografia, Università di Parma 1978
Evans’ documentation, Shahn’s graphic narration using everyday figures – could now lead to a new awareness, to new directions of research for both scholars and photographers. In fact, this proposition immediately attracted the attention of artists and photographers of a new generation who recognized in American photography an important matrix of Neorealism and also a repertoire of tools to overcome the rigid opposition between Realism and Abstraction, art and social commitment, aesthetics and civil documentation. The reviews and catalogues of exhibitions by Italian authors that appeared in the same years highlighted direct models
and relationships: with the Concerned Photography of the Magnum photographe, for Italian photographers such as Nino Migliori, Mario Giacomelli, or the research in the area of Pop of Lee Friedlander, for artists like Mario Schifano, Luca Patella, or photographers such as Luigi Ghirri. The awareness of photography’s potential and the complexity of its languages also affected the areas where it had been habitually relegated to a function of testimony and illustration, such as ethnographic and anthropological research. This can be clearly seen in the research – founding visual anthropology – of Lello Mazzacane, early Mimmo Jodice, Marialba Russo, and Giuseppe Morandi,
all in a complex rapport with the visual culture of the United States, and, into the bargain, all generous donors of works to CSAC’s collections. One exemplary episode, very useful in understanding those years, was the situation of the critical fortunes of a photographer such as Walker Evans. Some of his photographs had been published anonymously in the American anthology assembled in 1941 by Elio Vittorini, but it was only after being shown in Parma in 1975 that Evans was identified as a photographer of note and adulation for the latest Italian documentary photographers. To this was added the influence of the European documentary lineage that ranged from Eugène Atget’s surveys of Paris, to August Sander’s gallery of social types, and on to the research into the aesthetics of industrial archaeology by Bernd and Hilla Becher. Another kind
of photography was that equally influenced by research into Land and Conceptual Art, and that ultimately lay beyond Neorealism, recovering its less bathetic, more direct and strictly documentary aspects. More than forty years after these beginnings, this book focuses on the cultural policy that resulted in this emphasis on photography, how CSAC changed its critical position towards photographers, and how all of the above impacted the work of other Italian photographers, particularly as regards relations with events in America. This book explores how CSAC’s work on American photography helped make Italian photography less isolated, helping Italian photographers and the public to understand, explain, and develop the culture in their own country.
Copertina del catalogo Lugi Ghirri Vera fotografia, Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione/Dipartimento Fotografia, Università di Parma 1979
The Origins of the Photographic Collections
he University of Parma’s photographic collections range from the late 1960s to the beginning of the next decade. Consequently, CSAC’s initial activity lay in a historical moment that was marked by events and theoretical matrices that were deeply innovative with respect to the past, in terms of art-historical studies.
Why an Archive? In the decades immediately preceding Vladimir Propp’s analysis of story structure, the structural anthropology of Claude Levi Strauss, and the interpretative models proposed by the Frankfurt School, developments
in semiotics and a new variety of historiography (especially that of the French Medievalists of Les Annales) all stressed the need for radical expansion in the fields of investigation and the demolition of disciplinary barriers. From an examination of individual works recognized as ‘masterpieces’, of specific artists or ‘Schools’ – for which very binding hierarchies had been fixed –interest was shifting towards the reinstatement of cultural contexts, the dynamics of communication systems, and ideologies that implied narration, for images but not only. Above all, there was a tendency to look at phenomena that not only concerned the intellectual elite but every social class. Which is why, at
Olivo Barbieri Untitled 1968, C-print, 240x182mm
the University of Parma, a series of research studies began (with exhibitions and publications) all involving the active participation of groups of students to examine widely available objects such as: commercial graphics (e.g. the exhibition La tigre di carta. Viatico alla retorica pubblicitaria, 1970), comics (Nero a Strisce. La reazione a fumetti, 1971), weeklies (La Bella Addormentata. Morfologia e struttura del settimanale Italiano, 1972). The focus was on the materials which were collected and studied systematically, and the direction came from the idea of an Archive, a place of multiple approaches to materials involving an infinite number of possible connections.
Studio Villani, Bologna Untitled c.1935, gelatin silver negative on glass, 180x240mm
Photography, which from the beginning spread across very different communicative contexts, was of immediate interest in Parma. This had an element of innovation: if in the American institutions photography had already achieved and consolidated a position of prominence, in Italy the situation was very different, both regarding its presence in museums (in many cases in the form of supplements to fine art collections) and within the university syllabus. It was necessary to establish procedures for study, collection and conservation, and these were set up at the same time as the systems to describe and catalogue, and specific studies on the conservation of photographic material were begun. CSAC was
the first in Italy to equip itself with a room of constant temperature and humidity, in which to preserve its first reserves of plates, prints, and historical photographic paraphernalia.
The Development of the Archive The initial phase of acquisitions, carried out by the Institute of Art History, initially led to the creation of the University of Parma Photography Museum (UPAF), then to the Photography Study Centre and Archive and another on Visual Communications. Eventually, in 1986, the official â€˜Study Centre and Communication Archiveâ€™ (CSAC) was founded. Throughout
Luigi Ghirri Lucerna 1971, C-print, 397x292mm
this story, as in the development of Italian photography, certain events in America were of key importance, and those fundamental for our discussion revolve around two main centres: New York City and Washington DC. The Library of Congress is the guardian of material dating from the origins of photography to contemporary production. The collections grew as a result of a particular approach to history and archiving, John Szarkowski had run the Photography Department at MOMA since 1962, following in the footsteps of Edward Steichen. He developed a revolutionary view of contemporary photography, thanks to the museum’s multidepartmental structure and its
relations with artistic, architectural and cinematic research. Indeed, CSAC was to dedicate its first photographic exhibition, New Photography USA, back in 1971, to contemporary American production. The exhibition had been run two years earlier by MOMO, and after touring the United States and Latin America it arrived in Europe, where Parma was the only Italian stop. The curator, John Szarkowski, had conceived it as ‘a personal view of what the new American photography is about at its best’. The Italian public had a chance to see the work of Diane Arbus, Paul Caponigro, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Joel Meyerowitz, Garry Winogrand and others.
They also gained an awareness of the fact that photography was now destined to share a field, both physical and in terms of critical attention, with art, graphics, and media, a list to which, in Parma, would soon be added architectural and industrial design and fashion. Between 1968–1971, when there was a presentation of new American photography and two other important exhibitions imported from New York – Word and Image: Posters from the Museum of Modern Art and the solo show Lee Friedlander – the same venues presented the work of Italian artists (Concetto Pozzati, Mario Ceroli and Lucio Del Pezzo). This was in addition to exhibitions based on historic figures of
international importance, such as George Grosz (1971) by Paul Klee in 1972. In the survey of American photography, the Szarkowski exhibition highlighted three main traditions – in the words of the curator: The documentary spirit, with its regard for intellectual clarity, emotional reserve, and technical austerity … the tradition of Stieglitz and Weston and ‘straight photography,’ with its love of the physical pleasure of seeing and its sensitivity to visual metaphor ….The photograph as an object (too long labelled ‘experimental’), in which photography becomes a problem in synthesis as well as analysis. Lewis Hine Sweepers, Doffer boys, cotton mill, Lancaster, S.C. 1908, gelatine silver print c.1970, 206x255mm
Similar trends, with due historical and cultural differences, but not directly inspired by what was happening across the ocean, would be found in Italian photography, as represented inside the collections in Parma. In the catalogue, Quintavalle linked the various currents of American photography to precise historical lines of stories in pictures: Realism seen as a documentation of customs, ranging from Neue Sachlichkeit and, even earlier, the work of Ben Shahn and George Grosz; a second, which developed from the Surrealism of Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte, in which the descriptive hyper-realism drew new lifeblood from the American landscape tradition; and a final
Studio Vasari, Roma Untitled (via Emilia a Santarcangelo di Romagna) c.1935, gelatin silver negative on glass, 124x174mm
left: Letter sent by Hans Namuth to Prof. A.C. Quintavalle, May 23 1974 right: Letter sent by the gallerist Leo Castelli to Prof. A.C. Quintavalle, April. 10 1974
trend, which as we shall see, was to have an influence of extraordinary duration on Italian events, was that related to pop culture, the territory of the reproduced, multiplied, and dilated image. Central to the debate of those years, was the presence of another: in particular, it was no longer possible to interpret a photograph without taking into account cinema on both the documentary and fictional sides, a story that expanded the time of images, and which called into question the theme of the sequence, or series, which transformed a single image into an motif or symbol. With the new narrative forms, it became fundamental to recognize the roots. It is necessary, for example, to see
in the images of Arbus, Meyerowitz and Uelsmann, the interplay of citations that make them work as a ’motif’, and which reveal their place in larger and more complex stories, ones in which, for example, a double image, like the most famous one of Arbus’ twins, cannot be perceived in terms of Realism but conceivably as the ambiguity of a Magritte. The first line cited, the ‘documentary spirit’ – defined at the time by Szarkowski, and more recently in depth in terms of a ‘documentary style’ by the Swiss scholar Lugon Olivier in a publication of great importance, LUGON (2008) – draws on the other important US reference for the origins of CSAC, namely, the
Studio Villani, Bologna Untitled (Sardinia, miners at work) c.1935, gelatin silver negative on glass, 180x240mm
Library of Congress collections. Within these, photography was present with examples starting from its origins and in great numbers, from 1870 (when a law, similar to the French one of 1852, obliged the legal lodging of a copy of each image with an appropriate public authority by anyone intending to claim copyright). Examples of earlier, prints and unique specimens were received by the institute together with documentary, library, or art collections. These included photographs of territorial and architectural documentation, portraits from the 19th century using the early techniques â€“ daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. It also included
S. Russo Studio, Uniontown, PA Untitled (group of workers in front of an Italian grocery) c.1900, albumen print, 196x247mm (supporto 290x343mm)
Ben Shahn Sunday, Omar, W.Va. Oct. 1935, gelatine silver print c.1970, 203x253mm
a great variety of other lesser known experimental techniques confined to craft and photographic research areas â€“ and images which, reproduced in their millions, are deeply and enduringly bound to the American tale. The images of the Civil War made by assistants coordinated by Mathew Brady, the series dedicated to the great national parks (an extraordinarily identifying theme for American culture), the social surveys of Lewis Hine for the National Child Labor Committee (1908-1924), were founding fresh ways of thinking about photography that new research could not ignore. To an even greater extent, it was urgent to show in Italy the images of the photographers coordinated by the
Arthur Rothstein Pitching horseshoes on the RA Camp, Madras, Oregon 1936, gelatine silver print c.1970, 203x253mm
economist Roy Stryker between 1935â€“1942 in the Farm Security Administration undertaking. This was an example of a communication campaign that was carefully planned in its method, the choice of subjects, the language used by the photographers, and the modes of disseminating the images. A significant number of prints (2,400) obtained from the original negatives stored in Washington DC â€“ of Brady and Gardner, Hine, and the FSA photographers â€“ were purchased by the University of Parma from 1970. In addition to these, some hundreds of objects were imported from American galleries that exemplify the different uses of photography:
portraits in daguerreotype, ambrotype and tintype; large format 19th-century prints including albumen and salted paper examples, cartes-de-visites, cyanotypes, and stereoscopic series. These objects were to suggest a concrete comparison with what was being produced during the same decades in Italy: the work of professional photographic studios, both in portraiture and of the artistic, architectural and landscape heritage, but without ignoring amateur photography, with themed albums and family collections. All of this led to a reconstruction of the history of photography and its dissemination as a system. In fact, these first acquisitions were
soon followed by entire archives from historic ateliers and sets of industrial photography plates from public and private commissions, plus the work of local studios or those operating on a national scale, from the Studio Villani in Bologna to the Studio Vasari in Rome.
Narrative Genres, Models and Systems The first exhibition of historical American images, presented in the summer of 1972, was a one-person show devoted to Dorothea Lange, which was an opportunity to take a closer look at a theme that would long remain central in critical reflections on photography: the
system of genres, seen as a fulcrum of narrative, pictorial, cinematic and literary photographic mechanisms. In the catalogue, the contribution of Quintavalle considered the work of Dorothea Lange starting from the studies of Viktor Shklovsky and Tzvetan Todorov, both theorists of Formalism and Northrop Frye (an analyst of literature, who placed great importance on the role of the user, and hence the public). The photograph was therefore considered not so much an artistic product but viewers were helped to look mainly at its practice, its functioning as a means of mass communication which â€“ like illustrated periodicals, posters, cinema, advertising graphics and other areas investigated by
scholars of the Institute of Art History of Parma â€“ presented existing genres and narrative models revisited, adapting them to their own time. In the photography of Dorothea Lange, which, like that of Ben Shahn and others involved in the FSA story, compares with the pictorial tradition of Social Realism (from Millet to Van Gogh), the theme of genre appears central. An examination of individual images or sequences reveals clear references to 17th-century Dutch painting and the American landscape tradition, as well as official studio portraiture, painted and later photographic. Weight is given to the cinematographic narrative: the lesson of Sergei
Eisenstein and an edit that combined in a revolutionary way the architecture of the whole and the detail, and the cinema of long shots of John Ford and Eric von Stroheim. A limited area defined loosely for the use of photography was thus identified as a point of departure to focus on certain specific features, taking account of the issues of genre and relocating it within the context of mass communication. Hence the idea, suggested earlier, and defined in the exhibition of Langeâ€™s work, of the usefulness of a comparison with photojournalism or reportage. This suggestion of news photography as a terrain of fundamental theoretical importance would lead, in the
following two decades discussed in this chapter, to a series of acquisitions of archives from photojournalism agencies, which today represent the most substantial of CSACâ€™s photographic collections. In those early years, news photography was already regarded as a terrain suited to the use of new analytical methods, also because it was tied less to local contexts and traditions compared to others. In order to analyse this vast field, some keys areas for interpretation were proposed immediately, including specialization in genres: crime news, gossip and fashion photography, each of them characterized by distinctive roots and dynamics.
Working on the Present After these first few years, what impacts did these two contacts with America have on the development of the CSACâ€™s collections and on the work of certain Italian photographers. Many photographers would immediately fall into line with the idea of photography being viewed in a different way, open to consideration of what was happening in other countries, and taking full account of diachronic and synchronic crossovers with the history of painting, graphic arts, fashion and architecture on the one hand, and on the other, the incidence of different cultures and ideologies.
Among the first photographers to develop close relations with the University of Parma, was Ugo Mulas. An attentive interpreter and portraitist of Italian and later New York artists, especially of the key figures of Pop Art, from Jasper Johns to Roy Lichtenstein and from Kenneth Noland to Claes Oldenburg â€“ Mulas was accorded an exhibition in May 1973, which was the first solo exhibition dedicated to an Italian photographer. In the long interview published in the catalogue (this is considered to be a key sources on the topic), Mulas retraced his many encounters, closely describing the unfolding of his photographic and intellectual career. The progressive distance taken from
the photography of Bresson, the poetics ‘of the decisive moment’, much commercial photography, as well as current affairs and advertising, resulted in thinking of extraordinary depth. The curator, using critical historical and artistic tools mediated by other disciplines (from linguistics to semiotics), identified the matrix of this thought in phenomenology, awareness of the historical avant-garde and, last but not least, references to a certain contemporary American photographic trend, that of Robert Frank and Lee Friedlander. American art, be it Pop, Abstract Expressionism or Action Painting, thanks to Mulas’ photography again caught the attention of
the CSAC’s studies, and not long afterwards a series of prints by Hans Namuth dedicated to Jackson Pollock would arrive in Parma thanks to mediation by the gallery owner Leo Castelli. The presence of American photography in Parma’s collections then grew further during the seventies, when Lanfranco Colombo, manager of Il Diaframma, the first gallery in Europe dedicated exclusively to photography, decided to support the CSAC project by inviting artists of international importance, from photographers of the Magnum Agency to those of the emerging main photographic schools, to send series of prints representative of their work to Parma. It would be necessary to wait until 1975
to realize an exhibition dedicated to the FSA season, and the result was one which, in imitation of the MOMA’s travelling formula, would circulate for approximately two years taking in several cities in Italy. The images of the American story of the New Deal were shown for the first time in a way that illustrated the story’s complexity – have a strong impact on Italian photographers: the example of Stryker’s undertaking, with its programmed territorial photographic reconnaissance, inspired a new way of thinking about the potential of photography as a tool for researching reality and for effective interventions even in politics.
Luigi Ghirri later coordinated a group of photographers in two important endeavours: Viaggio in Italia (1984) and Esplorazioni della Via Emilia (1986). These manifestos of the ‘new’ Italian photography, would be effective in equal measure, but, as we shall see in the next chapters, with very different results. The lesson of documentary photography and that which Szarkowski defined ‘The photograph as an artifact [sic], … in which photography becomes a problem in synthesis as well as analysis’ hence doubly bound up with contemporary, conceptual artistic research. The second trend, the one that moved from Stieglitz and Weston and the ‘straight photography’
of Paul Strand and others, would particularly affect the work of authors who chose other fields: from photojournalism to engagée or ‘concerned’ photography, which in Italy could not ignore the reflections of Neorealism nor the social events and policies that were marking the country.
American and Italian Realism
n the mid-Seventies, exhibitions tended to focus on figures seemingly distant from Realist production, or close to Neorealism, we shall see how even for this production new aspects of understanding would soon emerge. Examining the history of exhibitions at what had, in the meantime, become the ‘Study Centre and Archive of Photography’, we see that the 1973 exhibition dedicated to Ugo Mulas followed research on the work of Luigi Veronesi. A Milanese artist (1908-1998), Veronesi trained in graphics, and his interests spanned painting, photography and cinema, He soon became established as one of the leading
Italian exponents of Abstraction. He collaborated with the magazine Il Poligono, which offered an opportunity to meet some of the most authoritative figures in Italian historical and artistic circles. In 1934, he was in Paris, where he got to know Robert and Sonia Delaunay. He joined the group Abstraction-Création, and explored the research of the Bauhaus, which was to have a strong impact on his graphic work. On returning to Italy, he took part in major group shows of Abstract art. Just after the Second World War, he became one of the founders of a the group, La Bussola, which had enormous influence on the new photography. La Bussola’s founding manifesto theorized ‘the necessity of
Luigi Veronesi Fotogramma 1933, gelatin silver print, 209x165mm
removing the photograph, which has pretensions of art, from the blind-alley of the documentary chronicle. The opposition, albeit still marked by an idealistic and Crocean vision, lay naturally in the vicissitudes of the figurative art of the previous twenty years allied to the Fascist regime. In 1974 Veronesi gave the centre over 200 works of graphics, painting and photography, a donation which abundantly represented his path in Abstraction. He also held workshops and courses for students of the University of Parma in the 1980s. By then, the assembly of the collections had already begun, and although initially focused on the finae art and photography sections, it would Publifoto Roma Acilia (Rome), new houses assigned to the war refugees 1955, gelatin silver print c.1980, 181x240mm
Mario Giacomelli Untitled (series â€œCaroline Branson, Spoon Riverâ€?) 1968-1973, gelatine silver print, 268x373mm
soon see the addition of graphic artists and designers. Alongside these changes in photography, the milieu of the real – the figurative mark – had fallen to one side temporarily. There was one solo exhibition in 1976 devoted to the internationally popular Italian artist, Franco Fontana whose geometric reading of the landscape using abnormal colours lay on the fringes of figurative territory.
From the Photographers to the Archives Meanwhile Massimo Mussini was sorting and studying an entire
historical archive, that of the Orlandini Studio of Modena: prints, negatives, nineteenth-century portraiture, and reprints from the Pictorialism era of ancient images was revisited. Its founder had been an itinerant photographer of the Apennine villages (just when the prestigious regional Studio in the historic heart of Modena was being wound down) and the entire history of this key name for the Emilian region could now be reconstructed and analysed in its merging with the histories of art, photographic technique, and fashion. Here, in the work of Umberto Orlandini, American photography had again made a deep impression, and this time it was the Secessionist variety (especially the images of
A. Stieglitz, C. H. White and G. Käsebier), which the photographer had seen exhibited in Florence in 1899.1 Equally important, since it encouraged the acquisition of the Contemporary Photography Archives, was the contact with the Milan photographer Bruno Stefani (1901-1973), whose name had long been linked to the illustrated books of the ‘Touring Club Italiano (TCI), hence stories of the landscape, urban centres and monuments, craft and financial industries, and folklore. In addition to the regional volumes of the TCI, images by Stefani were used for advertising posters for tourism which had a profound impact on popular images of Italy. Stefani, having got
wind of an interest in photograph that was not purely artistic research, contacted the Centre in 1970 offering to donate his entire archive of negatives, prints and colour slides. A photographer from the twenties, he had initially approached his work in terms of Pictorialism, but later decided to then opt decisively (thanks to the adoption of 35mm film) for Modernism. This movement and its aesthetic was well suited to the subjects that his professional activity featured: description of cities, industrial photography, stories of work. The Centre, which had in the meantime assumed its present name of the â€˜Study Centre and Communication Archiveâ€™, dedicated an exhibition to Stefani
Nino Migliori Untitled 1956, inkjet print 2011, 430x330mm
above: Publifoto Roma Workers in hemp fields c.1955, gelatin silver negative on glass, 90x120mm left: Mario Giacomelli Untitled (La buona terra) 1964-1965, gelatine silver print, 298x395mm
in 1976, curated by Roberto Campari. In the catalogue, Campari stressed that we were looking at the work of a photographer who worked on commission, often within the constraint of previous descriptive and narrative conventions of the places, not least that of views made familiar by postcards and, even earlier, by pictorial landscape painting and the work of the nineteenth-century studios. Among the many subjects tackled by Stefani, several of which were attributable to genres with strong descriptive traditions, Campari identified in the story of Milan (a subject never abandoned by the photographer), work that best reveals the photographer’s
breadth and up-to-date vision. Here was the emergence, in addition to pictorial references (the realism of Courbet, the investigation of Impressionist light effects) of distinct echoes of Neorealist cinema. This was demonstrated by the choice of certain subjects (derived from De Sica’s Miracle in Milan), from the description of sophisticated interiors and urban views (mediated by Visconti), from the construction of narrative sequences, like the one entitled Vecchia Milano in which a female figure is followed as she proceeds through the byways, up to the moment of her encounter with a man and the farewell. The many similarities between Stefani’s images are indentified in which
Publifoto Milano, Archivio Bordin (Parma, passaggio del Giro d’Italia dall’Arco di S. Lazzaro) 1956, gelatin silver negative on acetate film, 24x36mm
the figure loses its individuality to become a crowd, a collective subject, with their peculiar mode of occupying spaces, and much avant-garde cinema from Ruttman through to Ivens. The body of work held at the archives made entirely new crossovers possible: for Orlandini as for Stefani, the comparison between the negative and the print, or better the various series of prints, is illuminating, from those focused on straightforward commissioned work to more sophisticated ones intended for exhibitions and sector magazines. Equally important in order to understand this photographer and the historical contexts, are the reworkings of historic
Publifoto Milano Milano, distribution of food received from US (European Recovery Plan) 1948, gelatin silver print c.1980, 130x180mm
above: Publifoto Roma Propaganda posters ('Workers, reconstruct your country') 1948, gelatin silver print c.1980 177x130mm right: Nino Migliori Venezia 1958, inkjet print 2011, 430x330mm
images at a distance of decades, with variations in the rendition. Ultimately, the original organization of an archive is also the subject of analysis, and tells the story of a design philosophy, the planning of photographic campaigns, and the arrangement of prints and negatives which is often far more elaborate than the usual historical or thematic approach.
Inside and Out, from Neorealism and the American Story The year following the Stefani exhibition, 1977, saw the introduction of a photographer who would long be linked to the
CSAC: Antonio (Nino) Migliori. Today, he is still one of the bestloved and best-known Italian photographers worldwide, of particular interest to the American public – even if with some misunderstanding. Migliori became tied to the University of Parma through his teaching and tireless promotion of its acquisitions, of both historical photography and work by emerging authors. Migliori was a complex artist: in the forties he set out on lines of experimental research, creatively revisiting the very first photographs, and continuing to do so for decades. He was inspired by avant-garde research (Moholy Nagy was among his points of reference), latching onto their
techniques and, in part, their poetic lines. He explored the language of Realism, and had a brush with the themes of Neorealism, sensitively recounting provincial Italy, its urban centres and suburbs; he invented a personal version of the shared gaze that characterized contemporary humanistic ‘French photography’ (a recent designation, therefore absent in the texts of the period referred to here) and of the École du Regard. He engaged with art, sometimes with interesting sneak previews (thinking in particular of the Italian Informal season), and he carried out original research into signs and inscriptions on walls, which he regarded (as Quintavalle clarifies in a curatorial essay) as a palimpsest
Mario Giacomelli Untitled (series 'Caroline Branson, Spoon River') 1968-1973, gelatine silver print, 268x373mm
of repressed memory, more than of the collective unconscious. The consideration of an artist of this stature was an excuse in Parma to survey the whole gamut of Italian photography of the post-war period, while always considering its parallels with the American experience. Amateur photography and therefore photographic circles were examined – as this was where Migliori took his first steps – clarifying their various linguistic matrices, in other words, establishing their cultural territories before those of geography. The different uses of photographs (and their layout) in the major illustrated magazines were surveyed, beginning with Il
Politecnico of Elio Vittorini (19451947), to which Italy owes the introduction of American literature and the images of the FSA, the idea of the sequence and of the possible prevalence of images over text. Il Tempo was inspired by the reportage of Life, where the photographer F. Patellani, after the example of E. Smith, applied ‘new formula journalism’2 to describe post-war Italian society. Pannunzio’s Il Mondo, saw images inserted into the written pages as signposts or iconic images. It is possible to recognize the distinct functions assumed by image captions in various periodicals: in Il Politecnico these told a story parallel to the photography, while in the magazine, Il Mondo,
captions verged on a metonymic function with respect to the images, emphasizing their metaphorical role. What lay behind so much of the Italian photography published by Il Politecnico was, above all, the great example of the FSA photographers; the pages of Il Mondo hosted images that told of the Italian south and the plains of the north unaffected by the economic recovery and industrial progress, with a commitment parallel to that of contemporary literature and, of course, cinema. The distance taken by these periodicals from other types of illustrated weekly is clear. Like the magazine Oggi, they remained faithful to the narratives of the
Publifoto Roma Workers in hemp fields c.1955, gelatin silver negative on glass, 90x120mm
Fascist period, especially in their allegiance to the gossip column genre, a direct heir of the feuilleton. In addition, an examination of Migliori’s work urges the reinterpretation of a fundamental series of links between Italian and American photography, particularly the work of 1953– 1955 of Paul Strand – a master of traditional photography informed by W. Evans, a pupil of L. Hine at the Ethical School of New York – alongside Cesare Zavattini from Luzzara, a small town in the Po Valley, a name bound up with Neorealism. The outcome was the book Un Paese, in which Zavattini intended, in keeping with the intent of Neorealism, ‘to draw out a reality as real as possible from the words,
the secrets, and the confessions of the inhabitants (…) questioned long or briefly, with difficulty or with ease.’3 The words of the characters photographed by Strand would find a place in the captions, to build a sort of Spoon River Anthology, which contrasted the sociological and anthropological survey with an investigation that was shared and respectful – very close to the work done by J. Agee and W. Evans for the volume Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1936). Migliori’s first steps in photography, might have been inspired by French photography or that of the Magnum photographers, or even Strand’s lesson, but, knowledge of 'Southernism', Neorealist film in
its many forms, and the different aesthetic models proposed by photographic clubs, led him to develop a personal approach that did not match any of these. He defined his approach ‘off camera’, involving direct interventions on paper or the negative without the interposition of photographic apparatus, and the purpose was the constant exploration of the code of photography from its technical origins, as part of a wider-ranging history that comprised the entire graphic arts universe. Migliori continued to produce images which, in their themes and linguistic choices, could be included within the scope of Neorealism (herein lay the misunderstanding for many
foreign critics and the curators of the American museums that welcomed his prints in those years). Quintavalle suggested that by placing Migliori’s work in the history of graphics the contradiction between his offcamera’ research and Realist production diminished. In fact, Migliori’s images appear as far from the work of the reporter as from that of the anthropologist – both marked by the assumption of a difference, a cultural otherness of the operator – with respect to the subject of the shots that was entirely extraneous to the Italian photographer. Increasingly and from the midfifties, Migliori decided to record reality through d sequences,
conscious that the Realist approach was only one of many possible conventions, and also that within it there were different codes (infinite Realisms), none of which could exhaust the breadth of his work. Behind these operational choices lay other perceptions that the debate on art was assuming through affiliations and antagonisms, alliances and betrayals, in declared terms of militancy, a word very familiar to artists, critics and the public at the time. The story of Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) is very different (even if contemporary and in many aspects parallel). A typographer by profession, his first solo exhibition
was held in Parma in 1980.He too approached photography by frequenting clubs, and in his city of origin Senigallia, from 1954 until 1957 this meant the Misa group. This group shared many intentions and protagonists with La Bussola, but distinguished itself by a greater acceptance of Realism. The catalogue, again edited by Quintavalle, recalled that for those approaching photography, the first question was always to choose between different, but clearlydefined approaches : photography as art, or photography as denunciation, be it inside or outside current affairs. For Giacomelli, unlike Migliori, the painting of Cézanne and Klee but also that of the
Informal movement (early Burri especially) was a constant and accepted reference. However, the relationship with the Realist narrative was solved differently: in recounting the worlds elderly people in rest homes, pilgrims travelling to Lourdes, or the poor of Africa, the participation and involvement were constantly being attenuated by the use of solutions such as movement and blurring, which soon become the photographer’s stylistic trait. The work of 1957 on Scanno – a village in Abruzzo, would be chosen, after Giacomelli, by photographers as an symbol of another Italy, as far from the idea of the Bel Paese as from the story of the Dolce Vita. Giacomelli’s Scanno called into
Publifoto Roma Workers in hemp fields c.1955, gelatin silver negative on glass, 90x120mm
question other linguistic elements such as the geometry of the compositions, the reinvention of the channels of the image’s optical crossing, with a compositional freedom that would have particularly interesting results in the series Paesaggi – Landscapes. An image taken from the Scanno series was shown by J. Szarkowski at MOMA in 1964, as part of the exhibition The Photographer’s Eye. In a series that revisited a poem of E. Lee Masters, Homage to Spoon River, at a certain point, Caroline Branson (1968-1973), explicitly cited Ansel Adams’ best-known picture, Moonrise, Hernandez, with the images organized in sequences seemingly linked to one another by cross-
fades. Another series, which the photographer worked on from the mid- sixties, bears the title of a novel by the American writer Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth, and, as in the novel, at the centre of the narrative is a humanity of secular traditions, for whom the relationship with the land affected every aspect of life. Giacomelli’s relationship with nature and landscape was described by Quintavalle as conflicted, dramatically contrasted, indelibly marked by the themes of ageing and wear, and emphasized by a high-contrast black and white aimed at highlighting the furrows, wrinkles and marks of time.
Publifoto Roma Families of the miners dead in Marcinelle, Belgium 1956, gelatin silver print c.1970, 180x130mm
The Story of the Work Leaving aside for the moment the important subject of Luigi Ghirri, who will be discussed in the following chapter, let us now look at another exhibition from 1980 linked to the acquisition of another archive, that of the Villani Studio of Bologna. The idea of the archive (the archive’s curatorial essay by P Barbaro is entitled, significantly, Tempo dell’Archivio, Archivio del Tempo – Time of the Archive, Archive Time), the complexity of its functions and the multiplicity of its possible interpretative crossovers, was now the focus of reflection. It was up to Barbaro, to examine the materials, carry out any reconstruction, make the Publifoto Roma Workers in hemp fields c.1955, gelatin silver negative on glass, 90x120mm
chronological arrangement and analysis of the sets. The choice of method was ‘to omit to mention the composition of the équipes behind the shots (and the lab workers and the retouchers) both because they were not identifiable in all cases, and because it was considered key to read the photos as an ‘assembled’ product (…) identifying (…) different ‘rhetorical statutes’ i.e. reference frameworks of the photographic records in relation to the genre or, in the case of industry photos, the type of production or commission’.
These words explain how the photography was considered as pieces supported by technical skills, partly anonymous and in many respects collective. It has been marked by the thinking of its time as much as by the traditions of the writings that the medium picked up and made its own. It was especially in the photographs of work, in its ‘scenic’ construction, and in certain specific uses of technical artifices that the Villani Studio illustrated these conditions, refounding the industrial image in relation to the communication system of the territory it operates in.
he 1970s were a particularly intense period for Italian photography with transformations happening across the media system; these affected the different applications of photography. The large commercial studios, as well as the historic ones, gradually lost their central role as there was a growth in the use of more general photographic images. The historic professional archives â€“ such as Fratelli Alinari in Florence, Villani in Bologna, or Vasari in Rome, were becoming less important for commercial work and the cost of maintaining them was no longer viable. At this point there was not a widespread awareness of their historic importance and
a great dispersion of material began. Similarly, the archives of the photojournalism agencies saw a sharp drop in client requests. Television, with its ever-greater diffusion of information and entertainment, gradually eroded the function of the illustrated press. This, together with other factors,1 also limited the information or factual photography market. This was certainly not just an Italian problem â€“ in 1972, Life moved from being weekly to monthly â€“ however, in Italy, these changes brought particular consequences, worth remembering when considering the work of photographers who were not involved with commercial or information photography. Even the less commercial photographers
Giovanni Chiaramonte Numerazione, desolazione 1971-72 Inkjet print, 305x502mm
with a strict social commitment to the typically Italian phenomenon of Neorealism, or those more oriented to formal research, had to accept this decline in places to publish their work.
The Story of Italy The CSAC collections, and the way they were assembled, offer a particularly interesting viewpoint. It is worth recalling that they consist of donations by individual photographers who chose to leave a more or less extensive documentation of their work to a university institution, a testimony of the cultural function of their photography, linking it to other
top: Mario Cresci Da Fotocollage di paesaggio. La Basilicata 1973 Offset print, 235x295mm, bottom: Luigi Ghirri Egmond am See 1973 C print, 200x296mm
forms of visual communication. In Italy, at this stage, there were very few photography schools, and it was virtually absent from higher education as a subject. The teaching of Italo Zannier was an exception. He taught on the Industrial Design Course of the IUAV in Venice, on the DAMS course in Bologna, at the Bauer Professional School in Milan, directed from 1954 by Michele Provinciali and later by Albe Steiner. His teaching gave ample space to photography, and certainly afforded important opportunities to meet photographers who have gone down in history, such as Luigi Veronesi, Paolo Monti, Franco Grignani, and others. At
the History of Art Institute of the University of Parma, teachers like Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Massimo Mussini and Roberto Campari – respectively holders of Chairs in Medieval and Modern Art History, History of Graphic Arts, and History of Cinema – included programmes on their courses that specifically studied photography as a part of visual culture. The relationship between photography and other areas of scientific research, particularly artistic ones, had already been a dynamic part of photographers’ work for at least two generations, but lacked any stable reference both as regards the clients and the cultural acknowledgement of these photograhers’ role. Franco Pinna Da Il gioco della falce 1959 Gelatin silver print, 233x294mm
Luigi Ghirri often said, citing his beloved Bob Dylan, that the Italian photographers of the Seventies, especially those indulging in research, were ‘with no direction home’. 2
Marialba Russo S.T. (dalla serie Carnevale) 1975 Gelatin silver print, 304x240mm
Moving on from these examples, we can examine an area often linked to Neorealism, that of the photography of ethnographic or anthropological research. This exploration, in documentary terms, of a human landscape was denied, or even deleted by systematic censorship, during the Fascist period and the years when Italy was involved in the Second World War. There had certainly been a previous tradition, ever since the
photographs of Francesco Paolo Michetti linked to the literary Verismo of 1871.3 Another look at Italy – non-rhetorical, was evident in the cinema of Luchino Visconti (Obsession, 1940) or in the photos of Milanese scenes by Alberto Lattuada (Occhio Quadrato, published in 1941 by Edizioni Corrente).4 However, the striking images of Calabria, the village of Africo (1948) by Tino Petrelli – so similar to those of Eugene Smith on the Spanish Village in Life (April 1951) – or those of Luigi Crocenzi to illustrate the 1953 edition of Elio Vittorini’s Conversations in Sicily, built an iconographic framework, a brand new sense of taste, that would be deemed Neorealist.5 The work of Paul Strand in Luzzara
Uliano Lucas Emigranti alla Stazione Centrale di Milano 1963 Gelatin silver print, 240x300mm
with Cesare Zavattini, from which emerged the volume Un Paese (1955)6 represented a powerful reference model for this new narrative. The relationship between the writer and the photographer could cause difficulties. The stories and descriptions that Zavattini produced of the town of Luzzara were altogether independent from those of the American photographer and each set off from different positions. Those of the writer focused on minimalistic local stories, those of the photographer adhered to a universal and supra-historical idea of humanity. Strand photographed the peasants of the Italian town in 1954 with the same methods with which he had snapped
Giuseppe Morandi I tol so i melgot Ă la sapa i de lâ€™era de Balestrer a Vultid (Raccolgono il mais in compartecipazione nellâ€™ aia di Baestrieri, a Voltido) 1966 Gelatin silver print, 302x312mm
the campesinos of New Mexico twenty years earlier. Even more problematic was the case of Franco Pinna’s photographs for Ernesto De Martino’s ethnographic research on southern Italy. From 1952, the Neapolitan ethnographer began field surveys in the south proposing a scientific survey of popular rituals with the collaboration of Arturo Zavattini and later Franco Pinna. A photojournalist of Sardinian origin but active in Rome, Pinna was keen on cinema culture, and was an admirer and friend of William Klein. During the many study expeditions across the south until 1959, the collaboration became increasingly frustrating for the photographer, who saw his photos published without credits, cropped, or mixed
with others by De Martino, who clearly conceived them as a simple visual support to his scientific report. That Pinna intended his report with photography as a piece of creative writing we can see clearly in the sequence Il Gioco della Falce (1959, partially published in 1962 in Ernesto de Martino, Furore, Simbolo, Valore, Il Saggiatore),7 all described in epic terms with echoes of the cinema from Eisenstein to John Ford. This series was partially published in 1979 in by Arturo Carlo Quintavalle’s Il Territorio della Fotografia8 and Pinna’s style, inspired by cinema, is clearly decipherable here. Quintavalle had obtained the sale of these images and all the others that he used in
the assembly of the work for CSAC. Pinna’s way of organizing field research showed an awareness of Roosevelt’s FSA methods: an analytical reconstruction of the context followed by a sophisticated narrative à la Dorothea Lange. Pinna’s photographs would subsequently be exhibited, published and analysed by CSAC on several occasions (1999, 2002, 20129) as one of the possible models of the photographic history of anthropology and as a construction of the collective imagination in terms of the discipline which, between the seventies and eighties, would be defined as Visual Anthropology.10 A subsequent work by Ernesto
de Martino, La terra del rimorso published in 1961, contains Pinnaâ€™s photos from 1959 of the Tarantism rituals in Galatina. These are rituals in which pagan and Christian beliefs intermingle, have been investigated by ethnographists since 1830,11 and where the interpretation is ambiguous. Some people, mainly women, enter a trance as if possessed and begin to dance frantically. The ritual continues inside a church where they are accompanied by strongly rhythmic music until they are completely healed. Pinna was not the first to photograph the activities in Galatina, in 1954 it was visited by a rookie photographer, Chiara Samugheo, whose images were published in Cinema
Franco Pinna Da Il gioco della falce 1959 Gelatin silver print, 294x233mm
Luigi Ghirri Versailles 1977 C print, 278x195mm
Nuovo12 with a commentary by Emilio Tadini. She would go on to become one of the leading Italian photographers of the late-20th century. Samugheo, donated her entire archive to CSAC in 1995, worked for illustrated magazines such as Cinema Nuovo and Le Ore, the latter clearly inspired by the model of international magazines such as Life and Paris Match. However, it was her photographs of glitterati for magazine covers that would make her name â€“ as a photographer of the world of cinema. The majority of post-war films made in Italy were largely American productions until the sixties: the studios of Rome, at CinecittĂ , offered much lower production costs than American
Gianni Leone Basilicata 1980 Gelatin silver print 200x295mm
equivalents and a craftsmanship with few comparisons, as shown by other material stored in different sections of CSAC.13
The Commitment, the American Models By the end of the sixties, Italian social photography was increasing numbers of references to American photography. The FSA research model was present, however, the radical exhibition The Concerned Photographer, curated by Cornell Capa in 1969 in New York, presented alternative models. This exhibition, featured the photography of Robert and Cornell Capa, David Seymour,
Leonard Freed, Dan Weiner and others, was later presented at the Galleria Il Diaframma in Milan. Founded and run by Lanfranco Colombo, this was the first gallery in Europe dedicated exclusively to photography. Colombo also launched a regular column in the Italian edition of Popular Photography with the same title as the New York exhibition. Colombo later became a member of the Scientific Committee of CSACâ€™s photography section, favouring the donation of works for the university archive by the artists he dealt with. Like Quintavalle, Colombo was keen on the conservation of photography, on its function as civil evidence at a time when this was more and more sidelined
by the ubiquitous television. And so, in the early seventies, contact began between Colombo, Quintavalle and the photo agency Publifoto founded in Milan by Vincenzo Carrese. Colombo had covered National Photojournalist Prize set up by Carese in his Concerned Photographer column. The Publifoto agency had been founded in 1927 and was the first in Italy to deal with the production, and especially the circulation, of photographs specifically for illustrated publications. Alongside news services, it dealt with industrial, sporting, and institutional photography, and was a concession for Magnum Photos, corresponding with other foreign agencies and other
Publifoto branches around the country. The relationship with the University of Parma began by handing over mainly commercial and industrial archives, negatives produced for customers that had closed operations, and then gradually adding new sections from the archives of sports news, external associates (Costa, Pratelli, Argenta, Fioroni) and the archives of the Rome branch which specialized in politics, cinema, and the entertainment business. This collection of several million negatives and prints, not only offers a panorama of Italian life, but also the ‘official’ point of view regarding information communicated through images. We can see it changing over the years from
Fascist propaganda to Neorealist documentation. Tino Petrelli, responsible for the impressive reportage on Africo, was among the first associates of the Milan Agency. The manner of these photoshoots was often indebted to the photo stories of Life, with which Publifoto assiduously cultivated relations. Claire Boothe Luce, the wife of Henri Luce, publisher and founder of Life, was American ambassador to Rome from 1953– 1956, and Publifoto followed Italian affairs with particular attention. Another type of organic relationship between the American periodical and Italian photographic culture was to be seen in the work of Carlo Bavagnoli. He was, for a long time, the only European
photographer on Life’s staff and he presented a painstaking version of Neorealist photography, with series on the town of Cento – perhaps inspired by Strand’s work on Luzzara – and Trastevere. On a completely different plane was the work of Uliano Lucas, devoted mainly to militant photography and counterinformation from the New Left. His photo stories are dedicated to the workers’ situation: proletarian Milan, student unrest, and the African freedom struggle. Lucas too was a kind of ambassador for photographers in Quintavalle’s cultural policy on photography. He donated his photographs and contacted other photographers in the same area,
from Aldo Vito Bonasia to Antonio Samson, in addition to his role as a historian in reconstructing the history of Italian reporters. Along with Quintavalle, he would complete several projects on Sardinia in the footsteps of the work of Pinna, with images of labour around Italy. Samson left CSAC his entire archive in 2003. 14
The Avant-Garde and Tradition For post-war photographers, reportage in the south of Italy was a type of backwards excursion into the past, but for photographers of subsequent generations the understanding was different in its
premise and in its linguistic tools. The photos by Marialba Russo of Galatina (1978) are dry, almost phenomenological sequences, but are nonetheless impressive and visibly embroiled, like footage of disturbing performances by the Theatre of Cruelty. There is certainly much cinema here, but we are outside historic Neorealism, very much in Pasolini territory. The photographs of the carnival masquerade recall some of Diane Arbus’ late photographs, in a way that cannot be accidental. Over the years, also Marialba Russo left documentation of her work to the CSAC collections. This body of work of 240 images presents an ethnographic survey within the context of a
subtly autobiographical work, investigations of perception itself – including the most recent mythographic readings of Italian landscape–, this is a collection taking an approach far from the idea of photographic documentation as an objective impersonal overview. We can also see this in an photographer of the same generation, but with different training, namely Mario Cresci who left the the University of Parma, (where he taught history of photography) nearly 600 of his works, largely vintage prints. Cresci had a solid background as a graphic artist, he had attended the school of industrial design at the IUAV in Venice, and Albe
Steiner and Luigi Veronesi unquestionably played a key role in his education. This was the culture of the historical avantgarde, of Abstraction, seemingly miles from the Social Realism that inspired most of the research in southern Italy. He lived for a long time in Basilicata, in Matera, and the imagery of southern Italy finds considerable room in his work. However, his work in that territory, traditionally the ‘hunting ground’ of documentary film-makers in search of scenes of backwardness, kept its distance from the crossed wires of the ‘documentary style’. In the villages, he retraced the layers of modern iconography, while the landscape became an occasion for graphic reinvention. He tells of the
traits of self-representation in the rural world, or of self-awareness in his Royal Portraits (from 1970) of elderly couples portrayed at home, holding photos of their wedding (as in Mulas’ Verifications), and of the aesthetics of his way of working with Measurements (from 1976), making contact stills of objects carved by peasants (whose subject is their work tools) then using writings in contrast to those of the photographic documentary: the narrative art of Dibbets and Michals, the stills of Moholy-Nagy or Veronesi, the Rayographs of Man Ray. Yet another case, all resolved in the bedrock of Realism but in an alternative direction to Neorealist taste, was that of
Giuseppe Morandi. He began in 1957 and may be unique in the quality and extension of his work, a photographer who again documented peasant civilisation, but from within. Born in the province of Lombardy, into a family of workers and peasants, as a youth he experienced alternative pedagogy with Mario Lodi, and later, with the historian and anthropologist Gianni Bosio, undertook an extensive reconnaissance of oral cultures in Italy. He went on to found the Lega di Cultura di Piadena with Gianfranco Azzali, continuing an intense activity of human narration seen as essential to the class struggle. He kept a close eye on the photography of Paul
Strand, the American FSA, and August Sanderâ€™s New Objectivity. CSAC crossed his path in 1975, when he submitted a selection of photographs, followed by updates with successive series, for the attention of Quintavalle, who was to edit the volume I Paisan in 1978.15 The writing appears to be that of the classic photographic Neorealism, but was completely lacking in the narrative and paternalistic aspects frequent in the photographic campaigns of specialists and reporters. He reconstructed a nonrhetorical dignity in the figures of the peasants, conveying the mechanisms of exploitation. An good example of this is the sequence on the division of corn
in the farmyard between workers and the owner: for each lot that remained to the farmer four went to the owner. This was followed by transformations of the human landscape, the function of work and a specific condition, that of the peasant, investigated from the inside through the transformations of a society that was increasingly industrial and then post-industrial, simply by giving an account of its players.
Mirrors and Windows
Nino Migliori, s.t., da 'Gente dell’Emilia',1955 (untitled, from the series 'Emilia’s People')
rom the mid-fifties onwards, and throughout the whole of the seventies, we can see a burgeoning intensity of reporting by photographers. Many of them cooperated keenly with artists, whether documenting their work or providing images intrinsic to the realization of individual artworks. The mass presence of AngloAmerican Pop Art exponents at the 1964 Venice Biennale turned everyone’s attention to themes such as the aesthetic value of the multiple image, the media landscape and consumption – elements that were to provide many young photographers with an alternative to the Neorealist documentary, and expanding the use of photography as a record.
The experience of American photography, together with the cultural policy on photography adopted by American institutions and museums, displayed significant changes in this period. The immediate post-war period saw the photo stories of Life, stimulate new Italian photography; by the end of the seventies, Italian photographers and artists were involved in new research in the discovery of historical models. A 1978 exhibition called Mirrors and Windows was held at MOMA in New York, curated by John Szarkowski. The intention of the exhibition was summarized by Szarkowski: ‘The two creative motives that have been contrasted here are
not discrete. Ultimately each of the pictures in this book is part of a single, complex, plastic tradition. Since the early days of that tradition, an interior debate has contested issues parallel to those illustrated here. The prejudices and inclinations expressed by the pictures in this book suggest positions that are familiar from older disputes. In terms of the best photography of a half-century ago, one might say that Alfred Stieglitz is the patron of the first half of this book and EugĂ¨ne Atget of the second. In either case, what artist could want a more distinguished sponsor? The distance between them is to Luca Patella, Autoritratto a Montefolle, copertina del catalogo della mostra a Parma, 1977 (Selfportrait in Montefolle, cover of the monographic catalogue)
above: Florence Henri, Double portrait 1927-28 left: Nino Migliori, Idrogramma con cristalli, monotipo 1955
be measured not in terms of the relative force or originality of their work, but in terms of their conceptions of what a photograph is: is it a mirror, reflecting a portrait of the artist who made it, or a window, through which one might better know the world?’ 1 This travelling exhibition and the catalogue accompanying it, therefore seemed to propose a clear dichotomy between a tradition of photography of the exterior and objectivity, and one of subjective interiority, with two eminent ringleaders, Eugene Atget and Alfred Stieglitz. However, Szarkowski concluded his reflection by underlining the impossibility of
a net division, and this is even more visible in the the photographers’ practice, and above all in the reception given to their photographs. These issues would prove important in the practice of the Italian photographers of the seventies and eighties. If we retrace the sequence of photography exhibitions organized by CSAC, it is easy to understand how the dichotomy between photography of objectivity and subjectivity, or in other words between document and artistic expression, was a problem of urgency for the authors who contributed to expanding the archives. We can think of CSAC’s first exhibition of an Italian
Man Ray, s.t. da ‘La mode au Congo’ 1934-35 (Untitled, from the series ‘La mode au Congo’)
Luigi Ghirri, Modena 1974, da ‘Paesaggi di cartone’ (from the series ‘Cardboard Landscapes’)
photographer, Ugo Mulas (in 1973)2 who, in a long interview published in the catalogue, revealed an awareness of the work of Lee Friedlander. We then see the role of photo reporting in the work of Giulio Paolini (1976)3 and the dialectic that endured between the different Realisms – with a key role played by the suggestions of Paul Strand – in Nino Migliori4 who was simultaneously investigating photo writing, and historical examples. At the same time as the exhibition on Migliori, CSAC was showing a solo exhibition of the conceptual artist Luca Patella5 which clearly indicated an interest in Duchamp’s Dada. This was something Patella shared with many Italian artists of this generation, especially
cinema and photography, wherein mirrorings and self-portraits also testified to the importance of Italy’s photographers and of Lee Friedlander’s Pop model. The 1978 exhibition of a series of images by Mario Schifano6 – which would be partially presented again in a 2008 retrospective7 clearly showed a connection between the mythology of American imagery and the most up-to-theminute Italian artists. This series of photographs, printed on paper with metallic hues to emphasize a technological connotation, originated from a cinema project. Schifano, a multimedia artist and the author of several experimental films8 at the end of the seventies, had the opportunity to make a
top: Giovanni Chiaramonte, s.t., da ‘Giardini e paesaggi’ 1982 (Untitled, from the series ‘Gardens and Landscapes’) bottom: Gianni Leone, Villa Bonomo, Napoli, da ‘Fasti barocchi’ 1986 (Villa Bonomo, near Napoli, from the series ‘Baroque Splendours’)
large-budget feature film. This had the support of the producer Carlo Ponti, and the title was to be Human Lab. It was never realized, but did provide the occasion for a series of visits to America and an expedition with his wife Nancy Ruspoli during which he photographed places relating to technology whether contemporary or already historical – almost like museums of the future. The Space Center Houston, the Los Alamos Laboratory, the clinics where the first heart transplants were performed – all were relevant to the screenplay of the film which was about the creation of an artificial woman. This was a little like an Expressionist citation of Metropolis, or the Cyber Punk literary vogue
in Italy – filmed like a vacation in the world of artificiality, often mediated by extracts from cinema or television, whose historical monuments would be spacecraft and nuclear weapons, and where the landscape was desert rendered uninhabitable by nuclear tests. The idea of a place without history other than that of the future, where the landscape ranges, without mediation, from a wilderness to its cancellation by humans, certainly exercised a strong fascination on European photographers, who were constantly subjected to comparisons with a story visibly layered but gravitating towards a search for contemporaneity, while seeking to link their work to that of the historical avant-garde. For
photographers, it was probably an important indication that this contemporary landscape imposed the impossibility of a direct, immediate shot of reality. The bedrock of Straight Photography was undermined by the fact that each shot showed something artificial, each representation concerned a further one produced from the same culture and the same writing – the photograph – of the photographer. Resuming the metaphor of the above-mentioned exhibition of Szarkowski, for a generation of photographers the awareness was growing that every window also inevitably gave onto a mirror.
From the Image to the Landscape It is significant that at the same time as the exhibition of Schifano’s photographs CSAC presented another show of a then almost unknown photographer of the historical European avantgarde. This was Florence Henri, rediscovered by the gallery owners Giovanni Martini and Alberto Ronchetti, who donated over 100 prints to CSAC to raise her profile. She was American by birth, a musician and then an artist, she mixed with the Futurists in Rome and later in the twenties in Berlin and Paris, where she studied painting with Léger. In 1927, she started to take photographs
after a stay at the Bauhaus in Dessau9. Throughout the thirties, she became an established photographer, exhibiting at important festivals such as Foto Auge, and Film und Foto, being particularly known for her portraits and self-portraits with mirrors, compositions and photo montages that seem a prelude to Lee Friedlander’s Self Portrait. The cultural policy relating to photography involved a deep integration with other artistic media, retracing its roots in the historical avant-garde. This latter aspect was reconfirmed in 1981 by an exhibition of prints, created by Mario Carrieri and Paolo Vandrasch, from a series of Man Ray’s negatives donated
top: Olivo Barbieri, Lugo, Ravenna 1982 bottom: Guido Guidi, Barnbach, Graz, guardando verso Est. 1991 (Barnbach, Graz, looking toward East, 1991)
by his widow Juliet10. With the photographers’ work, there was already evidence of particular attention being paid to working with a specific medium in a continuous dialogue with other areas of visual communication. This was apparent in the exhibitions and catalogues on Ugo Mulas and then Nino Migliori, with the dialogue between the photographers and CSAC being a fundamental part of the institution’s activities and also the photographers’ own growth. It was not only about promoting the work itself, but about building a cultural route. This was clear in the collaboration with Luigi Ghirri for his 1979 exhibition. The first contact had taken place in 1973.
Although Ghirri was still young, he had collaborated with Emilian artists of the Conceptual approach such as Claudio Parmiggiani, Giorgio Cremaschi, and Franco Guerzoni. His first exhibition in a Modena hotel lobby was visited by Quintavalle and Massimo Mussini who understood the importance of this highly contemporary research, and this started an extremely fruitful relationship. Ghirri took coloured photographs, unlike the ‘committed’ photographers of the early seventies who worked almost exclusively in black and white. Ghirri took images of shop windows, commercial signage, and small villas of no architectural quality; in other words, Italy’s
most banal landscape. In these everyday scenes, where nothing in particular happens, it is easy to see the Dadaist estrangement that fascinated the Conceptual operations of Arte Povera and Land Art: attention to the artificiality of real landscapes, made up of billboards and advertising posters, carries out a narration that is apparently similar to what was then the common language of Pop Art. Ghirri began to deposit his work with CSAC: portfolios, series bound by craftsmen, bookobjects consisting of sequences such as Paesaggi di Cartone, Colazione sull’Erba, Km 0,250, and at the same time, suggested the University acquire photographic material from the nineteenth
century, in a battle to construct a cultural dignity for photography, which in Italy still had to tackle an academic culture that clearly divided the ‘prose’ of applied arts from the ‘poetry’ of the fine arts. The University of Parma was one of the few, and in some respects the only Italian centre where this battle was undertaken with any conviction. Ghirri was soon to become a reference point for other young photographers; he founded the first publishing house, Punto e Virgola, to deal exclusively with photography, and worked intensely to link the work of Italian photographers to other cultures. The photographs of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Lee Friedlander – whom we should recall were
Vincenzo Castella, Geografia privata 1975-1982
exhibited for the first time in Italy thanks to CSAC – and some of the ‘New Topographics’, Meyerowitz, Egglestone, and Shore, were a continuous talking point. Ghirri’s 1979 solo exhibition presented hundreds of photographs of a decade, sorted by series, with a layout by the photographer himself. It finished with the large composition Infinito (1974) – 365 photographs of the sky, one a day for a year. The catalogue edited by Massimo Mussini, contained an introduction by Quintavalle, a critical anthology and individual appraisals, one for each series, were written from two points of view: the remarks of Mussini and those of the photographer, who for the first
time revealed his poetry in writing. This was the first time Ghirri had written about photography and was the beginning of writings that interwove declarations of poetics, historic clarifications, and reflections on the contemporary image; texts that would be collected in 1997 by Giovanni Chiaramonte11.
The Eighties For Ghirri, seeing the work of ten years gathered together, marked the beginning of other avenues and journeys. The exhibition was visited by Vittorio Savi, an architect and critic of architecture, who invited him to fill a section of the
exhibition Paesaggio Immagine e Realtà12 and presented him to the architect Aldo Rossi. When Rossi saw Ghirri’s photographs for the first time, he appeared perplexed, commenting that many American photographers treated architecture in the same way with the same attitude to colour but with more professionalism. However, he soon grasped the affinity between his way of conceiving space and Ghirri’s way of conceiving the image of it. Their collaboration began with a use of the photograph that was no longer propaganda for a realized project, but an integration of writings on light and space. The iconographic context of this work, at the beginning of the eighties, used
many references to certain kinds of ‘historical’ American Realism by the ‘Ash Can School’: Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler and Walker Evans, naturally – but it also led to a reconsideration of Italian Metaphysics, from Giorgio De Chirico and Carlo Carrà to Mario Sironi, who soon became a key photographer of note in the story of landscape after modernity13. The collaborations of Ghirri, who may have seen in this first decade of his photography the limit of work that was too self-referential, grew to take in architecture. Before long there were alliances with writers like Gianni Celati, Ermanno Cavazzoni, Antonio Tabucchi and others. He would plan, often with the help of Giulio
Bizzarri, complex undertakings to describe the territory of a multidisciplinary approach. He did this by coordinating the work of other photographers, very different from one another, but sharing the same instance of cultural and civil commitment with respect to the landscape and the country itself. Among these, Giovanni Charamonte assisted him diligently, and in 1982, he published a review of new European photography, centred precisely on the theme of describing places and local identity14. Gianni Leone, invited him to Puglia on several occasions to help redefine the image of that part of southern Italy – which was still linked to neo-Realist or holidaymaker stereotypes. They
wanted to initiate a collective undertaking of photographers of the Italian landscape, from which emerged the travelling exhibition Viaggio in Italia (1984)15. This was like the birth of a new photography of the Italian landscape. Many of the authors involved in Viaggio in Italia, and later in Esplorazioni sulla Via Emilia16 and in subsequent investigations, at that point had long familiarity with the activities of CSAC behind them. In some cases, such as for Olivo Barbieri, it was Ghirri himself who fostered the encounter between the author and the University. In other cases, such as for Chiaramonte, Mimmo Jodice, Mario Cresci, Fulvio Ventura, Roberto Salbitani, Guido Guidi, and Vincenzo Castella, the
meeting with CSAC came earlier, and had provided some common ground, not least for the proposal, in 1975, of Roosevelt’s FSA model: the public client who entrusts the task of producing knowledge to multiple viewpoints, to express and redefine the perception of a place or a community through its image.
‘Paper Walls’ In 1992, at the age of fifty, Luigi Ghirri suddenly passed away, leaving a deep mark in the work of generations of photographers, but also leaving behind indications of precious work, a powerful aesthetic system, with all the risks of becoming a manner.
In the summer of 1993, CSAC launched an exhibition for the Italian Pavilion at the 45th Venice Biennial. The title of the event was I Punti Cardinali dell’Arte. The director of the Visual Arts section, the historian and art critic Achille Bonito Oliva, asked Quintavalle to develop an initiative for graphics and photography, to be called Muri di Carta – ‘Paper Walls’. This was the occasion for a review of the collections of CSAC’s different sections. From a first version, which planned loans of photographs and graphic art from other institutions such as the Bibliothéque Nationale and the Musée Carnevalet of Paris, the choice shifted to a selection limited to the photography section of CSAC and specifically,
landscape photography. Muri di Carta, the exhibition and catalogue17 was the first CSAC group show, centred on the material of the photography section. The theme of landscape photography, saw the University identified as one of Italy’s key institutions for the development of a new photography of the Italian landscape.
The New Landscape: Further Developments
he CSAC-derived photography exhibit for the 1993 Venice Biennale, Muri di Carta, came about partially as a result of the demise of Ghirri, was and also from new perspectives on photography and landscape. The vast majority of photographers who participated in the earlier Vaggio in Italia and Esplorazioni sulla Via Emilia had already donated a selection of their works to the CSAC collections; many of them well before the initiatives promoted by Ghirri. However, the Venice Biennale proposed that CSAC should not restrict itself to exhibiting material from the archive photographers, but to request additional submissions, to which
the photographers responded with great generosity and willingness. Mimmo Jodice, Gabriele Basilico, Fulvio Ventura, Mario Cresci, Giovanni Chiaramonte, Olivo Barbieri, Vincenzo Castella, and Cuchi White donated dozens of photographs as evidence of recent developments in their respective researches. Other landscape photographers were also invited such as Daniel Schwartz, KarlDietrich Buhler, Francesco Radino, and Paolo Rosselli. The exhibition and the catalogue had a subtitle: â€˜Photography and landscape after the avant-gardeâ€™, but started with a historical section that included photographs by Man Ray and Florence Henri as representative of the historical avant-garde;
Marion Post Walcott, Near Fredrick, Maryland 1940
Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange were included as historical reference points for documentary photography; Antonio Migliori and Mario Giacomelli to represent the vast range of photo writing. Luigi Ghirri’s work was arranged as a pivotal stage, a point of connection between the old and new vanguards and contemporaneity. His work was carefully chosen to exhibit images from the first decade of his practice, and to avoid the exhibition of the fragile original colour prints due to the risks of prolonged exposure in environments without air conditioning – the exhibition ran from July to September and the Italian Pavilion is only a few metres
left: Gabriele Basilico, Boulogne sur mer, da ‘Bord de mer’ 1984 (‘from the series ‘Seaside’) above: Cuchi White, Bologna, Università degli Studi, dalla series ‘Fondali et fenetres peintes’ 1980 (from ‘Backdrops and painted windows’)
from the Venice lagoon. Larger modern prints (in comparison with the vintage prints exhibited in Parma in 1979) were hung by his wife Paola Borgonzoni. The overall aim, wrote Quintavalle at the beginning of the catalogue, was ‘to be a contribution to research into a photography not intended as art or poetry, but as a critical moment of analysis and reflection on the world1. The historical framework, covered by Quintavalle in the introductory text entitled ‘Points of view: models of memory’, started with the representation of landscape in the history of the Luigi Ghirri, Parma, Teatro Farnese, 1985
visual image, from citations of the ancients to Renaissance treatises, which stressed the impossibility of a consideration of the problem of landscape in painting as a distinct framework, and noted its symbolic dimension. Of the photographers exhibited, he reviewed some of the themes that had guided previous research at CSAC. The photography of Man Ray, which began from Dada but leant on De Chirico’s metaphysics, was examined as was Florence Henri, who had also arrived at photography from the circle of purist Parisian Cubism via the Bauhaus.
Social Photography, the Conceptual Search The reinterpretation of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans’ apparent documentary approach to photography refers to Flemish vedute and, closer to home, to the culture of Surrealism. This had enlisted Eugéne Atget among its ’own’ photographers, with the mediation of Man Ray, who had pointed him out to Berenice Abbott leading to the purchase of an important series of the Parisian’s images by MOMA of New York. These were key influences at the start of Walker Evans’ career2. For this exhibition, Nino Migliori’s photographs relating to the Neorealist climate were
excluded in favour of the photography of chemigrams, ’Abstract’ photos, ‘informal’ walls reinvented through Pop colours. The Bolognese photographer was therefore assigned a space between the Surrealism of Brassai3 and the European Informal (as identified in the 1977 collection). Meanwhile Mario Giacomelli was considered an exponent of a purely aesthetic enquiry in photography in a context strongly influenced by the aesthetics of Benedetto Croce of Italian post-war photographic groups such as La Bussola. Giacomelli carried out research in a meta-historical dimension with results that were always explicitly close to the Informal, or at least distant from any documentary
hypothesis in the Neorealist sense, as much as he has often been seen as a lyrical version of Italian Neorealism, particularly overseas. Ghirri photographs from the seventies were exhibited from the series of Fotografie del Periodo Iniziale, and from Colazione sullâ€™ Erba, Italia Ailati, Il Paese dei Balocchi, mostly featured in the volume Kodachrome4, and a selection from Atlante5. The selected photographs were not the most easily recognizable landscape views that Ghirri began in the eighties, those of Viaggio in Italia or later publications such as Il Profilo delle Nuvole (1987)6, nor those of his last book by Quintavalle Viaggio dentro un antico labirinto7. Instead, these were photographs of
the complex integration between the natural and the artificial, the real and the illusory, definitions of a landscape seen as a Dadaist installation or surreally enigmatic scene, fully fitting the researches of Land Art or Conceptual Art, an operation of visual writing that was even more extreme in its evocation of the landscape through symbols and signs of the topographical detail in Atlante. But it would be wrong to neatly separate the photography of this first decade from the next. In the images of Viaggio dentro un antico labirinto, the last ones the photographer left to CSAC, even those apparently more related to a traditional illustration of architecture or landscape are at
top: Luigi Ghirri, Badoere 1986 bottom: Luigi Ghirri, Atlante 1973 (Atlas)
Giovanni Chiaramonte, Tempesta, Port Sulphun 1991 (Storm)
Mario Cresci, s.t., da ‘La serie nera’ 1987 (from the ‘Black series’)
the bottom of the meditations on the centric vision of photography – the organization of the shot that denounces the artificiality of the vision and its historical dimension that remains intrinsic to the contemporary landscape. We can see it in the corner of a cloister that has the proportions and tones of the painting of his beloved Beato Angelico, as in the night view of a historical square where the artificial light places the late 18thcentury proportions in a declaredly modern space next to the only presence, a parked car. In other words, just as Ghirri’s photographs of the seventies preserve a lyrical dimension, those of the eighties maintain a conceptual dimension, showing the observation of the
space and definitely not restricting themselves to representing it as a naive document.
The ‘New Topographics’ Presenting Ghirri’s more explicitly conceptual work as part of this retrospective of Italian landscape photography, also meant indicating it as the premise and viaticum for the later contemporary work of photographers who, in many cases, had accompanied him in revising perceptions of landscape. We can also see elements of Ghirri in a photographer very different from him in training and style, namely Gabriele Basilico, who,
at that time, was considered the greatest European photographer of architecture. For Muri di Carta, the recent territorial investigations of this Milanese photographerarchitect were shown, which he chose for the occasion as paradigms of his photography. These were images from Bord de Mer (1985) and Paesaggi Europei (1990), the result of extensive research based on commissions. Bord de Mer was the theme chosen for the French DATAR (Interministerial Delegation of Land Planning and Regional Attractiveness), mainly shot in Brittany and Normandy. These were views of spaces very different from those of usual tourist illustration, but that showed a precise
Vincenzo Castella, Lecco 1991
awareness of the origin of those traditions, while his beloved Walker Evans seems to complement the sumptuous 19th-century sea views of Le Gray. In Paesaggi Europei – taken from several landscape and architecture commissions following the DATAR assignment – he returned to engage with Evans’ transparent frontal gaze, and with Lee Friedlander’s approach to recounting ambiguous and complex spaces. The tendency on the part of Italian photographers with an architectural training to move away from the rhetorical vision of architecture is clearly visible in the work of Paolo Rosselli. For the exhibition at the Biennale he presented images of the Italian city that reveal apparitions, texts
and minimal episodes, which he would distil into a monograph on the written city8. Also in the photographs on the ‘major’ works of architecture that he donated to CSAC on that occasion, we can see him favour a colloquial, slightly resigned tone, attentive to social perception. We see him depict the WC of Le Corbusier’s house in Lausanne, as Walker Evans had done with the Burroughs’ house in Alabama9 and the rationalist architecture of Sabaudia, skyline views from the countryside and the square with the market stalls engaging with the sharp volumes of the civic tower, as if he were a 19th-century travel photographer.
The rest of the theme of slowing down until immobile, presents a vision in contrast with the acceleration imparted by photojournalism and the social narration of the modern. This was a recurrent theme in the experimental photography at the end of the seventies, and especially of the Italian variety. This often took the form of a practice that was equally slow in its use, due to the adoption of large-format cameras. In Vincenzo Castella, this is particularly evident in the views of Naples, in industrial scenarios made with the excessively realistic precision of contact printing on large plates. Desaturated renderings were chosen for these scenes that were a little
the worse for wear. These were choices we find in many Italian photographers experimenting with the new colour alongside a very phenomenological descriptive approach, parallel or perhaps inspired by the American ‘New Topographics’10. Ten American photographers (Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, and Henry Wessel, Jr.) were included in this show. Also included were Bernd and Hilla Becher from Dusseldorf. ,It presented a documentary view that was an alternative to the American tradition, more lyrical and varyingly attentive to Surrealism, Ansel Adams, Paul Caponigro, and Minor White. The New Topographics
presented themselves as a clear alternative to the latter’s mysticism of the wilderness. The declared focus on Man-made Landscape had its roots in the photography of Ruscha and Dan Graham11. This was at a tangent to both the Narrative Art of Dibbets and Michaels in their sequential conception of the story of contemporary landscape and also the operations of Land Art – aesthetic interventions directly onto the landscape. This latter had visible connections with specifically urban and architectural analyses such as that featured in 1972 in Learning from Las Vegas12. The range here indicates the diversity of the Italian photographers. In the case of Mario Cresci, we find, from
works tied to his intervention on Matera in the mid-Seventies, the will to interweave themes of anthropology, popular culture and conceptual actions on the landscape. The landscape is proposed, in subsequent research, as an place for a graphic composition, something which prevails in an increasingly visible way over the documentary intention. In this sense, his training is revisited consciously, passing from research into ethnography13 to a reconsideration of the work of one of his masters, Albe Steiner14, and the of photographs such as those of the Bianchi and Neri series (1986). He was certainly indebted to the teaching of Walker Evans;
Paolo Rosselli, La casa di Le Corbusier 1992 (Le Corbusier's house)
his photographs’ effectiveness lies in a concept of the image that is decidedly far from its use in documentary terms. It is interesting to note how the only American photographer whom Ghirri involved in both Viaggio in Italia and in Esplorazioni sulla Via Emilia, namely Cuchi White, developed in the opposite direction. In fact, he emigrated in 1948 from America, where he was a member of New York’s Photo League and particularly engaged in social issues15, to Paris and then Italy. In Italy he continued with a version of Straight Photography similar to Paul Strand’s work, but after a long interruption resumed colour photography in a form far from the Magnum or Il Mondo model
of the photo story; he had worked at the Italian periodical from 1952. In fact, these colour photographs were often trompe l’oeils, illusions, double representations, a context that we find in much of the European literature so dear to Ghirri and other photographers of his generation. In particular Georges Perec – with whom White collaborated for a joint book16 by Raymond Queneau and (among the Italians) Italo Calvino, who also contributed a text, published posthumously, for Esplorazioni della Via Emilia17. Different again was the approach of Giovanni Chiaramonte, which interwove from the start an intense activity of historical analysis, instruction and cultural
promotion. An approach which appears in parallel to that of his friend Luigi Ghirri. Chiaramonte began his photography with a strong admiration for the work of Alfed Stieglitz and Minor White and then turned his attention to Pop Art (see La Creazione, 1975) and to conceptual narrative search (Discorso di Natale, 1975). In the eighties he kept alive his reflection on language, tackling the planes of reality and fiction that united that group of photographers, with increasing attention to the veduta – to the territory as a place inhabited by a spiritual identity. He carried out extensive photographic campaigns on contemporary and historical architecture. These were intentions that linked him
to other photographers whose work he promoted in Italy, such as Joel Meyerowitz and Andrej Tarkowsky18. The tension between the phenomenal, almost topographical, image and a powerful transcendent tension is clearly visible in the photographs of travelling – almost as pilgrimages – of the series Westward from which he presented a wide selection in Venice. In subsequent years, CSAC put together several exhibitions and events for the reflection on photography, as well as others involving landscape photography. After Muri di Carta there were solo exhibitions of some of the photographers exhibited on that
occasion: Paolo Rosselli, Cuchi White, and Francesco Radino. These were followed by various thematic group shows: Il Rosso e il Nero, a review centred around the dialectic between realism and abstraction in post-war Italy, on the relationship between the ideological positions and their communication through images (1999); and then Novecento, a global overview of the collections from CSAC’s different sections, with photographs exhibited alongside paintings, sculptures, architecture design, and fashion design. I Mille Scatti (2012) was devoted to the image of Italy through the work of photographers since 1860, a selection of 1000 images drawn from CSAC’s photography section.
Among the authors exhibited in I Mille Scatti, Aniello Barone was identified as the exponent of a new line of inquiry into the landscape, with both anthropological and narrative intentions on landscape19, while in 2014 a monograph was dedicated to Gianni Leone20, the creator with Luigi Ghirri of Viaggio in Italia in 1984, and among its photographers. This was to be the last solo exhibition of photography curated by the CSAC before opening to the public its new space at the Valserena Abbey 21 in May 2015, featuring an ArchiveMuseum. In 2016, this was the venue (thanks to Fotografia Europea from Reggio Emilia) for a celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the
exhibition Esplorazioni sulla Via Emilia, for monographs featuring historic photographs by Ghirri, Barbieri, Chiaramonte, Guidi, Jodice, Cresci, White, and Castella, contrasted with photographs from photojournalist and industrial archives and original 19th-century examples, in a 2008 exhibition entitled Esplorazioni dell’archivio/ fotografie della Via Emilia, together with some architectural research (Habitare la Via Emilia) organized by the Festival di Architettura22. This was also the occasion to collaborate on a related review concerning the influence of Walker Evans’ photography23 on Italian photographers. CSAC is among the largest collections in Italy of photographs by this great
American photographer and lent approximately forty images. These photographs included those acquired from the Washington Library of Congress in 1974, which many future new Italian landscape photographers would see in Parma while starting their own journey into landscape, a journey frequently nurtured in the company of overseas photographers. Emilia, for monographs featuring historic photographs by Ghirri, Barbieri, Chiaramonte, Guidi, Jodice, Cresci, White, and Castella, contrasted with photographs from photojournalist and industrial archives and original 19th-century examples, in a 2008 exhibition entitled Esplorazioni dell’archivio/ fotografie della Via Emilia, together
with some architectural research (Habitare la Via Emilia) organized by the Festival di Architettura22. This was also the occasion to collaborate on a related review concerning the influence of Walker Evans’ photography23 on Italian photographers. CSAC is among the largest collections in Italy of photographs by this great American photographer and lent approximately forty images. These photographs included those acquired from the Washington Library of Congress in 1974, which many future new Italian landscape photographers would see in Parma while starting their own journey into landscape, a journey frequently nurtured in the company of overseas photographers.
Mimmo Jodice, Paestum archeological site 1985
Endnotes Chapter 2
1. Il Bel Paese, Ravenna 2015, exhibition catalogue 2. F. Patellani, Il giornalista nuova formula, in “Fotografia. Prima rassegna dell’attività fotografica in Italia”, edited by E. F. Scopinich, Domus, Milan 1943 3. Letter from C. Zavattini to P. Strand, January 1953
Chapter 3 1. Antonella Russo, Storia culturale della fotografia italiana: dal neorealismo al postmoderno; Einaudi, Turin 2011; Uliano Lucas, Maurizio Bizziccari L’informazione negata. Il fotogiornalismo in Italia dal 1945 al 1980; Dedalo, Bari, 1981; Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Tempo dell’archivio, archivio del tempo; in: Paolo Barbaro (ed.), Studio Villani. Il lavoro della fotografia; CSAC University of Parma 1980 2. Luigi Ghirri, L’opera aperta, in: Paolo Costantini, Giovanni Chiaramonte (ed.), Luigi Ghirri. Niente di antico sotto il sole; SEI, Turin 1997 3. Marina Miraglia, Francesco Paolo Michetti, Einaudi, Turin 1975; Franco Faeta, Fotografi e fotografie. Uno sguardo antropologico; Franco Angeli, Milan 2006; Michele Cometa, ‘Fototesti. Per una tipologia dell’iconotesto in letteratura’, in V. De Marco, I. Pezzini (ed.), La fotografia. Oggetto teorico e pratica sociale, Rome, Edizioni Nuova Cultura, 2011, pp. 63-101. 4. Alberto Lattuada, Occhio quadrato, Ed. Corrente, Milan 1941
5. Paolo Barbaro, Il gusto del neorealismo, in: Fulvio Merlak, Claudio Pastrone, Giorgio Tani (ed.), Gli anni del neorealismo, FIAF, Turin 2001 6. Paul Strand, Cesare Zavattini, Un Paese, Einaudi, Turin 1955 7. Ernesto de Martino, Furore, simbolo, valore, Il Saggiatore, Milan 1962 8. Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Il territorio della fotografia, Flli Fabbri, Milan 1979, p.783 9. In the group shows Il Rosso e il Nero, Novecento, I Mille scatti per una Storia d’Italia 10. Lello Mazzacane, Luigi Lombardi Satriani, Perchè le feste, Savelli, Rome 1974 11. Salvatore De Renzi, Osservazioni sul Tarantismo di Puglia, in Resoconti dell’Accademia Medico-Chirurgica Napoletana, 1832, now in: Sergio Torsello (ed.) Salvatore De Renzi: Osservazioni sul Tarantismo in Puglia, Ed. Kurumuny, Martano 2012 12. Cinema Nuovo no. 50, 10 January 1955, pp.19-23 13. Anselmo Ballester, Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Anselmo Ballester: le origini del manifesto cinematografico, CSAC, Università di Parma 1981; Arturo Carlo Quintavalle (ed.) Atelier Farani, Pasolini: il costume del film, Skira, Milan 1996 14. Atelier Farani: Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Sardigna. Fotografie di Franco Pinna, Edizioni della Nave, Nuoro 1983 15. Giuseppe Morandi, Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Lega di Cultura di Piadena, I Paisan, Mazzotta, Milan 1979
Chapter 4 1. John Szarkowski, Mirrors and Windows. American Photography since 1960; MOMA, New York 1979 2. Ugo Mulas. Images and texts; with a critical note by Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Institute of Art History, University of Parma 1973 3. Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Giulio Paolini, Study Center and Communication Archive, University of Parma 1976 4. Antonio Migliori, introduction and descriptions by Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Study Center and Communication Archive, University of Parma 1977 5. Maurizio Calvesi, Luca Patella, Study Center and Communication Archive of the University of Parma, 1977 6. Schifano Fotografo, with Diario di Viaggio by Nancy Ruspoli, drawings by Mario Schifano, University of Parma, 1978 7. Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Mario Schifano. America Anemica, Skira, Milan 2008 8. Giorgia Calò, Trilogia d’artista. Il cinema di Mario Schifano, Lithos, Rome 2004 9. Paulo Barbaro, Florence Henri, 1927-1940: photographs in the CSAC collections, Electa, Milan 1998; Parma and Turin, Giovanni Battista Martini (ed.), Florence Henri. Fotografie e Dipinti 1920-1960, MEF, Turin 2016 10. Man Ray. Fotografia anni’30, with a presentation by Giulio Carlo Argan, a technical note by Mario Carrieri, Man Ray dalle scritture di luce alla metafisica by Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, descriptions by Marina Nella Truant, University of Parma, Municipality of Parma 1981 11. Giovanni Chiaramonte, Paolo Costantini (ed.), Niente di antico sotto il sole, SEI, Turin 1997
12. Franco Solmi (ed.), Paesaggio Immagine e Realtà, Electa, Milan 1981; ibid.: Vittorio Savi, Immagine di Paesaggio Urbano Contemporaneo 13. Gabriele Basilico, Architetture, Città, Visioni, Bruno Mondadori, Milan 2007 14. Giovanni Chiaramonte, Luogo e identità nella fotografia europea, Jaca Book, Milan 1982 15. Luigi Ghirri, Gianni Leone, Enzo Velati (ed.), Viaggio in Italia, Il Quadrante, Alessandria 1984 16. Giulio Bizzarri, Eleonora Bronzoni (eds.), Esplorazioni sulla Via Emilia. Vedute nel Paesaggio, Feltrinelli, Milan 1986 17. Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Muri di Carta. Fotografia e paesaggio dopo le avanguardie, Electa, Milan 1993
Chapter 5 1. Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, Muri di Carta cit., p.6 2. John Szarkowski, The Photographer’s Eye, MoMA, New York 1966; idem, Atget, Callaway, New York 2000; 3. Brassai, Du mur des cavernes au mur d’usine, in Minotaure, nos. 3-4, Dec. 1933 4. Luigi Ghirri, Kodachrome, Punto e Virgola, Modena 1978; edition with English text and an introduction by Francesco Zanot, Mack in 2012 5. Luigi Ghirri, Atlante, Charta, Milan 2000; with texts by Vittorio Savi, William Guerrieri 6. Luigi Ghirri, Il profilo delle nuvole, ed. Feltrinelli, Milano 1989, texts by Gianni Celati
7. Luigi Ghirri, Viaggio dentro un antico labirinto, D’Adamo editore, Bergamo 1991; texts by Arturo Carlo Quintavalle 8. Maria Pia Branchi, Paolo Rosselli. Messaggi personali, Skira, Milan 1995 9. James Agee, Walker Evans, Let us praise now famous men. Three tenant families, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston 1941 10.William Jenkins (ed.) New Topographics. Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape, IMP at George Eastman House, Rochester 1975) 11. Paolo Costantini, Sandro Blend, Silvio Fuso (eds.), Dialectical Landscape. Nuovo paesaggio americano, Electa, Milan 1987 12. Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, MIT, Cambridge Mass. 1972, It. translation edited by Manuel Orazi, Diabasis, Macerata 2010 13. Mario Cresci, Lello Mazzacane, Foto-grafia, Laterza, Bari 1983 14. Mario Cresci, Lica Steiner (ed.), Albe Steiner. Foto-Grafia, Laterza, Bari 1990 15. Lucia Miodini, Cuchi White, Un viaggio tra le illusioni della realtà, Skira, Milan 1995 16. Georges Perec, Cuchi White, L’oeil ébloui, Chène-Hachette, Paris 1981 17. Italo Calvino, Preface to Esplorazioni sulla Via Emilia. Scritture nel paesaggio, Feltrinelli, Milan 1987 18. Giovanni Chiaramonte, Andrea dall’Asta (eds.), Joel Meyerowitz, Sightseeing. Un sentimento della vita, Ultreya, Milan 2013; Giovanni Chiaramonte, Andrej Tarkowsky, Luce istantanea, Edizioni della Meridiana, Milan 2002 19. Aniello Barone, fotografie 1995-2013, Skira, Milan 2013, edited by Paolo Barbaro
20. Gianni Leone, Vaghi paesaggi, Skira, Milan 2014, edited by Paolo Barbaro 21. www.csacparma.it 22. Carlo Quintelli, “Habitare la Via Emilia. Presenze e luoghi di rifondazione insediativa”, in Enrico Prandi (ed.), Pubblico Paesaggio. Documenti del Festival di Architettura 4, Festival dell’ Architettura Edizioni, Parma-Reggio Emilia-Modena 2008 23. Laura Gasparini (ed.), Walker Evans Italia, Silvana Editoriale Cinisello Balsamo, 2016
CSAC Archive Series Claudia Cavatorta Paolo Barbaro
Authors of Photography (2017)
Funded by GALA Series Project Team
Series Publisher (Series Co-Director)
CSAC Director (Series Co-Director)
Gemma Matthews Design and Production
CSAC Project Assistant
With thanks to the GALA team and to those who have helped on this project at Bath Spa University and the University of Parma
This art and design book series is published in digital-first format in English and in Italian. The aim is to share the unique collection of...
Published on Aug 31, 2020
This art and design book series is published in digital-first format in English and in Italian. The aim is to share the unique collection of...