Châteauroux: La photographie italienne
© Gasparotto Riccardo
Obiettivo indiscreto 1959 © Quiresi Ezio
Emigranti 1957 © Robino Stefano
© Del Pero Sergio
© Bacci Enrico
Cannaregio 1945 © Monti Paolo
S.T. (All'osteria) 1956 © Farri Stanislao
Avanti alla TV 1958 © Fantozzi Ernesto
Un Filo d'erba 1956 © Bruni Bruno
Neve a Venezia 1951 © Rosso Bruno
The exhibition ' Echoes of Neorealism' offers an almost complete picture of the period of Italian photography that began in the early 1950s when in cinema the neorealist parabola was already turning into a fresco of society.
There are two routes through the exhibition; the first looks at the work of the Circolo La Gondola, which was anomalous to the movement’s main direction. Indeed, the Circolo had a privileged field of action in Venice, where it ignored the hackneyed monumental view and focused rather on minor aspects: the previously unseen architectural fabric, alleys slashed by sudden blades of light, decayed plaster and the muffled flow of daily life that not even the war seemed to have affected.
It was a subdued look, at times lyrical, taking in the new forms taught by Paolo Monti; there was certainly no lack of expeditions to the South - Berengo, Roiter, Bruno - but the dialogue with the Venetian reality was decisive in the members’ operational choices; nor, as a matter of fact, could it have been otherwise. Alfredo Camisa, an excellent photographer and keen observer of the photography of the time, defined the Gondola style as ‘lyrical/realist’, a term that aptly described the aspirations of the Venetian club and its movement over ground it found congenial.
The other fil-rouge of the exhibition concerns some of the most important photographers of the 1950-1960 decade, represented here by few but significant pictures. It is a tracking shot across Italy, with the first signs of the economic boom that was transforming the country’s social reality; there was a clutching onto rites, to religious and secular traditions, while photography finally placed itself as testimony of the crumbling of that world - especially the rural and that of the lower middle class - pressed by an increasing well-being that was nevertheless not evenly distributed, leaving pockets of inequality never since filled. Branzi, Migliori, Giacomelli and all the others moved individually, each one giving his own version of events. Now, more than 50 years later, this exhibition endeavours to give an overall view of the state of the country through their works, offering numerous cues for reflection and comparison with the current reality.
Postwar italian photography
Cinematic neorealism appeared immediately after the cessation of hostilities with its first masterpiece ‘Roma città aperta’ by Roberto Rossellini, in 1945. This was the outcome of the return to freedom of expression, but also of a long gestation period with roots reaching back to before the war, thanks to certain literature and the work of some courageous directors.
Postwar photography on the other hand was divided into two distinct sectors: on one side the photographic agencies at the service of news reporting, and on the other the amateur world, still getting to grips with the never resolved dilemma of art/not art.
The Gruppo La Bussola (1947), through a programmatic Manifesto, proposed photography that referred to the aesthetics of Croce, based exclusively on formal requirements echoing certain metaphysical and Novecento directions from before the war.
Some years later such a dogmatic position proved lethal for the Group’s survival, while the photographers of the F.S.E and LIFE, the French humanist school and the echoes of the German Subjective Fotografie all burst in through the open borders.
The Circolo La Gondola, founded in 1948, had only partly taken up the ideas of the Bussola’s Manifesto; Paolo Monti, the group’s intellectual leader, left its members free to express themselves according to their own personal approach, though still strictly respecting form.
More generally, the postwar photographers realised, albeit with some delay, that there was another country waiting to be discovered, especially in the unfortunate South. Many of them thus began making ‘pilgrimages’ to Scanno, the slums of Naples, the solfataras of Sicily and the desolate landscapes of Lucania, but with a different spirit of that which had inspired cinematic neorealism.
They respected emotional moments and, when they existed, mixed and approximated ideological ideas; the mainspring was the new photogenic nature of obviously agonising situations from which it was possible to take images of a great formal quality that were also sufficiently powerful in terms of content.
Nevertheless, although weak on the ideological level, this move from the empyreans of formalism strengthened Italian photography and extensively renewed its expressive potential.
The Circolo Fotografico La Gondola, founded at the end of 1947 by Paolo Monti, Alfredo ‘Giorgio’ Bresciani, Gino Bolognini and Luciano Scattola, was distinguished by a style recognised in Europe as ‘l’école de Venise’, which mediated the ferments of the neorealist aesthetic with the idealising, conservative opposition of the formalists.
Numerous talents were nurtured by the club: Gianni Berengo Gardin, Fulvio Roiter, Giuseppe ‘Bepi’ Bruno, Elio Ciol and a range of unparalleled amateurs like Giorgio Giacobbi, Sergio Del Pero and Bruno Rosso, to mention only the very best.
Although it has had indisputable moments of difficulty, the club has remained vibrant and active over its 60 years of existence. More than a hundred exhibitions have been held, many of which outstanding, such as the Biennali of 1950 and 1960.
Other projects, apart from the catalogues of all the club exhibitions, include publication of the book Fotografia a Venezia nel dopoguerra, edited by Italo Zannier (Alinari, 2005), and the CD Rom Sessant’anni di scatto, sponsored by the Regione del Veneto to mark the 60th anniversary of the club’s foundation. In 2011 Il Circolo Fotografico la Gondola, L'Archivio Storico; attività e collezioni 1948-2010 was published, edited by Giulia Clera. It systematically lists the collections and all the exhibitions held, and offers brief biographies of all the members.
In the 1990s work began on creating the Historical Archive at the Palazzo Fortuny, which currently has almost 20,000 prints, many taken by the most important postwar Italian photographers; in 2010 the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico e Artistico e per il Polo Museale della Città di Venezia declared a nucleus of 5316 photos as being of ‘exceptional interest’.
The archive also has a comprehensive documentary section on the history of the Gondola and a personal one on the members, along with a well-stocked library of rare books and period magazines.
Postwar italian photography
From August 1st to October 28th 2012
36400 Lourouer St Laurent