The Telegraph calls him “Italy’s Greatest Photographer.” Who knew? Certainly not me, before I entered the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. I chose to visit the exhibit because the advertising was appealing (!) and the venue was close by. It’s amusing to admit that no previous knowledge nor research went into my decision.
I was immediately in thrall to the images presented. Berengo Gardin’s work is gorgeous: beautifully structured, full of surprises, layered with meaning. His photographs are compassionate, but not maudlin. Honest and beautiful are apt descriptors.
Gianni Berengo Gardin has lived most of his life in Milan, but considered Venice his hometown. He is self-taught, and began taking photographs in the 1950’s. The exhibition, Vera Fotografia, (True Photography) is a chronological retrospective of his work. It begins with his evocative shots of Venice, and highlights the major projects in his career, as he documented industries in Italy (Olivetti, Fiat, Alfa Romeo), worked with the architect and engineer Renzo Piano, and chronicled the lives of ordinary and sometimes marginalized people. The exhibition ends with his unsettling images of contemporary Venice.
Click here to see the image Berengo Gardin feels is his “best shot.” ( Keep in mind that he has published 250 books during his lifetime, and has worked continuously since the middle of the last century!)
The images I am ‘grabbing’ from the internet do not do justice to the works. (I wasnt allowed to ‘grab’ images in the exhibition.) Click on these articles from The Daily Mail and The Independent and the interview in The Telegraph for some decent reproductions.
In addition to the stark beauty of the black and white images, several other artists, photographers, architects, etc. were asked to choose a favourite Berengo Gardin image, and comment on it…..fortunately, the commentaries were translated to English. The choices, as well as the comments were interesting; the salon-like effect of ‘discussing’ an artist and his work was engaging, and added to my appreciation of the photographs.
All of Berengo Gardin’s certified photographs have Vera Fotografia (True Photograph) printed on the backs. I can’t think of a better phrase to summarize his work.