Italy through the eyes of Magnum

May 10, 2017

For the seventieth anniversary of Magnum, CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia di Torino organised an exhibition depicting Italy from the post-war period to our days, narrated through the eyes of twenty great authors and more than two-hundred works.

Curated by Walter Guadagnini and Arianna Visani, the exhibition is a “grand tour” not only through the places, but also through the people and historical moments that left a mark on Italy from the second half of the 20th century to today. The occasion is the anniversary of Magnum Photos, the photographic agency born in New York in 1947 thanks to a group of authors, among which Robert Capa, Henry Cartier-Bresson and David Seymour. Created with the aim of protecting artists’ work through a cooperative form that would allow the authors to maintain rights on negatives, negotiate and autonomously decide the details of their services for news media, over the the years it became one of the most prestigious organizations of the world.

The course of the exhibition begins with three series of exceptional value: the photographs that Cartier-Bresson took during this trip to Italy in 1933, the work of David Seymour on the tourists that return to visit the Sistine Chapel in 1947 and Robert Capa that captures a country in ruins after the end of the World War. The exhibition then moves on to a reportage by Herbert List, dedicated to the “Hollywood on the Tevere”, the Cinecittà of the golden years, with white-shirt, striped-trousered workers busy on the “peplum” sets, to Elliott Herwitt with his delicately ironic look over Rome and René Burri, who testifies the arrival of Pablo Picasso in Milan for the artist’s famous exhibition of 1953.

The decade of the economical boom is depicted through the Adriatic riviera by Erich Lessing, emblem of the carefree years of the ‘60s. Thomas Hoepker immortalizes Cassius Clay’s victory – already great, even before becoming Alì – during the Roman Olympics of 1960 while Bruno Barbey documents Palmiro Togliatti’s funeral in 1964; an Italy that to our contemporary eyes possesses an aura of innocence now irredeemably lost.

The ‘70s are represented by the Sicily of Ferdinando Scianna, a watershed marked by the season of the great civil battles, among which the divorce referendum told by Leonard Freed and the touching series on the mental hospitals then “liberated” by Franco Basaglia, taken by Raymond Depardon. The ‘80s have instead been personified by the mediatic person of Silvio Berlusconi, portrayed by Scianna at the beginning of his political adventure, but also through a Naples abused by the Camorra by Patrick Zachmann and in the contrast between the places of Italy’s historical and artistic beauty, invaded by mass tourism, captured in all its grotesque presence by Martin Parr. The ‘90s and the new Millennium tell themselves through the terrible happenings of the G8 in Genoa by Thomas Dworzak, one of the many wounds of the country that have never healed, and the American soldiers on the aircraft carriers, survivors from the conflict in the ex-Jugoslavia by Peter Marlow. Collective rituals and historical crossroads intertwine, as in the images of the Emilian discos, one the most significative subcultures born and bred in the ‘90s, documented by Alex Majoli, or the images of the priests playing football by Chris Steele-Perkins, suspended between the priestlings portrayed by Mario Giacomelli and the Vatican in Habemus Papam by Nanni Moretti.

The exhibition ideally ends among the sore images of the immigrants by Paolo Pellegrin and the crowd of Rome, gathered around a dying Pope John Paul II, while outside the room await the symbolical places of Italian culture, such as Piazza San Petronio in Bologna and Piazza Duomo in Milano, shot by Mark Power. Stories that interrogate us on what we’ve been and what we’d like to become in the near future, as individuals and as a community.