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Italy through the Camera Lens

In the mid-1960s, great-name photography burst onto the scene in publications, such as Pirelli magazine, that also catered for the general public. A generation of photographers began taking these magazines by storm, and they included such young artists as Enzo Sellerio, Fulvio Roiter, and Pepi Merisio. Their reports began taking over more and more space at the expense of the text. In the “Travel and Tourism” sections, words were reduced to just a short caption, because the image alone was enough to tell the whole story. In 1964 Antonio Stefani published an article entitled “La cara estate”, with a precise, critical analysis of the situation of tourism in Italy in the mid-1960s, with photographs by Fulvio Roiter: views of Rome from on high, the look of a tourist in Venice, a group of American sailors in Pompeii. In 1967 Raffaello Baldini described the Ciociaria, poised between an archaic past and a present of health spas: the text is accompanied, and completed, by black-and-white pictures by Pepi Merisio, a photographer of hidden countryside views and villages. The following year, in 1968, Merisio’s camera left the land and the woods for a nocturnal look at the sea dotted with the lights of lampara fishing boats. Just a few words say it all: “Once the net is thrown, they wait in the yellow light of the lampara”, all the rest is in the magic of the colours and of the slow movements captured by the photographer. Enzo Sellerio had already created his masterpiece The Volcano in Bloom in 1964, showing Etna, with its lava-stone villages, black-and-white portraits of peasants, and the coloured lamps at a patron saint’s festival. Reminding us in just a few words that “fighting the giant takes patience and strength, which is why the villagers never go up to the crater”. The balance between text and image had been reversed: the great masters’ photographs showed Italy in a universal language.

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