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Vincenzo Aragozzini: From Factory Shoots to the Photographic History of Modernity

Vincenzo Aragozzini (1891-1974) was very active as a photographer in Milan from the 1910s to the 1960s. He was the photographer for the Touring Cub Italiano, the official photographer of the Royal Family and one of the most highly acclaimed industrial photographers, sought after by many companies, including Pirelli, Fiera di Milano, Montecatini, Edison, AEM, SNIA Viscosa, and Dalmine. From a modest family, Vincenzo Aragozzini started work at the age of 13 and, after a brief experience in a Milanese bookbinding company, in 1905 he entered Luca Comerio’s studio as an apprentice. That was the year when Comerio took his famous group photograph for Pirelli of workers leaving the factory in Via Ponte Seveso, of which the enlargement, which was made for the 1906 Milan International exhibition, is now in our Foundation. Aragozzini he learnt photographic techniques from Luca Comerio and in 1913, at the age of 22, he opened a studio of his own in the Galleria De Cristoforis and started working with the Touring Club Italiano.

It was presumably through Comerio or the Touring Club, of which Giovan Battista Pirelli had been a partner ever since its foundation, that in the 1920s Aragozzini started his partnership with Pirelli, which lasted until the 1950s. Aragozzini mainly took architectural photographs for the company, depicting work in the factory with shoots of the interiors and exteriors of the production plants. His first documented work for Pirelli came in 1922, when he took a series of photos in the cable-production rooms at the Milano-Bicocca plant, and his works were then included in an album entitled “The factories of the Pirelli company in 1922” to celebrate the company’s fiftieth anniversary. In the mid-1930s Aragozzini joined Fototecnica Crimella, the studio where he remained until 1948. Some photos of the interiors and exteriors of the Pirelli factory in Via Ponte Seveso, taken in July 1943, are indeed signed by “Aragozzini della S. A. Crimella”. The city was heavily bombed shortly after and the factory was destroyed. Photographs, again by the Crimella studio, illustrate the same places after the bombing, forming two fascinating albums that show the site before and after the air raid.

After the war, Aragozzini was called in to document two important facilities used for the company’s welfare services: the seaside holiday camp in Pietra Ligure for employees’ children, which was opened in 1947, and the retirement home for former Pirelli workers in Induno Olona, in the province of Varese, where Aragozzini did a photo shoot between 1950 and 1951. After working with Fototecnica Crimella, in 1950 Aragozzini opened his second studio in Milan, in Via Borsieri 29, and in the 1950s he was one of the photographers called in to illustrate the articles published in Pirelli magazine. Some of his photos were used for an article by Carlo Vigoni entitled “Converting to Foam Rubber” Convertirsi alla gommapiuma, published in issue number 2 of 1952, as was his reportage on the travelling Man and the Atom exhibition organised by the United States Information Service (USIS), mentioned in the “Il mondo nuovo“ column in issue 4 of 1954.

Aragozzini’s partnership with Pirelli thus dated back a long way, and it helped illustrate the company’s many activities: from production in the factories to welfare programmes, through to the innovations of a world that, at the dawn of the post-war economic boom, was entering the modern age.

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