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img642Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie (International  Photographic Festival in Arles, France) held annually in the town of Arles in the south of France has exciting events for professionals and enthusiasts alike.

This important festival was founded in 1970 by the photographer Lucien Clergue and two friends, a writer and a historian. It is often visited by 50,000 visitors or more, and is the place for important introductions to the media world of new work by young upcoming photographers.

I want to take another look at one of the fine catalogs produced for the festival (top of post) in 1998 by the French publisher Actes Sud. The front (top)cover of the 341 numbered page catalog ,with numerous black and white photographs as well as full color spreads, is by the Italian photographer Massimo Vitali. 

Vitali’s (1944-) work is covered in an important essay starting on page 159 by Jon Bird, with a number of his photographs throughout this catalog, illustrating his occupation with concerned photography, a private “eye” illuminating the landscape occupied by his fellow Italians and their changing habits.

The title “A New Human Landscape” for the catalog is most appropriate in the philosophical sense when we read the French text on the back cover (below).

img643From the start of photography, mankind has had access to a collective history changing the “mental landscapes” we invent consciously or subconsciously. Boundaries between different forms of art are fading, and a new vision appears. Let’s have a look at the index of the catalog:img647img648It is a true resource with biographies and a bilingual text explanation in the back, as well as, a who’s who list of contributors.

Italian photography is a subject matter I really enjoy reading. Here are two important names from the past: Pietro Donzelli and Federico Patellani.  They are two important photographers who contributed to the Italian contemporary “vision“. Donzelli is covered in an excellent essay by the Swiss historian cum curator Jean-Christophe Ammann, but the emphasis of this post must be on Patellani, and for good reason to be explained here.

img645The “light of solitude” as the poetic title reads is well explained by the photograph below as well.


img711img712img713The work of Federico Patellani is presented in the above catalog to the public through an essay that first appeared in a very important Italian publication, Prima Rassegna dell’Attivita Fotografica in Italia. The article does not reproduce the layout nor all the photos from that book, published in 1943 under the direction of E. F. Scopinich by the Gruppo Editoriale Domus, publishers also of  Domus Magazine edited by Gio Ponti.

Prima Rassegna is the first book that comprehensively reviews the then current state of Italian photography. The presentation of Patellani in the catalog, as a so called new style photographer, in the sense of what we know today as a press photographer is sparsely illustrated, in my opinion.

Press photography, a profession almost unknown in Italy at the time, became important after World War Two through Patellani’s work for popular magazines like TEMPO, the Italian look alike version of the American Life Magazine. A style of photo reporting where photographs take over the traditional position of the text. The presentation finishes with the photograph of the well known Italian character Toto (below).

img714In another post we will show the photos in the Prima Rassegna book pertaining to the work of Patellani from a copy of that history making photo book in our archive. The photos will be those not shown in the article in the 1998 catalog discussed here.