The ‘true photography’ of Gianni Berengo Gardin

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The ‘true photography’ of Gianni Berengo Gardin

“For me, photography must not be constructed, it must be true, that’s why I made the “true photography” stamp. A photo may be technically imperfect but if it expresses something, tells something, then it’s a good photo (…). The “true photography” stamp was born together with digital photography, because everything can be faked digitally and a digitally-modified photo is no longer a photo, it is not what the photographer has seen, it’s an illustration.” Gianni Berengo Gardin.


Cover image, a large cruise ship passing by Saint Mark’s Square, Venice, 2013 © Gianni Berengo Gardin / Courtesy Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia

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A portrait of Gianni Berengo Gardin, photo Luca Nizzoli Toetti

There is much of Gianni Berengo Gardin (b. 1930 in Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy) in these words, taken from an interview he made for the exhibition “The Eye as a Vocation” currently on view at the MAXXI Museum in Rome.
There is his way to conceive photography as a way to preserve memory and the history of a country and there is the personality of a great photographer who, to define himself, says: “Many say that I am an artist, but I don’t care about being an artist; I am a craftsman, someone who has made things by hand in a dark room for fifty years, from dawn to dusk.”

Even those who are not particularly interested in photography have probably heard of the “Big Ships” project, with which, in 2014, Berengo Gardin documented the dangerous passage of large cruise ships in the San Marco Basin in Venice. Those powerful and unequivocal images, which prompted global outrage, visually put in relation to the gigantism of those thousands-ton ships and the fragility of the Venetian urban landscape, showing all the absurdity of a custom dictated by short-sighted commercial interests.
And Venice has always been one of the favorite subjects of Berengo Gardin, from the protests on the occasion of the 1968 Art Biennale to the recent cruise ships’ pictures.

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Boat near Punta della Dogana, Venice, 1960. © Gianni Berengo Gardin / Courtesy Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia 

Another fundamental step in Berengo Gardin’s work is the photographs taken in various psychiatric hospitals he published in a 1968 book that documented for the first time the patients’ conditions in asylums throughout Italy and contributed to the birth of a movement of opinion that led to the approval of a law for the closure of all Italian psychiatric hospitals in 1978.
Other images on display in the Rome exhibition tell the history and culture of the Roma people, of which Berengo Gardin has photographed intimate moments, parties, and ceremonies; depict everyday life in rural villages and large cities; the city of L’Aquila after being hit by an earthquake in 2009; and many architectural projects under construction, including the MAXXI Museum by Zaha Hadid, photographed in 2007, and several projects by Renzo Piano.

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Oriolo Romano, Viterbo, 1964 © Gianni Berengo Gardin / Courtesy Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia.

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Psychiatric hospital, Colorno, Parma, 1968 © Gianni Berengo Gardin / Courtesy Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia.

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Siena, 1983 © Gianni Berengo Gardin / Courtesy Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia.

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Train from Rome to Milan, 1991 © Gianni Berengo Gardin / Courtesy Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia.

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Genoa,1998 © Gianni Berengo Gardin / Courtesy Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia.

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Taranto, 2008 © Gianni Berengo Gardin / Courtesy Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia.

GIANNI BERENGO GARDIN. THE EYE AS A VOCATION
temporary exhibition
Maxxi, via Guido Reni, 4, Roma.
until sptember 18, 2022

All images courtesy of Maxxi, Rome


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copyright Inexhibit 2022 - ISSN: 2283-5474