Academic journal article Afterimage

Mario Giacomelli, 1925-2000

Academic journal article Afterimage

Mario Giacomelli, 1925-2000

Article excerpt

I remember it was the summer of 1995 when I visited Mario Giacomelli in his hometown of Senigallia, and perceived the contradictions of this 70-year-old man--surrounded by the aura of a world-renowned photographer living in a small town, but frustrated by the poor sales of his work, famous and yet humble, "dumb," as he said, naive, anti-intellectual. You could tell that there was some pride in him when his friends crossed him in the street and called him "Maestro," but you could also sense that he felt misunderstood and alone with his oeuvre. You could see his desire to keep working on new projects, and you wondered where all that work went. He appeared as a true romantic in a way, a solitary artist exploring the beauty of a remote region in central Italy, with steep hills and sandy beaches, with amazing moonlight over fields of sunflowers. His vision of those landscapes was not a manipulation but rather the translation of a particular raw geography in Italy into a personal aesthetics of the photographic subl ime.

It is hard to say in a few words what Giacomelli has meant for Italian photographic culture, for culture in a broader sense and for contemporary international photography. A comprehensive book on him has not yet been written; his work is now scattered in various collections, without the possibility of studying his archive as a whole. Giacomelli was always a loner, and maybe this is one of the reasons why his work became both erratic and neglected. It is hard to frame it within one discourse, one era, one aesthetics.

In 1953, at the very beginning of his career, he joined the Italian photographic group called "Misa," directed by Giuseppe Cavalli--a group that favored formalistic experimentation over socio-political engagement. Those were the years of Italian neo-realism, of photojournalists engaged in documenting postwar Italy and regional life, of Paul Strand's work in the village of Luzzara that became very influential in Italian photographic culture. Living on the periphery and soon becoming independent from groups and formalistic debates, Giacomelli chose the eternal image of human suffering over the social documents, working in the hospice in Senigallia, examining the progressive alienation of elderly people. …

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