The “real photography” of Gianni Berengo Gardin

The “real photography” of Gianni Berengo Gardin

“For me, photography shouldn’t be constructed, it should be real, that’s why I made the ‘real photography’ stamp. A photo may be technically imperfect but if it expresses something, tells something, then it’s a good photo (…). The ‘real photography‘ stamp was born with digital photography, because anything can be digitally faked and a digitally altered photo is no longer a photo, it’s not what the photographer saw, it’s an illustration. Gianni Berengo Gardin.


Cover image, a large cruise ship passing by Piazza San Marco, 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 a lot of Gianni Berengo Gardin (born in 1930 in Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy) in these words, taken from an interview he did for the exhibition “The eye as a vocation” currently on display at the MAXXI Museum in Rome.
There is his way of conceiving photography as a means of preserving the memory and history of a country and there is the personality of a great photographer who, to define himself, says: “A lot of people say I’m an artist, but I don’t care if I’m an artist; I’m a craftsman, someone who’s been making things by hand in a dark room for fifty years, from dawn to dusk.

Even those who aren’t particularly interested in photography have probably heard of the “large ships», with which, in 2014, Berengo Gardin documented the dangerous passage of large cruise ships in the San Marco basin in Venice. These powerful and unequivocal images, which aroused worldwide indignation, visually related to the gigantism of these ships of several thousand tons and the fragility of the Venetian urban landscape, show all the absurdity of a custom dictated by short-sighted business interests.
And Venice has always been one of Berengo Gardin’s favorite subjects, from the demonstrations during the 1968 Art Biennale to recent photos of cruise ships.

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

Another fundamental stage in the work of Berengo Gardin is constituted by the photographs taken in various psychiatric hospitals he published in a 1968 book that documented for the first time the conditions of patients 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 presented in the Rome exhibition tell the story and culture of the Roma people, whose intimate moments, parties and ceremonies Berengo Gardin photographed; depict daily life in rural villages and large cities; the city of L’Aquila after being hit by an earthquake in 2009; and numerous 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
Maxxivia Guido Reni, 4, Rome.
until September 18, 2022

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