Photography (CSAC Archive Books)


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A tour into the photographic collection of CSAC archive.

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Photography CSAC archive books


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Photography Claudia Cavatorta and Paolo Barbaro CSAC ARCHIVE


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Contents Introduction Italian and American Photography 6 Chapter 1 The Origins of the Photographic Collections 15 Chapter 2 American and Italian Realism 32 Chapter 3 Beyond Neolrealism 51 Chapter 4 Mirrors and Windows 66 Chapter 5 The New Landscape: Further Developments 80 3


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CSAC Archive Series This art and design book series is published in digital-first format in English and in Italian. The aim is to share the unique collection of the CSAC archive internationally, with academics, curators, students, and those interested in 20th and 21st-century Italian painting, graphic design, fashion, architecture, photography and industrial design. The series is a collaboration between CSAC at the University of Parma and the Publishing department at Bath Spa University. Titles: Photography: Claudia Cavatorta and Paolo Barbaro Graphic design: Lucia Miodini (forthcoming) Fashion Fine Art Architecture Co-Directors: Katharine Reeve and Francesca Zanella 4


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CSAC Archive-Museum The Centro Studi e Archive della Comunicazione (Study Centre and Communication Archive), known as CSAC, is a research centre of the University of Parma. This unique archive contains over 12 million original art and design works from initial sketches to finished pieces. This is a wide-ranging collection covering Italian visual communication, fine art, photography, artistic and design research, industrial design, fashion, advertising and architecture from the first decades of the 20th century. The story of the archive began with artists, photographers and designers donating works of art and their personal archives to the University of Parma through their connection to Arturo Carlo Quintavalle. The Art History Institute and Quintavalle organized exhibitions from 1968 and these continue today. Due to the enormous historic holding, which has grown over four decades, today activities are mainly devoted to the preservation and the enhancement of the collections, which are organized into five sections. CSAC’s collection is now archived Valserena Abbey, a Cistercian abbey founded in 1295. It is also known as the Charterhouse of Paradigna, being located in Paradigna just a few kilometres from the town centre of Parma. CSAC’s collection and curators moved in from 2007 after an impressive restoration program dating from the eighties. Here, a new community of students and researchers are at work, developing exhibitions, catalogue publications, research projects, and dissemination activities. In May 2015 a new permanent exhibition opened on the Abbey site representating the history of the archive. Francesca Zanelli, Director, CSAC Museum of CSAC University of Parma at the Abbey of Valserena 5


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Italian and American Photography For the visual culture of Italy, the period after the Second World War was a definite turning point. It marked the end of the Fascist regime and a long period of an inward-looking, self-sufficient attitude that had affected artistic and intellectual production. Now, in the post-war years, began a phase where the steady dissemination of cinema, literature and illustrated periodicals from abroad contributed to the formation of brand-new imagery, which soon resembled a kind of cultural colonization. Italy, a country with a significant historical artistic tradition, found itself having to cope with a profound transformation, in the face of which, its many traditional tools, analytical Copertina del catalogo New Photography USA MOMA New York Istituto di Storia dell’ Arte dell’ Università di Parma 1971. 7


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methodologies, interpretative models and approaches to the communication of images proved inadequate. Stories Inside and Outside of Neorealism Copertina del catalogo Parola Immagine Manifesti dal Museum of Modern Art di New York, MOMA New York Istituto di Storia dell’ Arte dell’Università di Parma 1971 In this context, the story of photography was extremely significant since, despite growing in popularity, it was kept on the side-lines of the art system and its studies. In Italian schools and universities, humanistic and technical cultures were categorically separate. History of art was a discipline that differed considerably from the history of applied arts, while photography, which was present within all these fields, remained confined to a technical role. The Study Centre and Communication Archive of the University of Parma (CSAC) was the creation of an art historian, Arturo Carlo Quintavalle. Photography was one of the archive’s five sections, in addition to fine art, graphics, industrial design, fashion, and it immediately attracted a different degree of attention. Within what was the first university research centre that systematically dealt with photographs, photography came to be studied with philological attention using discriminating state-of-the-art tools – as with other works of art and visual communication material, 8


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ranging from comics to advertising graphics and photo-novels. An important role in the designing and implementation of this new study model and in the spread of the new approach to photography, was the comparison with the American situation – the primary reference point for photographers operating around Neorealism but also, later, for artists close to Pop Art and conceptual research. For the first time in Italy, CSAC showed the work of photographers from Roosevelt’s New Deal programmes: Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, Arthur Rothstein, Jack Delano, Marion Wolcott, Gordon Parks Jr. New American photographers were Copertina del catalogo New Photography USA MOMA New York Istituto di Storia dell’ Arte dell’ Università di Parma 1971 9


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Copertina del catalogo Ugo Mulas Imamgini e testi Istituto di Storia dell’ Arte dell’ Università di Parma 1973 10


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also shown from Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Joel Meyerowitz, to Paul Caponigro and many others. The work of these contemporary photographers was presented at CSAC through a show from MOMA in New York (1971), which was followed by an exhibition dedicated to the work of Dorothea Lange (1972) and, in 1975, a selection of prints focusing on social photography which were purchased from the Library of Congress in Washington. Additionally, in 1973, the first retrospective exhibition was held of the recently deceased photographer Ugo Mulas – the most single-minded reporter of Pop Art in the United States. The result was a sweeping analysis of Copertina del catalogo Luca Patella Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione, Università di Parma 1977 11


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photography as a significant part of contemporary artistic production and, in parallel, a model for the use of photography as a social survey tool, keenly aware of its own language and specificity. In the immediate postwar period, American social photography was seen as a story in pictures of a democratic country that was in many ways contradictory. Thanks to the publications of E. Vittorini, the photographs of Lange, Evans, and Shahn were presented as an ambiguous model of an idealized fiction. The analysis of the different events and intentions – the relationship between humanity and the environment for Lange, the aesthetics of Copertina del catalogo Mario Giacomelli Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione/Dipartimento Fotografia, Università di Parma 1980 12


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Copertina del catalogo Schifano fotografo Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione/Dipartimento Fotografia, Università di Parma 1978 Evans’ documentation, Shahn’s graphic narration using everyday figures – could now lead to a new awareness, to new directions of research for both scholars and photographers. In fact, this proposition immediately attracted the attention of artists and photographers of a new generation who recognized in American photography an important matrix of Neorealism and also a repertoire of tools to overcome the rigid opposition between Realism and Abstraction, art and social commitment, aesthetics and civil documentation. The reviews and catalogues of exhibitions by Italian authors that appeared in the same years highlighted direct models and relationships: with the Concerned Photography of the Magnum photographe, for Italian photographers such as Nino Migliori, Mario Giacomelli, or the research in the area of Pop of Lee Friedlander, for artists like Mario Schifano, Luca Patella, or photographers such as Luigi Ghirri. The awareness of photography’s potential and the complexity of its languages also affected the areas where it had been habitually relegated to a function of testimony and illustration, such as ethnographic and anthropological research. This can be clearly seen in the research – founding visual anthropology – of Lello Mazzacane, early Mimmo Jodice, Marialba Russo, and Giuseppe Morandi, 13


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all in a complex rapport with the visual culture of the United States, and, into the bargain, all generous donors of works to CSAC’s collections. One exemplary episode, very useful in understanding those years, was the situation of the critical fortunes of a photographer such as Walker Evans. Some of his photographs had been published anonymously in the American anthology assembled in 1941 by Elio Vittorini, but it was only after being shown in Parma in 1975 that Evans was identified as a photographer of note and adulation for the latest Italian documentary photographers. To this was added the influence of the European documentary lineage that ranged from Eugène Atget’s surveys of Paris, to August Sander’s gallery of social types, and on to the research into the aesthetics of industrial archaeology by Bernd and Hilla Becher. Another kind of photography was that equally influenced by research into Land and Conceptual Art, and that ultimately lay beyond Neorealism, recovering its less bathetic, more direct and strictly documentary aspects. More than forty years after these beginnings, this book focuses on the cultural policy that resulted in this emphasis on photography, how CSAC changed its critical position towards photographers, and how all of the above impacted the work of other Italian photographers, particularly as regards relations with events in America. This book explores how CSAC’s work on American photography helped make Italian photography less isolated, helping Italian photographers and the public to understand, explain, and develop the culture in their own country. Copertina del catalogo Lugi Ghirri Vera fotografia, Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione/Dipartimento Fotografia, Università di Parma 1979


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Chapter 1



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