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Federico Patellani, Carbonia, Cagliari, 1950. © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia / Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.
Federico Patellani, Carbonia, Cagliari, 1950. © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia / Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.

Federico Patellani, Carbonia, Cagliari, 1950. © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia / Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.

Federico Patellani, Pisa, 1946, tre ragazze in Campo dei Miracoli © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia / Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.
Federico Patellani, Pisa, 1946, tre ragazze in Campo dei Miracoli © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia / Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.

Federico Patellani, Pisa, 1946, tre ragazze in Campo dei Miracoli © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia / Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.

Federico Patellani, Palermo, 1947 © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia/Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.
Federico Patellani, Palermo, 1947 © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia/Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.

Federico Patellani, Palermo, 1947 © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia/Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.

Federico Patellani, Puglia, 1947. © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia / Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.
Federico Patellani, Puglia, 1947. © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia / Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.

Federico Patellani, Puglia, 1947. © Federico Patellani - Regione Lombardia / Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea.

There have been few occasions - very few indeed, as Giovanna Calvenzi recalled at the exhibition presentation at Palazzo Madama - to see Federico Patellani’s photos on display. Chosen from his limitless archive, they describe an exceedingly beautiful and horrid Italy - one of the handful of countries that is so incredibly defined by its own contrasts.

Towards the end of the 1930s he travelled southbound for the first time, to Naples, and by the end of the war he journeyed repeatedly to various regions. He had started shooting during his military service in Africa and then for il Tempo, the first Italian weekly magazine in color that drew inspiration from Life magazine.

A Law School student, a painter and film-maker - he will be pursuing the latter all his life -, Patellani is regarded as the first Italian photo-reporter in its most comprehensive and modern sense. He documented the crucial events of our country with unmatched immediacy and visual quality, traveling all around Italy. The war was just over and Italy was propelled toward the imminent “economic Boom” - as schizophrenically divided as it was between Miss Italia and the most dreadful poverty.

In Patellani’s photos we will find a proximal kind of past, a country that was naif and lout, pleasure-seeking and committed. From the rallies on the monarchy-republic referendum to the selections for Miss Italia; Sironi, Munari, Croce, Montale and the miners of Carbonia; Sunday trips and the seizure of land; the stars of the Italian film industry and Alfa Romeo’s workers; processions and funerals.

Curators Giovanna Calvenzi and Kitti Bolognesi (who used to be Patellani’s assistants and still manage his fund) have justly highlighted that the label of Neorealism fit him too tight. And yet, perhaps for the sake of a form of adhesion he pursues, these images look wrapped by Neorealism, as it was caught in its being a highly peculiar, multifaceted and unique moment of the Italian culture.

It’s an unmissable opportunity to re-discover the photos of one of Italian photography’s protagonists.

Federico Patellani, Professione fotoreporter is part of a series of events celebrating Italian Neorealism  for the whole of 2015. The exhibition, set up in collaboration with Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea in Cinisello Balsamo, runs between April 23rd and September 13th, 2015 at Palazzo Madama, Turin.

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