A photograph is not “beautiful”, said Ugo Mulas to a young and inexperienced Gianni Berengo Gardin, a photograph is “good” and it is when tells you and says things, communicates something. Mulas could not yet know that the one who listened, attentive and eager to learn would become, in turn, a great master in visual communication. Reportage photography revealed to be in fact the seed of Gianni Berengo Gardin (Santa Margherita Ligure, October 10, 1930) who, while ranging in architectural and landscape shooting, focuses his declared interest on the man, his habits and change of these through the variation of society. Starting from 1954, the date on which he began to take an interest in photography, he collects an archive of 1 million and 500 thousand shots now held by the Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia in Milan. Some of these have become iconic and just from them you can draw a visual path from the second half of the last century to the present day.
The Mini Minor by the sea in England marks the starting point of this imaginary route that winds through different issues such as the world of work, of which the Italian photographer documents the changes, or the status of women, investigated in its expectations, sacrifices and the evolution of its social role. Important moments, especially for emotional impact, are those with the gypsies in three gypsy camps in Trento, Florence and Palermo, or the documentation work of Italian asylums reality, conducted in 1968 along with Carla Cerati. Even the famous collection of stolen kisses in the street has its documentary reasons, being sprung from the observation of Parisian habits so different from those of his native land where public outpourings were still taboo. The journey still continues arriving to 2013 with the absurd grandeur of the Venetian “Great Ships” and environmental issues related to the lagoon city. The ability to embrace different themes is more alive than ever and also involves the present day. It is signed by him, in fact, the 2017 Calendar of the State Police, a different perspective to tell a category always trivialized and stereotyped.
This brief journey through Gianni Berengo Gardin images highlights the strong belief of the documentary photographer. The pose does not exist, as well as digital. Only spontaneity and analogue, made all the more real and communication by an intense black and white. “The distracting colour, is not suited to documentation”, says Gianni Berengo Gardin, “black and white forces you to look better”. It takes you to find the message and also to find the content, values always placed as primary objective of the photographer. Although the shape is important, in fact, between it and the content it is always the preference for the latter. Gianni Berengo Gardin does not define himself as an artist, he was born to witness the times, and he is a photographer who does his job well. He leaves to others to judge the form: so be it that his photos are considered artistic, the important thing for him is that they are “good”.