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220 × 190 × 17 mm
192 pages
124 illustrations, 94 in colour
01 Nov 2010
  • £19.95

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Photography and Italy Maria Antonella Pelizzari

Back in 1839, with the birth of the art of photography, Italy was not a country but a mosaic of competing states. Later in the nineteenth century the new nation became the focus of the photographic lens as archaeology and tourism took hold. Today, photographers document the country in views ranging in subject matter from industrial wastelands to crowded beaches. In this beautifully illustrated book Maria Antonella Pelizzari traces the history of photography in Italy from its beginnings to the present while also guiding us through the country's history.

Pelizarri considers the role of photography in the formation of Italian national identity during times of political struggle, such as the lead up to unification in 1860, and much later in the nationalist wars of Mussolini’s regime. While many Italian and foreign photographers - such as Fratelli Alinari or Carlo Ponti, John Ruskin or Kit Talbot - focused on architectural masterpieces, others documented the changing times and political heroes.

Pelizzari also considers the visual traditions of photography through the decades - from the collages of Bruno Munari to the neo-realist work of photographers such as Franco Pinna, the bold stylized compositions of Mario Giacomelli or controversial images created by Oliviero Toscani for Benetton advertising in the 1980s. In doing so, she also examines photography’s institutional and commercial status as an independent art form in Italian culture.

Featuring many previously unpublished images, this book will appeal to art collectors, dealers, museum curators and students of art history and Italian culture.

Photography and Italy nicely captures the potential of these books in which the and poses the question of whether photography comes out of, reflects on or exceeds its historical and cultural contexts.’ — Source

‘[the author] takes you from the earliest days of photography in Italy up to the present time, highlighting how it has impacted on Italian culture and even played a part in the formation of the nation's identity. Beautiful photography illustrates throughout, with some rare and previously unpublished shots included.’ — Italia!

‘[a] particularly welcome contribution to an understanding of how Italy and photography have engaged with one another . . . Pelizzaris readable and enlightening Photography and Italy takes a non-linear but broadly chronological approach to its subject, offering a wide-ranging survey of photography in Italy.’ — CAA Reviews

‘The title of this valuable book is telling its subject matter is not Italian photography, but photography and Italy. Its early chapters detail how non-Italians made photographic use of Italy as a form of the exotic, antique, and primitive - yielding, over the course of decades, to a native photographic infrastructure, a communications industry, and a fully self-conscious Italian nationalist agenda during the key modernist decades of the early and mid-twentieth century. This complex and intriguing story has never before need told for an English-speaking audience.’ — Afterimage

‘an invaluable scholarly work that promises to raise important issues . . . While Photography and Italy is not meant as a blueprint for museum directors and curators, it does provide useful information, as well as food for thought, on the ways similar issues have been addressed in the past . . . it reminds us that good historians, like good photographers, curators, critics, and citizens, are those with an ability to renew our understanding of what we see, or don't see.’ — Domus

Photography and Italy drives home the realization (and here lies the most engaging contribution of Pelizzaris book) that a national history of photography is mainly an occasion to question how a nation and a history are constructed, and how photography, rather than being a neutral technology, becomes a site from which to interrogate these categories. Maria Antonella Pelizzaris book successfully meets the challenge set at the start: it introduces the reader to a wealth of lesser known, yet compelling images that open vistas for further research and histories yet to be written about that unstable ground at the crossroads of Italy and photography.’ — Visual Resources

‘Maria Antonella Pelizzari interviewed by Sophie Bearman of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard College.’ — Quote

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Maria Antonella Pelizzari is Associate Professor in the Department of Art, Hunter College, New York. She is also the editor of Traces of India: Photography, Architecture and the Politics of Representation (2003).


1   Modern Pictures of an Ancient World
2   Risorgimento Mythologies
3   Romance of Stone and Steel
4   Amateurs and Professionals
5   Italian Modernities
6   Postwar Narratives
7   The Margin of the Frame
8   Alienation and Belonging

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Photo Acknowledgements