Gianni Berengo Gardin

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Gianni Berengo Gardin (born 1930) is an Italian photographer who has concentrated on reportage and editorial work, but whose career as a photographer has encompassed book illustration and advertising.

"Undoubtedly the most important photographer in Italy in the latter part of the 20th century",[1] "[f]or more than fifty years Gianni Berengo Gardin has been taking photographs with the humility and passion of a great craftsman."[2]

Life and career[edit]

Born in Santa Margherita Ligure on 10 October 1930,[3]: 12  Berengo Gardin lived in Switzerland, Rome, Paris and Venice before starting as an amateur photographer in 1954.[4] As a photographer, he was self-taught, learning photography from two years he spent in Paris working with other photographers.[5]

In Berengo Gardin's first year as a photographer, 1954, his first photographs were published in Il Mondo.[6][7]: 124  This magazine, edited by Mario Pannunzio, was one to which both amateurs and professionals liked to submit their work, although until 1959 the photographs were not attributed to particular photographers. It "pursued a photographic aesthetic that privileged street scenes and odd, ironic or bizarre encounters in both town and country",[7]: 122  and "more than a third of the photographs published in Il Mondo were by [Berengo Gardin]."[7]: 124  His "rare capacity for capturing simultaneous actions and objects within the same frame positioned him as an excellent candidate for that street life Pannunzio was after."[7]: 124–125  Berengo Gardin would later have photo essays published in Domus, Epoca, l'Espresso, Stern, Time, Vogue Italia;[1][8] Réalités;[1] Le Figaro;[8] and La Repubblica.[9]

He turned professional in 1962 and two years later moved to Milan,[4] where he has lived since 1975.[10]

From 1966 to 1983 Berengo Gardin worked with Touring Club Italiano, providing much or all of the photography for books about regions of Italy and other European countries or their cities:[6][11] he once identified the high point of his career as "The work I did in Great Britain, for the Touring Club in 1978" (adding that "I loved the cars: I had an Austin and an MG").[5] He did similar work for the publisher Istituto Geografico De Agostini (later De Agostini Publishing).[6][11] In 1979 Berengo Gardin started to work with Renzo Piano, photographing the process of designing his buildings.[6] Berengo Gardin also worked with major Italian firms – Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Italsider (later Ilva), Olivetti and others – showing the working life of employees, rather than the products.[6][11]

In the early 1990s, Berengo Gardin spent time living among the Romani people (Zingari) of Italy, hoping to show their lives from the inside. This resulted in two highly regarded books, La disperata allegria (Florence) and Zingari a Palermo (1994 and 1997).[11]

Since 1990 Berengo Gardin has been represented by Contrasto.[6]

Berengo Gardin remains active in his eighties. A recent assignment, from la Repubblica, was to photograph the giant cruise ships that threaten the ecosystem of Venice.[9][12]

Berengo Gardin has a large archive, with over 1.5 million negatives.[10] The FORMA Foundation (Fondazione FORMA per la Fotografia, an offshoot of Contrasto), in Milan, will be managing this archive, including negatives, prints, documents and cameras.[13] (Other material is at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.[14])

Berengo Gardin has named as influences on him the French photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Willy Ronis, Édouard Boubat and Robert Doisneau;[5] others have identified the Italian group La Gondola and the American photographer W. Eugene Smith.[7]: 126 

Gianni Berengo Gardin is one of the great generation of poetic documentarists who like to compose with an idea in mind [...] [H]is sympathies have always been with those whose day-to-day activities support the fabric of society: workers, doctors, priests and even itinerant musicians.[15]

Vaporetto, Venice, 1960[edit]

Vaporetto, Venice, 1960, © Copyright Gianni Berengo Gardin

Berengo Gardin's "most renowned image of Venice", often referred to as Vaporetto, Venice, 1960:[n 1]

was taken in 1960, on a vaporetto with mirrored doors so that the passengers are trapped in a mosaic of reflections. Simultaneously mundane – the travellers are ordinary commuters – and exotic, it captures the paradox of a city trapped in an excess of representation.[9]

Berengo Gardin describes how it came about:

I was 30, living on the Lido in Venice, and every morning I took the vaporetto, or water bus, across to where I worked in San Marco. [...] It was a matter of pure luck, really. I was doing a lot of architectural photography, and this was a spontaneous shot: I only took one picture. In the centre there is a reflection in the glass door of the vaporetto, behind which stands a man all dressed in black. If he'd been wearing white, the shot wouldn't have worked.[5]

The photograph was included in Berengo Gardin's book Venise des saisons (1965).[16] It was warmly received; Henri Cartier-Bresson:

ranked [this photograph] among the 80 most important photographs ever taken. The co-presence of gazes and of frames within a frame makes it an exceptional in-camera montage of different spaces and human figures, reminiscent of Velasquez's illusions, and suggestive of this photographer's multiple artistic influences: the French school of reportage (Doisneau, Boubat, Ronis) and a group of Venetian photographers called La Gondola [...] and Eugene Smith's powerful renditions of black and white. At the end of the 1950s this new kind of reportage seemed to reconcile social documentary with the photographer's subjective exploration of the world, thus putting an end to the dispute about form and content that had divided many postwar image makers.[7][n 2]


A small selection of photobooks by Gianni Berengo Gardin (flanked by irrelevant Pelicans)

Berengo Gardin has been the sole contributor or a major contributor to a large number of photobooks: the exact number up to any time depends on various definitions – what a separate book is (as opposed to a mere new edition), what a "major" contribution is, and more – but one estimate in 2014 put the number at 250 (and added that "only 10 are in colour").[10]

Morire di classe (1969) is probably the most celebrated among Berengo Gardin's books.[10][n 3] Other award-winning books (see "Awards") include India dei villaggi (1981, about the villages of India) and La disperata allegria and Zingari a Palermo (1994 and 1997, about the Romani people of Florence and Palermo respectively).

"Books such as Dentro le case and Dentro il lavoro are some of the best journalistic records of how people worked and lived in post-WWII Italy."[11][n 4]


Berengo Gardin has had many exhibitions: the number was described in 2008 as "around 200".[6] A small sample are listed below.



Further viewing[edit]

  • Gianni Berengo Gardin. Rome: GIART/Contrasto, 2009. In the series Fotografia italiana: 5 film, 5 grandi fotografi.[n 5]: 252 


  1. ^ The title or caption varies, even in Italian. Italo Zannier, ed, Gianni Berengo Gardin: fotografie 1953–1990 (Udine: Art&, 1990; ISBN 88-85893-23-6): "Venezia, il vaporetto, 1960". Mario Peliti, et al, eds, © Copyright Gianni Berengo Gardin ([Rome]: Peliti Associati, 2001; ISBN 88-85121-69-1): "Venezia, 1960". (In each of these books, the plates are neither numbered nor on numbered pages.) As for English, here are three examples. Gianni Berengo Gardin, ed. Susanna Berengo Gardin, Italians = Italiener (Kempen: teNeues, 2000; ISBN 3-8238-5453-4), plate 58: "Venice: in a vaporetto, 1960". Roberto Koch and Alessandro Mauro, eds, Gianni Berengo Gardin (Rome: Contrasto due, 2005; ISBN 978-88-89032-72-5), plate 11: "On a vaporetto, Venice, 1960". Denis Curti, ed., Gianni Berengo Gardin: Stories of a Photographer (Venice: Marsilio, 2013; ISBN 978-88-317-1501-0), first (unnumbered) plate: "Venice, aboard a vaporetto, 1960".
  2. ^ "In 2003, Henri Cartier-Bresson was curator of an exhibition, Les Choix d'Henri Cartier-Bresson, for his newly inaugurated Paris Foundation. This presented a variety of works that resonated for him, by a range of international artists. Gianni Berengo Gardin's Vaporetto was among the images included." "Gianni Berengo Gardin (B. 1930) Vaporetto, 1960 (sale 4225 lot 10)". Christie's. 12 June 2012.
  3. ^ Alone among books by Berengo Gardin, it is introduced in Martin Parr and Gerry Badger's three-volume survey of photobooks; specifically, in The Photobook: A History, vol 2 (London: Phaidon, 2006; ISBN 0-7148-4433-0), p.246
  4. ^ Both books have photographs by Berengo Gardin (Rome and farther north) and Luciano D'Alessandro (Rome and farther south); Dentro le case was first published in 1977, Dentro il lavoro the following year. (The latter should not be confused with Berengo Gardin's Dentro il lavoro. Nello studio di Andrea Martinelli, of 2005.)
  5. ^ Introduced in Bruno Carbone, ed. Gianni Berengo Gardin. Il libro dei libri. Rome: Contrasto Due, 2013. ISBN 978-88-6965-444-2.


  1. ^ a b c Hans-Michael Koetzle, "Gianni Berengo Gardin"; in Photographers A–Z (Cologne: Taschen, 2011; ISBN 978-3-8365-1109-4), p.34.
  2. ^ Roberto Koch, ed., "Gianni Berengo Gardin"; in Photo Box: Bringing the Great Photographers into Focus (London: Thames & Hudson, 2009; ISBN 978-0-500-54384-9), p.254).
  3. ^ Berengo Gardin, Gianni (2000). Berengo Gardin, Susanna (ed.). Italians = Italiener. Kempen: teNeues. ISBN 3-8238-5453-4.
  4. ^ a b Cesare Colombo [it], ed. Italy: One Hundred Years of Photography. New York: Rizzoli, 1988. ISBN 0-8478-5516-3 (hardback), ISBN 0-8478-5517-1 (paperback). P. 185.
  5. ^ a b c d Longrigg, Clare (3 April 2013). "Gianni Berengo Gardin's best shot: a Venice vaporetto in 1960". The Guardian.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "Gianni Berengo Gardin 2008 Honoree: Lifetime Achievement". The Lucie Awards.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Pelizzari, Maria Antonella (2011). Photography and Italy. Exposures. London: Reaktion. ISBN 978-1-57958-393-4.
  8. ^ a b c "Le grandi navi a Venezia viste da Gianni Berengo Gardin". il Post. 12 July 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Spence, Rachel (7 April 2014). "Photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin – interview". The Financial Times.
  10. ^ a b c d Wright, Karen (10 April 2014). "Gianni Berengo Gardin: 'I like colour – just not in photography. I have always liked black and white'". The Independent.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Gianni Berengo Gardin, the Italian Henri Cartier-Bresson". Fotografia. 16 June 2013. Archived from the original on 26 June 2014.
  12. ^ a b Jordan G. Teicher, "Are these giant cruise ships destroying Venice?", Slate, 20 December 2015.
  13. ^ a b "L'archivio di Gianni Berengo Gardin: Una nuova mission per Fondazione Forma!". Fondazione FORMA per la Fotografia. Archived from the original on 11 September 2014.
  14. ^ Catalogue search, Museum of Modern Art (New York).
  15. ^ Ian Jeffrey, The Photography Book (London: Phaidon, 2000; ISBN 0-7148-3937-X), p.47.
  16. ^ "Gianni Berengo Gardin: Italy's greatest photographer". The Telegraph. 9 January 2015.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Gianni Berengo Gardin (B. 1930) Vaporetto, 1960 (sale 4225 lot 10)". Christie's. 12 June 2012.
  18. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Il nuovo impegno (in Italian). Vol. 18. 1969.
  19. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Napoli '81. Sette fotografi per una nuova immagine (in Italian). Milan: Electa. 1981. OCLC 9760864.
  20. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Fotografie di Gianni Berengo Gardin per Il Mondo dal 1954 al 1965. Mazzotta/fotografia (in Italian). Milan: Mazzotta. 1985. ISBN 88-202-0598-X.
  21. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Visages, paysages: hier et aujourd'hui (in French). Milan: Electa. 1985. OCLC 467894624.
  22. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Photographies 1954–1987: Rencontres internationales de la photographie: Arles, 4 juillet – 15 août 1987 (in French). Arles: Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie. 1987. OCLC 830656438.
  23. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Donne: fotografie di quarant'anni (in Italian). Rome: Peliti Associati. 1989. ISBN 88-85121-02-0.
  24. ^ Exhibition catalogue: La disperata allegria: vivere da zingari a Firenze. Florence: Centro Di. 1994. ISBN 88-7038-260-5.
  25. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Gardin, Gianni Berengo; Basilico, Gabriele; Mormorio, Diego; Spila, Piero (1994). Scambi (in Italian). Rome. ISBN 88-85121-20-9. Published by Ferrovie dello Stato and Peliti Associati.
  26. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Artelaguna '95: opere d'arte per la laguna di Venezia. Venice: Marsilio. 1995. ISBN 88-317-6284-2.
  27. ^ "Past Exhibitions: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1994". Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  28. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Memorie di un dilettante: Vintage prints 1952–1960 (in Italian). Rome: Galleria Minima Peliti Associati. 1998.
  29. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Giò Pomodoro at the seventh International Cairo Biennale 1998. Milan: Signum. 1998. OCLC 48863345.
  30. ^ Exhibition catalogue: © Copyright Gianni Berengo Gardin (in Italian). Rome: Peliti. 2001. ISBN 88-85121-69-1.
  31. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Gianni Berengo Gardin. Toscana, gente e territorio (in Italian). Lucca: Fondazione Centro Ragghianti. 2004. ISBN 88-89324-00-7.
  32. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Miracolo a Pisogne: Gianni Berengo Gardin fotografa l'incontro tra Adolf Vallazza, scultore contemporaneo, e Girolamo Romanino, pittore del '500 (in Italian). S.l.: s.n. 2004. OCLC 799329409.
  33. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Cesare Zavattini. Tra letteratura, cinema, pittura (in Italian). Naples: LER. 2005. ISBN 88-8264-352-2.
  34. ^ Exhibition notice, Maison européenne de la photographie.
  35. ^ Exhibition catalogue: L'altro sguardo = Mit anderen Augen = A distinct regard. Rome: Peliti. 2005. ISBN 88-89412-08-9.
  36. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Sostenibile. Gianni Berengo Gardin fotografa Hera (in Italian). Bologna: Hera. 2005.
  37. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Andrea Martinelli: il volto e l'ombra (in Italian). Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana. 2005. ISBN 88-366-0605-9.
  38. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Leopardi: la biblioteca, la casa, l'infinito: fotografie di Gianni Berengo Gardin (in Italian). Verucchio (Rimini): P.G. Pazzini. 2006. ISBN 88-89198-89-3.
  39. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Gianni Berengo Gardin: reportage su Carlo Scarpa, fotografie 1966–1972. Quaderni del Museo Palladio (in Italian). Vol. 8. Vicenza: Centro internazionale di studi di architettura Andrea Palladio. 2006. OCLC 848766609.
  40. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Un paesaggio italiano. Immagini (in Italian). Turin: Edizioni Gruppo Abele (EGA). 2007. ISBN 978-88-7670-620-2.
  41. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Andrea Martinelli: il volto della lontananza: carte 1991–2007 (in Italian). Biasca: Comune di Biasca. 2007. ISBN 978-88-87278-81-1.
  42. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Montrasio, Ruggero (2008). Andrea Martinelli: relazioni possibili. ISBN 978-88-366-1233-8.
  43. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Mimmo Paladino: ortissima (in Italian). Turin: Umberto Allemandi. 2009. ISBN 978-88-422-1777-0.
  44. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Peggy Guggenheim, la casa, gli amici, Venezia (in Italian). Milan: Giunti. 2009. ISBN 978-88-09-74599-5.
  45. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Camogli (in Italian). Milan: Federico Motta. 2009. ISBN 978-88-7179-632-1.
  46. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Gianni Berengo Gardin: reportrait: incursioni di un reporter nel mondo della cultura = Incursions of a reporter into the world of culture. Turin: Umberto Allemandi. 2009. ISBN 978-88-422-1766-4.
  47. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Gianni Berengo Gardin, Elliott Erwitt: nei luoghi di Piero della Francesca; Arezzo, Anghiari, Sansepolcro = In Piero della Francesca places. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan: Silvana. 2010. ISBN 978-88-366-1674-9..
  48. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Terra da vivere: figline Valdarno nelle immagini di Gianni Berengo Gardin (in Italian). Figline Valdarno: Comune di Figline Valdarno. 2011. ISBN 978-88-96698-01-3.
  49. ^ Exhibition catalogues: Gianni Berengo Gardin. Storie di un fotografo (in Italian). Venice: Marsilio. 2013. ISBN 978-88-317-1873-8. Gianni Berengo Gardin: Stories of a Photographer. Venice: Marsilio. 2013. ISBN 978-88-317-1501-0.
  50. ^ "Berengo Gardin: storie di un fotografo". Civita Tre Venezie. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  51. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Gianni Berengo Gardin. Storie di un fotografo (in Italian). Venice: Marsilio. 2013. ISBN 978-88-317-1696-3.
  52. ^ "Storie di un fotografo, Gianni Berengo Gardin a Milano", Link Iesta, 14 June 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  53. ^ Exhibition catalogue: Caffè Florian (in Italian). Venice: Marsilio. 2013. ISBN 978-88-317-1644-4.
  54. ^ Paola Sammartano, "Gianni Berengo Gardin: Storie di un fotografo". L'Œil de la photographie, 9 May 2014.
  55. ^ About Storie di un fotografo Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, exhibition website. (in Italian) Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  56. ^ a b c d e Exhibition notice, Prahlad Bubbar Gallery. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  57. ^ "Gianni Berengo Gardin: Vera fotografia: Reportage, immagini, incontri." Fondazione FORMA per la Fotografia. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  58. ^ Antonio Lo Torto, "Gianni Berengo Gardin. 'Vera fotografia'. Reportage, immagini, incontri." Club Fotografia. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  59. ^ "Gianni Berengo Gardin. 'Vera fotografia'. Reportages, images, encounters." Palazzo delle Esposizioni. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  60. ^ "Winners 1979–2002". Leica Camera. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  61. ^ Biography page Archived 2016-02-21 at the Wayback Machine, Storie di un fotografo Genoa exhibition website. (in Italian) Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  62. ^ "Berengo Gardin e Vitta Zelman dottori ad honorem", University of Milan, 11 May 2009. (in Italian) Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  63. ^ Recueil. Photographies originales. Oeuvre de Gianni Berengo-Gardin, Bibliothèque nationale de France, OCLC 691660951, retrieved 17 November 2016