Famed Italian photographer Berengo Gardin looks back on his changing world

Mon May 23, 2016 11:46am EDT
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By Crispian Balmer

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's most famous photo reporter, Gianni Berengo Gardin, has spent more than half a century documenting a disappearing world and now recognizes that even his own profession is fading fast.

In a major retrospective of his work at Rome's Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Berengo Gardin's black-and-white photographs capture Italy's shift from a largely rural economy to its rapid industrialization following World War Two.

The most recent reportage, dating from 2013-15, shows huge cruise liners docking in Venice, dwarfing the city's delicate architecture, unleashing hoards of tourists on the lagoon city.

The pictures stand in stark contrast to Berengo Gardin's early images of Venice, from the 1950s and 60s, where a lone girl runs through St. Mark's Square and lovers kiss in an otherwise empty, colonnaded street.

"You can no longer do photographs like that," 85-year-old Berengo Gardin told Reuters. "Venice is totally different to what it once was. It is full of tourists. It has all changed."

Born near the city of Genoa in 1930, Berengo Gardin moved to Venice after the war. Photography was just a hobby until an uncle sent him books by the U.S. greats Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, and he realized the camera's potential.

He himself has now published more than 250 books and, despite his age, he still wanders around with a Leica camera hanging from his shoulder, ready to capture a fleeting moment.

Although he has traveled widely, his most famous images were taken in Italy -- psychiatric patients imprisoned in dilapidated hospitals, youngsters dancing on a beach to music from a wind-up gramophone, workers in an Olivetti factory.   Continued...

A man holds the catalogue of the exhibition titled "True photography" by Italian photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin in Rome May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer