These 7 Photographers Captured the Soul of Bologna

Bologna Photographers

Bologna is not an easy city for photographers.
It's hard to freeze the atmosphere of the porticoes, the towers skyline, the life in the markets in a picture.

Here's my list of the best photographers who really caught the atmosphere of Bologna:

1. Luigi Ghirri

Bologna Photographer Luigi Ghirri Morandi

Casa Morandi, photo courtesy of Archivio Luigi Ghirri

Let's start with the one you should already know.

You won't find many photos of Bologna by Luigi Ghirri.
His delicate eye captured the landscape of the Po valley, the romance of the Adriatico beaches, the life of the villages of the Via Emilia.

So where is his Bologna?

He followed local hero Lucio Dalla and put him on LP covers.
He visited the places where Giorgio Morandi painted his masterpieces.
He acted like a street photographer to get the life of Quadrilatero food market for Touring Club.

So if you find a Ghirri exhibition at Moma or Tate Gallery, you know that there's a bit of Bologna in most of his frames.

The book to have on the shelf

Ghirri self-produced Kodachrome in 1978. It takes its name from the popular film for color photographs.
The first edition reached crazy prices, but the British publisher Mack recently reprinted it reproducing the original colors.
A must-have.


2. Nino Migliori

Bologna Photographer Nino Migliori

Bread carrier - Nino Migliori, 1956

"You don't need a camera to take a photo. You just need light, paper and Nino"

This is what Gabriele, 4 years old, said after a photography workshop with Nino Migliori.
Born in 1926, he's exploring photography with the curiosity of a kid playing a new game. I use the present continuous because Migliori is still searching for something new.

Which is his best work?

I can mention the oxidations, Gente dell'Emilia, the experimentation with Polaroid, his popular diver.
But it's impossible to make a summary of his career.
Just enter his world and start to play.

The book to have on the shelf

Lumen is a series of books where Migliori photographs some masterpieces of local art on candlelight. The stunning Compianto of Santa Maria della Vita and the details of Modena Cathedral appear in all their charm.


3. Romano Cagnoni

Bologna Photographer Romano Cagnoni

Bologna's people - Romagno Cagnoni

One of the 5 most important photographers of the 20th century.
That's how Harold Evans, the editor of the Sunday Times, described Romano Cagnoni.

He was born in Pietrasanta, a small village on the coast of Tuscany famous for art galleries and marble caves.

Cagnoni travelled the world with his camera.
He was the first non-communist photographer to enter North Vietnam.
You can find his photos on the covers of Life, The Times and Paris Match.

His relationship with Bologna?

It's in a book.
He only spent 20 days in the city. Enough to portrait the atmosphere of Bologna.

Women in the church, a hairdresser with a view on the 2 towers, funny dogs that you could see in Erwitt's book, old men and students, ancient porticoes and green gardens.

In a word: Bologna.

The book to have on the shelf

Cagnoni leaves the black and white to paint with colours the marble caves he well knows.
"Caro Marmo" is a mix of a reportage and landscape book shot around the marble quarries of his youth.


4. Franco Fontana

Bologna Photographer Franco Fontana Towers

The 2 towers in Franco Fontana's Portrait of Bologna

If I had to describe Franco Fontana's photography with one word, this would be colour.

The perfect geometry of the hills of Tuscany.
A Los Angeles that looks like a Mondrian painting.
Deep shadows, rich colours, strong contrast.

Fontana pushed the boundaries of photography.
He cuts details from reality and transforms them into art.

He touched many styles of photography: landscape, naked, advertising, reportage.
But when you meet one of his shots, you immediately see his signature.

The book to have on the shelf

Fontana was born in Modena and travelled the world with a telephoto lens on the neck.
In "Portrait of Bologna" he lays his eyes on towers, porticoes, secret gardens and libraries. He cuts out the noise of the city, leaving just its charm.


5. Nino Comaschi

Bologna Photographer Nino Comaschi Nettuno

Fountain of Neptune under maintenance - Nino Comashi

Nino Comaschi worked as a photograph only for 7 years, from 1935 to 1942.

Then he spent the rest of his life writing as a journalist for the local newspaper "Il Resto del Carlino".

Despite that, his photo archive is huge.

Film after film, Comaschi shot everything in Bologna, for work first, then for pleasure.

He was a man in the crowd. He never uses camera tricks to delight your eye. He wants to tell.

The book to have on the shelf

Comaschi's large and scattered archive still is largely unexplored.
In "Bologna Anni Trenta" his son Giorgio and Franco Cristofori made a selection of photos from the 1930s.

Women handwashing clothes on a canal, men drinking at Osteria Del Romagnolo, kids on a bike at Giardini Margherita park.
A nice screenshot to see how life in Bologna has changed.


6. Bruno Vidoni

Bologna Photographer Bruno Vidoni

Fights between Catholics, Protestants and the police in Northern Ireland - Bruno Vidoni

How thin is the limit between real and fake in photography?

Northern Ireland, 1973. Photographer Roger Walker is on the streets of Belfast to shoot the fights between Catholics, Protestants and the police.

Or maybe not?

Bruno Vidoni created a fake reportage reproducing the images of the fights with his friends on the street of Cento, near Bologna.

He left some clues on the scene.
Whidony's Street label on the walls. A FIAT 600 parked. The use of wide-angle.

An Italian photo magazine published the reportage and the joke was complete.

Vidoni became famous for these fake reportages but was also a painter, writer, and art gallerist.

An eccentric artist who uses his tool to make people think.

The book to have on the shelf

Trickster Bruno Vidoni didn't stop in Belfast.

He did it again with soldiers in Cambogia (actually Reno river), the death of a Spanish bullfighter (inside an Osteria in Cento), and Arianna, a friend, as a Middle Eastern terrorist.

You can see these fake inside "Guerra e Cronaca nel Cortile di Casa", Sometti publisher.


7. Giulio Di Meo

Bologna Photographer Giulio Di Meo

Inside a butcher of Quadrilatero - Giulio Di Meo

First of all, he's a friend.
Then a stunning photographer.
And a great teacher of photography.

The name of Giulio Di Meo won't tell you much, right?
No World Press awards, no exhibitions in Arles, no books for sale at the MoMa bookshop. Yet.

But following the famous quote by Robert Capa, he's always close enough.

He's close to the Saharawi people, portrayed in the book "Il Deserto Intorno".
He's close to SEM Terra farmers in Brazil, fighting for their land.
He's also very close to Bologna, where he lives and organizes exhibitions and talk with young photographers.

The book to have on the shelf

Pig Iron
is the first book of Di Meo and the one you can't miss.
It tells the serious social and environmental injustices in iron trading in the Brazilian states of Pará and Maranhão, among the poorest in the country.


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