Skip to content

Renzo Tortelli: Piccolo Mondo | Mario Giacomelli: Verrà la Morte e Avrà i Tuoi Occhi

Vintage Mid-Century Italian Photographs

December 2016–January 2017

01. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. An old woman stands by a bed, combing her hair.
02. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. Side profile of a hunched old woman on a white stool.
03. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. One woman sits with a blanket and rosary in her lap in the foreground, another sleeps in bed in the background.
04. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. Seated old women eating a meal (two in foreground, two in background).
05. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. A woman walks down a hallway, back to the photographer. The hall is lined with seated women.
06. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. A cloaked woman in the foreground with closed eyes, facing the left of the frame. Various figures out of focus behind her.
07. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. A woman in bed with a book and kitten in her lap, looking at a small frame in her right hand..
08. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. Seated woman covers her face with a hand and kerchief.
09. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. One man leans his head against another's shoulder from behind, both faces turned towards the camera.
10. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. Two little girls in white dresses embrace in front of a doorway.
11. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. A crowd of children in white gathered in a room.
12. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. A crowd of children in white gathered in a room. Central boy appears to kiss a smaller boy on the forehead.
13. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. A row of squatting children with hands together alongside tilted heads as to mimic sleeping.
14. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. A young boy in the lower left of the frame looks to the camera. A child in the foreground right reaches across the frame.
15. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. A boy walks through a doorway on the left of the frame; two children seated on the floor on the right.
16. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. Two girls slightly blurred with motion fill the right of the vertical frame; a small child crouches with head tilted left in the lower left background.
17. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. A small boy in the lower left of the frame distorts his face using his hands. Various out-of-focus children play in the background.
18. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image of a young boy in the left of the frame holding a toy gun to his face as if to aim towards another child on the right.
19. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. Close up of a young boy holding a toy gun to his face as if to aim towards the bottom right of the frame.
20. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. A row of children extending back from the lower middle frame, faces smiling towards the camera.
21. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. Three children in white around a fourth child in the center, blurred with motion.
22. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. Two boys running, blurred with motion, in the center of the frame. Other children play in the upper left background.
23. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. A young boy stands in the upper center of the frame with fingers pointed above his head like horns. Children line the walls around him.
24. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast photo. A haphazard circle of children in white, sitting or standing on a speckled floor.
25. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959
26. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. Two children embrace in the middle of a group of playing children.
27. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. A young boy crying amongst a group of children.
28. Renzo Tortelli, Piccolo Mondo, 1958–1959. High contrast image. Two young boys walk towards the camera with arms around each other's shoulders.
29. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. Old woman with a comb in her hair in left-facing profile. Two other women are seen behind her.
30. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast, distorted image of two seated older women.
31. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. An old woman in profile walking towards the left of the frame with one hand against a white wall.
32. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. An old couple in dark clothing kiss.
33. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image, blurred with motion. The head of an old woman with eyes closed in the bottom center of the frame, surrounded by dark silhouettes moving around the room.
34. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. A hunched old woman looks and bends toward the lower left of the frame.
35. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. A woman is seated in the foreground left, another figure laying in bed in the background right.
36. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. High contrast image. Seated figure in the foreground left with one hand to their cheek, a second figure hunched over a pillow in their lap in background right.
37. Mario Giacomelli, Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, 1966–1968. Bright, mostly white image. Close-up of a sleeping figure with a scarf on their head..

Press Release

Renzo Tortelli and Mario Giacomelli spent much of their careers documenting the same region of Italy on the Adriatic Coast. After the two photographers were introduced in 1956, they met frequently to discuss their shared influences, inspirations, and techniques. Followers of contemporary international greats such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Brassaï, who were exploring the practice of social documentary popularized by Edward Steichen's 1955 Family of Man exhibition, Tortelli and Giacomelli sought to emulate and expand upon their methods in their own photographic practice in rural Italy.

 

Never identifying as a professional photographer, Renzo Tortelli began making photographs in 1954 when his daughter was born. Tortelli's Piccolo Mondo series examines the dynamic microcosm of an Italian kindergarten. Full of movement and emotion, these photographs present the vast range of personalities emerging in these young children as they learn to navigate their little world. Not yet fraught with the self-consciousness that comes with age, the schoolchildren are completely honest in their behaviors, reactions, and expressions as they interact with the photographer and each other as they go about their school day. The children are frequently seen playing at their ideas of adulthood, cradling baby dolls or aiming a toy gun, leading the viewer to wonder what kinds of adults these students became in the decades since these images were made.

 

Celebrated as one of Italy's greatest photographers, Mario Giacomelli trained as a typesetter before delving into photography. In an interview with Alessandra Mauro, Giacomelli explained, "I try to photograph thoughts. The subject is useful as a way of conveying what I want to say". The artist feared growing old, and navigated his fear through this series of a nursing home in his hometown of Senigallia, titled after Cesare Pavese's poem, "verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi" (death will come and will have your eyes). The artist said of this series, "These images are more realist. Even technically speaking they are my simplest and my truest. Because what I was trying to show, rather than what I saw, was what was within me: my fear of getting old - not of dying - and my disgust at the price one has to pay for one's life." Giacomelli spent years exploring this community that is so often hidden away, a community that he had been familiar with since childhood, when his mother worked at that very nursing home. In stark contrast that highlights every wrinkle and flaw, he faces, and, in turn, his viewers face, the physical, mental, and emotional realities of old age.

Tortelli and Giacomelli both approached their respective series as social documentarians, taking the time to immerse themselves in the environment of their subjects. Both photographers gained a level of acceptance and trust that allowed their subjects to forget that an outsider was present and making photographs, resulting in two series that instill in the viewer a sense of honesty. Speaking of his elderly subjects, Giacomelli said, "I tried to make myself one of them, to be like them. They didn't notice I had my camera with me".

 

In displaying these two projects together, this exhibition juxtaposes these opposite life experiences: the joy and wonder Tortelli's schoolchildren, and the loneliness and frailty of Giacomelli's nursing home residents. This exhibition will be on view at the Keith de Lellis Gallery through January 28, 2017.