The unpublished images from the archive told by Susanna Berengo Gardin, co-curator of the exhibition on the work of the great photographer, in Alessandria until September 15th

Photography is an act of knowing the world: it captures moments, transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, narrates without words, excites and invites reflection. Gianni Berengo Gardin has built his photography on this. The artist often likes to repeat that ‘it is not “how” you photograph but “what” you photograph that counts’: a declaration of intent that has led him to capture the essence of humanity in his shots and to make it a narrative within everyone's reach.

A journey that starts from afar

Over decades and decades, he has shaped an immense, precious and unique archive from which books and exhibitions have sprung. The exhibition ‘Gianni Berengo Gardin. Cose mai viste' (from 6 June to 15 September 2024 in Alessandria, Sale d'Arte in via Machiavelli 13) is a journey through this archive that begins in 1954 and ends in 2023. It passes through many Italian cities, reaches Paris, France, then travels to Croatia, Hungary, Spain, Norway, stops in Moscow, China, Japan, London and New York.

A new and different selection

Gianni Berengo Gardin's last book dates back to 2023 when, together with his daughter Susanna, he reviewed his entire archive, selecting 114 images and publishing ‘Cose mai viste. Fotografie inedite', Contrasto editions. For the exhibition in the Sale d’Arte in Alessandria, Giovanna Calvenzi and Susanna Berengo Gardin are proposing a new, different, more reasoned selection: about sixty ‘things never seen’ with a special focus on the men and women Berengo met in the course of his work. Unprinted, unpublished images that bear witness to his art.

An unpublished section

An unpublished section of photographs taken in 1994 on the occasion of the historical re-enactment of the Battle of Marengo closes the exhibition: shots by the master make up the catalogue ‘Gianni Berengo Gardin - Marengo, 1994’, which also contains texts by Napoleonic history expert Giulio Massobrio.

We asked Susanna Berengo Gardin, curator together with Giovanna Calvenzi, to tell us about the genesis of this new exhibition at the Sale d'Arte in Alessandria

What gave rise to the need for an exhibition that is a selection of a selection?

The selection stems from a simply practical motivation, the space of the Sale d'Arte in Alessandria could only hold a small number of images. The previous larger selection had been made for the book ‘Cose mai viste’ (Contrasto 2023) and for the exhibition presented at Ma.Co.F in Brescia last year as part of Brescia Capital of Culture.

What was the criterion for going down from over 100 photos to about sixty?

Together with Giovanna Calvenzi, one of Italy's most important photo-editors and curators of photography, we chose images that could account for the quality, versatility and diversity of themes that characterise my father's work. Working with Giovanna was very useful and pleasant, because of her great experience and because there is a familiarity that goes back to when I was a child.

How is the ‘Marengo 1994’ section integrated with ‘Things Never Seen’? Why this choice?

On the one hand, the reportage concerns an event, the costumed re-enactment of the famous Napoleonic battle of Marengo, which is part of the cultural heritage of the city of Alexandria; on the other hand, these photographs can also be classified as ‘Things never seen’. A work of which only a few colour images were published in the magazine ‘Alisei’ in 1994, but whose black and white photographs remained unpublished. Giovanna Calvenzi has selected around twenty of them for the exhibition, to which a small catalogue produced for the occasion is dedicated.

What it was like working side by side with your father (on a professional and personal level) on this selection...

By now I am used to working with my father, for the past ten years or so I have been working alongside him in looking after his archive, books and exhibitions. Normally we get along quite well. The biggest difficulty with him is precisely the selection of images: some he just doesn't want to give up, and then we have intense discussions. On this occasion, however, he willingly accepted the selection made by Giovanna and myself, in fact he was very happy with it. Perhaps, at the beautiful age of 93, he is starting to soften up....