Piergiorgio Branzi

White Wall - with Small Window

1953

Not on display
Artist
Piergiorgio Branzi born 1928
Original title
Il Muro Bianco - con Finestrella
Medium
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Dimensions
Unconfirmed: 280 x 390 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from Massimo Prelz Oltramonti and allocated to Tate 2015
Reference
P13641

Summary

This is one of a group of five small black and white photographs in Tate’s collection taken by the Italian photographer Piergiorgio Branzi between 1953 and 1954 (Tate P13639P13643). They were shot on the streets of Florence and Paris and have descriptive titles which describe their locations – Paris, Wall 1954 (Tate P13639), White Wall – with Small Window 1953 (Tate P13641), Florence, Street Circus 1954 (Tate P13640) and two works entitled Florence, Alley in Via del Corso, both 1954 (Tate P13642P13643). These five photographs are representative of Branzi’s experiments with composition, framing, contrast and the use of available light and shadow in subject matter that he came across during the course of his daily life. They demonstrate how he presented a record of the city through a series of leitmotifs of the urban environment rather than as a chronicle of specific events.

Branzi was central to the development of photography in Italy in the period following the Second World War. Like his photographer friend Alfredo Camisa (1927–2007), also represented in Tate’s collection (see Tate P13644P13659), he was accepted into the formalist avant-garde group La Bussola in 1956 and the more moderate La Misa in 1958. Branzi’s work is characterised by a balance between formal concerns and a straightforward interest in people and how they inhabit the environment in which they live. In an essay he wrote with Camisa around 1956, the photographers described their subjective approach in the following terms: ‘For us photography exists only as a form of “emotion”, as an opportunity to express sincerely and poetically reality, our way of seeing and thinking, our way of seeing, of transforming what surrounds us …We photograph for our satisfaction and satisfaction comes from creating a result that speaks to us and moves us from within.’ (Unpublished, translated by Marta Camisa 2014.)

Born in Florence, Branzi initially studied classical culture and history. He took up photography after encountering the work of photographers such as Eugène Atget (1857–1927) and Ansel Adams (1902–1984) in the films broadcast in cinemas by the United States Information Service. He began taking photographs all over Italy, particularly in the poorer rural communities of the south, and frequently had his images published in the weekly magazine Il Mondo. His writing of short texts to accompany these images led to work as a journalist and he later worked for the Italian broadcasting company RAI.

The photographs in Tate’s collection are vintage prints. They were purchased directly from the artist by Massimo Prelz Oltramonti, one of the foremost collectors of twentieth and twenty-first century Italian photography, from whose collection they have been gifted to Tate.

Further reading
Germano Celant (ed.), The Italian Metamorphosis 1943–1968, exhibition catalogue, Guggenheim Museum, New York 1994.
Viewpoints: Italy in Black and White, exhibition catalogue, The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London 2005.
Italian Photography 1930–1970s, exhibition catalogue, Manezh Central Exhibition Centre, Moscow 2007.

Emma Lewis
November 2014

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

You might like