“There is no artistic photography.
In photography there are, as in all things, people who know how to see and others who can’t even look “.
So wrote Nadar, photographer, caricaturist, journalist, novelist and pioneer of aerostatic flight.
We know many images because they made history, even if we can’t say the name of the photographer who took the shot.
Today I would like to talk to you about five photographs that inspired me in a particular way, alternating the historical ones, which you will surely know all, with others a little less “viral”.
I would start with this Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, from 1865, by the aforementioned Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (Nadar was his stage name).
As early as 1850, technical innovations made it possible to make the shooting and printing process simple and fast, thus allowing photography to become accessible even to the less affluent layers, thus giving way to what would have been commercial photography.
Nadar was among the first to sniff out the potential of the “renewed” photographic art, promoting it and becoming one of its greatest exponents.
Why exactly this photo?
Known as “La Divina”, Sarah Bernhardt was an icon of the entertainment world, at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, also known for her fruitful collaboration with Alphons Mucha.
This shot struck me not only for its historical importance but also because I see the poetry of the woman Sarah, far from the role of Divina. The neutral background, the shades of light and the choice of color of the drapery give intensity and nostalgia to the portrait, very different from the Byzantine pomp that pervades the well-known prints of Mucha.
We continue with Elliott Erwin, a photographer with an unmistakable and always up-to-date style.
He was able to immortalize the twentieth century in black and white, without making it sticky or obvious.
Even a kiss, in his shots, is never banal.
I like photos that give stories to imagine. It is not just the right light or angle, or knowing how to capture the correct exposure, that transforms a shot into an evergreen; it must make us dream, think, it must set our right hemisphere in motion.
At California Kiss I will always ask myself if the two young people have just kissed, if they are about to kiss or if they are furtive lovers … the indefinable carries with it an irresistible note of mystery.
A casual shot, or a carefully studied pose?
The gaze of the portrayed subjects appears spontaneous, but if you look closely, significant and not random details emerge, which stand out despite the undisputed stage presence of the woman dressed in white, facing away from the lens, which represents “our” point of view .
The mysterious woman is Moira Orfei and this shot entitled Italians turn around is by Mario De Biasi. Triumph of harmony and tricolor (even if in black and white): a photograph, in every sense, of an Italy in the midst of the post-war economic boom.
“I hadn’t taken the shot yet and I already knew it would be a strong, important image. Not for me, for her. I looked at her and no longer heard the noise of the schoolchildren, the teacher’s calls, the dull noises of the camp. “
Steve McCurry’s Afghan girl wouldn’t even need an introduction; a modern Mona Lisa, according to many critics. It has captured the attention of the whole world.
Yet there are many portraiture works.
What makes this shot special? Surely the editor of National Geographic magazine made the difference when he chose the photo for the cover of that June 1985, but in addition to the flawless shot, there is the human factor, the delicacy in making the portrait subject feel at ease. Steve McCurry knew it would be an important shot, he knew that there was something more in that portrait.
He is a source of inspiration for me, a talented and sensitive man, a globetrotter capable of feeling at home anywhere and making his models feel at home by chance; perhaps it is precisely in the absence of the search for a constructed pose that we find that miracle called Life, fresh flowing water that makes it impossible for us to take our eyes off an image. This, precisely.
Last but not least, let’s take a time jump of many years, with an artistic photograph that embodies my passion for architecture, modernity and the discovery of new places to visit.
Roberto Conte is undoubtedly one of the most authoritative contemporary photographers in the field of architectural photography.
History is also here and now, which is why I like to hear what cities have to say through more recent constructions.
The intensity of a gaze or the proportion of features can be striking in a portrait, while the perfect geometry of a building is striking, or even the imbalance of lights and shapes. Inhabited places where lives intertwine, which breathe and which tell us about the present in all its changing becoming.
Conclusion on artistic photography
Sharing these five shots of artistic photography with you readers means revealing the process that has matured in me the passion for travel, photography and adventure.
A bit like welcoming guests to their own private rooms.
Taking up Nadar’s definition with which I started this article, I think that photography, as a means of communication, has the role of giving voice to the non-verbal, of pushing us to see beyond, not stopping at a furtive first glance.
If the essential is truly invisible to the eye, photography encourages us to look for it in an image that is only apparently static.
I would like to know your stories, through the images or photos that have left a mark on you, or that have ignited a dream …