The Story of Italy in Black and White

by Danilo Brunetti

A major new exhibit is on at the Museum of Rome in Palazzo Braschi that delves into the history of photojournalism in Italy, through the groundbreaking work of Adolfo Porry-Pastorel. L’Altro Sguardo (“the other look”) is the first retrospective exhibition dedicated to the man who is widely considered to be the father of Italian photojournalism, as well as the ancestor of paparazzi. It’s thanks to artists like Pastorel, one of the true pioneers of this profession, that for more than a century, the public has had the opportunity to see the news, not just hear it.

Over 80 shots, on loan from the Luce Historical Archive as well as other important photography foundations, illustrate the artist’s creative path, enriched by precious archival footage, original prints, unpublished documents, and the photographer’s personal objects. Photographer, journalist, and reporter, from the 1910s to the 1940s Pastorel gave life to an unprecedented and surprising story of Italy, becoming a true witness of his own time and forging a new way of capturing history.

The photos on display illustrate the double soul of Pastorel’s vision: on the one hand, he was an attentive chronicler of popular culture, on the other, a probing witness of political power. His most famous shots include the arrest of Mussolini in 1915, the reportage of the discovery of the body of Giacomo Matteotti, the most serious political murder case in Italy in the first half of the 20th century, and the March on Rome, signaling the advent of Italian fascism. But equally illuminating are his photographs capturing ordinary people. In contrast to his political shots, these works capture a spontaneous, unposed Italy, an Italy taken by surprise: on beaches, in cafes, at public ceremonies, rallies, weddings, funerals, at the launch of an airship, at the circus, or on walks. Nevertheless, there is a connecting thread between the political and the popular images, in which, with a subtle subversion, power is desecrated, and daily life becomes sacred.

On all month.