His body of work is enormous: he began as a photo-reporter for Il Mondo in the mid fifties, and quickly expanded to include additional national and international magazines and newspapers. Berengo Gardin has photographed around 1000 reportages, his archives include millions of negatives, and he has published 200 photo books. He has always preferred to photograph with a Leica: “The most convincing and personal photographs were practically always taken with a Leica; being able to trust its possibilities, can even lead to better work,” he admits in retrospect. His imagery has qualified as classic for a long time – and it is always in black and white: “I grew up with black-and-white films, black-and-white photographs and black-and-white television – my artistic eye is black and white. Literature is also in black and white. I am used to seeing and visualizing in black and white. A photographer, like a writer, has his style and keeps to it,” he once explained in an interview.
Berengo Gardin’s interest was virtually always directed at everyday life and the living circumstances of his contemporaries. He is a precise observer, considering his pictures documented rather than staged. His images are infused with subtlety, often with a hint of melancholy paired with irony and an underlying sense of humour. At first glance, his compositions appear simple, born out the moment – which is precisely what defines his unique style: to truthfully depict the world in the form of seemingly spontaneous moments, to create a fragment of suspended time yet always within an immaculately arranged composition. As a consequence, many of his motifs have lived well beyond the context of the situations where they were taken, and have become photography icons.
Berengo Gardin’s connection to Leica involves more than just using the cameras. In 1995 he received the Leica Oskar Barnack Award for his series about the daily lives of Roma families in Florence. This series will also be part of the great jubilee exhibition dedicated to the LOBA in Wetzlar, which will open on October 23 at the Ernst Leitz Museum. Furthermore, there was another recognition: three years ago the photographer was inducted into the Leica Hall of Fame.
This Saturday, Gianni Berengo Gardin is celebrating his 90th birthday. On behalf of the Leica family, and certainly also in the spirit of all his admirers, we offer our most heart-felt congratulations!
Portrait: © Maurizio Beucci
Gianni Berengo Gardin and Olivetti,
Camera – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia, Turin,
Up until November 15, 2020