Paolo Di Paolo (from Larino, Molise, class of 1925) was an extraordinary chronicler of the Italy of the ‘50s and ‘60s who recorded with delicacy, rigour and skill the country that was being reforged from the ashes of the Second World War.
MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts, is dedicating a major exhibition to him and his extraordinary life. The exhibition features more than 250 images, many of which are previously unseen, part of an immense archive (250,000 negatives, contact sheets, prints and slides) found by chance by his daughter Silvia in a cellar around 20 years ago.
Shortly after the closure of Il Mondo in 1966, Paolo Di Paolo, feeling that he was “no longer in tune with the times, with the society that was coming into being”, abandoned his camera and at little more than 40 years old returned to his philosophical studies and the publishing world, launching a collaboration with the Carabinieri, for which he curated around 20 books and 43 calendars. Di Paolo turned over a new leaf and his wonderful, inestimable archive ended up forgotten in a cellar.
“In the years of the spread of humanist photography along French lines, together with the images and scoops of the Rome paparazzi,” says the exhibition curator Giovanna Calvenzi, “Di Paolo found an independent, different, cultured path. He has the capacity of entering the world of art, literature and film with a light, and at times humorous, touch. He possesses a natural gift for seeing an overview of the situations he frames and an ability to place people in relation to space, in a kind of circularity of vision that obliges the observer to read his photographs starting with the subject and going on to discover all those elements that render that subject central and a protagonist in a wider narrative”.
When I was a weird little kid in suburbia obsessed with horror of all kinds, my grandfather (who isn’t alive anymore) built me a haunted house. I could pretend I was a ghost or a bat or a werewolf crying blood over a cardboard tombstone. Sadie Coles HQ, London