Paolo Di Paolo obituary | Photography

Ora Sawyers

The photographer Paolo Di Paolo, who has died aged 98, documented the renaissance of Italy subsequent the dark days of the next earth war, capturing that country’s 1950s and 60s glamour. His star shone brightly for 15 many years right before he turned his back on pictures, but in that time he recorded the luminosity of cultural figures this kind of as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Gina Lollobrigida and Tennessee Williams, as very well as the optimism and dignity of common folks.

His pictures captured the shift from a a lot more harmless, rural existence, in a type that mirrored the neorealism movement in Italian film, as embodied in the shot of 3 boys on a bucolic hill hunting in direction of the sprawl of Rome. His keen eye recorded the societal rigidity concerning the haves and have-nots, but his humanist method highlighted the class of each individual, irrespective of circumstance. He claimed: “You may possibly not know the topic but you recognize the predicament. In each image there is a tale to inform … that is my law.”

Di Paolo commenced out as a self-taught newbie, taking images for pleasure with a regarded technique. “Each shot had to be a good a person. If the circumstance was not as I experienced in my intellect, I would not consider the image.”

In 1954, he took his photographs to Mario Pannunzio, the editor of the influential weekly current affairs journal Il Mondo. Pannunzio recognised Di Paolo’s talent, and the photographer identified his spiritual residence.

The Small Warriors of Monte Mario, Rome, 1954, by Paolo Di Paolo. Photograph: Archivio Fotografico Paolo Di Paolo

He acquired income doing the job for other publications, notably Tempo, who despatched him on assignment abroad. However, it was on dwelling soil, on the self-titled 1959 assignment for Successo magazine, The Lengthy Highway of Sand, that Di Paolo developed some of his best reportage. He embarked on a road journey together the coast in his Arnolt MG, with the creator and poet Pasolini in the passenger seat, documenting Italians on holiday at the dawn of a new era. Di Paolo said: “I was wanting for an Italy that seemed to the long term.”

His intelligence, empathy and discretion garnered believe in and permitted him to choose quite a few candid portraits of significant cultural figures including Sophia Loren applying make-up, Marcello Mastroianni sipping espresso and Kim Novak ironing. He shaped a sturdy bond with the enigmatic actor Anna Magnani and his portraits of her with her son capture, and are captured by, intimacy.

Paolo Di Paolo in Rome, 2017.
Paolo Di Paolo in Rome, 2017. Photograph: Bruce Weber

Paolo was born into a inadequate relatives in the village of Larino, in Molise. His father, Michele Di Paolo, ran a modest store that marketed tobacco and salt and his mother, Michelina (nee Lallo), was a smallholder and a skilled painter and embroiderer. He had five action-siblings from his father’s two earlier marriages.

He attended the village faculty then moved to Rome to finish the closing calendar year of his reports at Liceo Classico Augusto, in advance of returning to Larino. For the duration of the war he served in the Granatieri (Grenadiers) in close proximity to his dwelling, but did not see action. Afterwards he commenced producing for community newspapers, but he desired additional from existence.

In 1949, at the age of 24, he remaining dwelling to analyze history and philosophy at La Sapienza University of Rome. He intended to return to Larino to come to be a teacher there, but fell in with a team of younger artists that was a hotbed of tips and creativity, and realised he desired to investigate a distinct route.

He experienced been building finishes meet performing at a tourism magazine, and was on his way to their workplaces in 1953 when he noticed and fell in appreciate with a Leica IIIc digicam in the window of a nearby opticians. He experienced observed the indicates with which to categorical himself.

He resigned from his task and made use of his severance money to get the digicam. Abandoning his reports shortly just before graduation, he threw himself into the new humanist motion in pictures. “The toughness and enthusiasm that inspired us younger people was overwhelming: our contentment was intoxicating.”

Nonetheless in 1966, with the rise of tv and the dawn of salacious movie star lifestyle, Il Mondo closed. Di Paolo was devastated. He wrote a telegram to Pannunzio: “ Currently … the ambition to be a photographer has died.”

The pursuing year Di Paolo photographed the Valentino haute couture clearly show, but he was getting ever more disillusioned. In 1968 he went to see a photograph editor who needed him to exploit his culture contacts, to get “some spice”.

The actor Anna Magnani and son at her villa in San Felice Circeo, 1955, by Paolo Di Paolo.
The actor Anna Magnani and son at her villa in San Felice Circeo, 1955, by Paolo Di Paolo. Photograph: Archivio Fotografico Paolo Di Paolo

Di Paolo’s sturdy ethical sense clashed with this new intense design and he refused to be associated with the paparazzi. At the peak of his powers, he hung up his digital camera and shut away his 250,000 negatives, prints and slides.

He moved to the countryside outside Rome, having a position as an artwork director for the carabinieri (Italy’s regional police). Around the upcoming 40 many years he manufactured guides, which involved his images of the cadets’ lives, and calendars, for the pressure. In 1973, he married Elena Marcelli, his former assistant, and they had two children, Michele and Silvia. He lived a tranquil lifetime and indulged his passions for winemaking, dogs and vintage vehicles.

In 1997, Silvia was hunting for a pair of skis in the cellar of her parents’ residence when she was shocked to find his photographic archive. She experienced no notion her father experienced been a photographer. She asked him about his perform but he was unwilling to converse about it. It would just take many years of cajoling in advance of he allowed Silvia to carry his function back to daily life.

At last, recognition flowed. His first exhibition, Il Mio Mondo, was held at the gallery il museo del louvre in Rome, in 2016. A few years later, the MAXXI museum in the city staged a big retrospective, Mondo Perduto, with an accompanying monograph that is the only collection of his perform to date.

Pierpaolo Piccioli, the artistic director of Valentino, observed the MAXXI exhibition and, inspired by Di Paolo’s 1967 Valentino photos, invited the then 94-year-outdated to photograph behind the scenes at the vogue house’s 2020 spring/summer season couture display in Paris.

A documentary about Di Paolo’s lifetime and work, The Treasure of His Youth, by the manner photographer Bruce Weber, premiered at the Rome film festival in 2021 and is thanks for release in the Uk up coming year. In May, to coincide with his 98th birthday, Di Paolo was awarded an honorary diploma from La Sapienza.

He is survived by Elena, his young children and two grandchildren, Matilde and Leonardo.

Paolo Di Paolo, photographer, born 17 May possibly 1925 died 12 June 2023

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