Federico Patellani

Federico Patellani, Ballo in strada, Palermo1947

Federico Patellani, Ballo in strada, Palermo1947

È nata la Repubblica … Fotografie di Federico Patellani

curated by Kitti Bolognesi e Giovanna Calvenzi
promoted with Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea di Cinisello Balsamo and with the collaboration of Regione Lombardia

times and locations

Chiostri di San Pietro
via Emilia San Pietro, 44/c
42121 Reggio Emilia

friday 11th may open from 6.30 pm to 12 pm; saturday 12th and sunday 13th may from 10 am to 12 pm; from 17th may to 24th june open on thursday and friday from 7 pm to 11 pm; saturday, sunday and national holidays from 10 am to 11 pm; closed on monday, tuesday and wednesday


The exhibit is a presentation of forty photographs by Federico Patellani (Monza 1911 – Milan 1977), the great master of Italian photojournalism. The photographs date from the end of the Second World War to the Fifties.

A sensitive and cultured narrator and a sharp witness of Italian society, in 1939 Patellani started working for Alberto Mondadori’s Tempo, a weekly magazine styled on the experience of Life magazine which he adapted to the Italian situation. After suspending his activities during the war, he started working with Tempo again as a photographer and journalist, producing major photo stories on Italian society immediately after the war and in the period of economic recovery: from the monarchy vs republic referendum to land occupation, from different working environments in the countryside and factories to moments of everyday life and the sharing of spaces in houses  and streets, from the birth of beauty contests to cinema, from portraits of artists and intellectuals to fashion photography. While working for Tempo, Patellani invented “photo-texts”, short documentaries of still images where texts only served an explanatory purpose. As early as 1943, while writing about the definition of the “new-formula journalist”, Patellani made the distinction between documentary photography and beautiful photographs, putting forward his theory that the journalist should concern himself with documenting and providing information. The “beautiful photograph”, he argued, was an optional or something to be pursued by those who were not professional journalists: the new-formula journalist, on the other hand, had to concern himself primarily with informing the reader. Patellani’s theories, however, were certainly not fulfilled: the contemporary reader is informed thanks to the new-formula journalist’s images, but their narrative power does not lie exclusively in his skill as a journalist but also in his sophisticated ability to see and tell a story by images. While working for Tempo with this professional imperative, Patellani photographed every single subject, situation and personality. Above all, however, he showed the efforts made by Italians to build a common identity by blending many cultural nuances and customs; he portrayed the different ways of building a sense of community and belonging and of participating in the civil life of a country rapidly changing from an agricultural to an industrialized nation.

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Federico Patellani (Monza 1911- Milan 1977) was one of the leading figures of Italian photojournalism. He started working as a professional photographer in 1935 during Italy’s military operations in East Africa. In 1939 he started working with Alberto Mondadori’s Tempo weekly magazine and his reports deeply influenced the style of the magazine, for which he invented the photo-text, i.e. extensive photo reports with captions written by the photographer himself. Patellani portrayed the nation in the post-war period, its economic recovery, its industries, fashion and cultural life, the birth of beauty contests and Italian cinema. In 1952 he went freelance and worked with leading Italian and foreign newspapers (Epoca, Storia Illustrata, Successo, La Domenica del Corriere and Atlante). During that time he frequently worked in cinema and personally directed three documentaries. From 1956 until his death he devoted himself with increasing determination to travel photography.