Rome hosts first major solo exhibition on Adolfo Porry-Pastorel, father of photojournalism in Italy

The Museo di Roma in Palazzo Braschi presents until October 24, 2021 the first major solo exhibition dedicated to the father of photojournalism in Italy, Adolfo Porry-Pastorel.

Until October 24, 2021, the Museo di Roma in Palazzo Braschi hosts the first major solo exhibition dedicated to the father of Italian photojournalists, Adolfo Porry-Pastorel. A pioneer of a profession thanks to which for more than a century the public has seen what happens, facts and personalities, participating in the social life of the country. Adolfo Porry-Pastorel - The Other Look. Birth of Photojournalism in Italy, this is the title of the exhibition curated by Enrico Menduni, aims to introduce a photographer and journalist who initiated a new way of telling the time and looking into the news.

On display are more than eighty shots, from the Luce Historical Archive (which holds 1,700 of Pastorel’s negatives and more than 180,000 images from his VEDO Photo Agency) and other important funds, such as the Historical Photographic Archive of the Museum of Rome, and the Farabola, Vania Colasanti, and Fondazione Turati archives. The exhibition, which follows a chronological line, is enriched by precious archival footage, original prints, unpublished documents and personal objects, thus illustrating Porry-Pastorel’s life, shots, relationships and various passions. Photographer, journalist, reporter, from the 1910s to the 1940s, he managed to be everywhere and, with images sent to newspapers and magazines, created an unprecedented narrative of Italy’s history.

Born in 1888, a professional photographer in his early twenties, first at the Messaggero then at the Giornale d’Italia and La Voce, an experimenter in printing and image transmission techniques and in endless stratagems to get scoops, between the two wars Pastorel managed to pass for ’ Mussolini’s photographer’ and simultaneously for an annoying scrutinizer of the regime. He managed to gain access to the most intimate rooms of government and power and was attentive to fascist censorship. He chronicled as few did the customs, the lightness of leisure, the new habits of the Italians. He laid the foundations of photojournalism, narrating the behind-the-scenes of politics and everyday life.

In 1908 he founded his agency, V. E.D.O. - Visioni Editoriali Diffuse Ovunque. An acronym to communicate his very fast ubiquity. An inventor of proto-marketing, Pastorel’s business card was a ladies’ purse mirror, with the agency’s telephone on the back to call immediately in case of news events. The male variant, a pocket watch, was given as a gift to traffic policemen.

The photos on display tell the double soul of Pastorel’s gaze: on the one hand, the careful chronicler of popular costume, and on the other, the chronicle of political power, which, between the 1920s and 1940s in Italy, features Benito Mussolini. With the Duce, Porry-Pastorel maintains a dialectical relationship of exchange and deep distrust. His is the famous shot of Mussolini arrested in 1915 and taken away during an interventionist demonstration-a photo that Mussolini would never forgive him. The photographer also took other shots that became emblems of Mussolini’s portrayal: among them, that of the duce engaged shirtless in threshing, during the Wheat Campaign, or with his son Romano on his shoulders.

Pastorel is also the author of a momentous reportage on the discovery of Matteotti’s body, images of extraordinary communicative precision, as a master of reportage. Fundamental are the shots of the March on Rome and the advent of fascism, thanks to which it is possible today to observe the formation of the communication patterns and rituals of the dictatorship. He was also present at Hitler’s historic visit to Italy in 1938. Pastorel shows the contradictions of the regime: he dismantles the triumphalisms, yet celebrates the ’behind the scenes,’ immortalizing the laughter of the hierarchs, the short stature of the King, the conformity of the street rallies. His photo is non-judgmental, but no one else makes such use of irony, unusual framing, irritating compositions in those years.

Equally vivid are his photos devoted to costume, to ordinary people. An Italy on the move, caught off guard: at beach baths, in cafes, at gala inaugurations, public ceremonies, rallies, weddings, funerals; the launching of an airship, at the circus, on a film set, on walks, in the weddings of autarkic newlyweds riding bicycles to church.

With the fall of Mussolini, and especially with the loss of his beloved son Alberto, also a photographer sent to the tragic Russian campaign, Adolfo Pastorel suffered a backlash. The era has changed: he hangs up his camera, remaining to run the Vedo agency and its staff.

The last part of the review chronicles a new life for Pastorel, in the retreat of Castel San Pietro Romano, a village of which he will become mayor and promoter for cinema. In fact, it is here that Pastorel will advise Vittorio De Sica, star of the film starring Gina Lollobrigida, to have Bread, Love and Fantasy shot. The exhibition concludes with a testament: the photo is by Pierluigi Praturlon, a great set photographer, portraying Pastorel, with Tazio Secchiaroli, another great photographer and Pastorel’s student, behind him and camera in hand. It is a handover that took place at the 1958 Congress of Photojournalists, a category of which Pastorel was president at the time. Fifty years earlier he had founded his agency, and a new generation of reporters, paparazzi and later great social photographers, who gave image to the second part of the century, paid tribute to their progenitor.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog that, through essays and testimonies, constitutes the first organic study of the photographer and the season that saw the birth of photojournalism in Italy.

For info:

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Mondays.

Image: Adolfo Porry-Pastorel, Posing with an airplane. April 21, 1920 (Luce Archives, Pastorel Fund)

Rome hosts first major solo exhibition on Adolfo Porry-Pastorel, father of photojournalism in Italy
Rome hosts first major solo exhibition on Adolfo Porry-Pastorel, father of photojournalism in Italy

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