Unpublished photographs on the Great War, from the archives of the Cesare Pozzo Library, on display in Milan

The Luciana Matalon Foundation of Milan presents the photo exhibition "The Great War 1914-1918 in the Cesare Pozzo Library Archives." May 3-29, 2022.

From May 3 to 29, 2022, the Luciana Matalon Foundation in Milan presents the exhibition The Great War 1914-1918 in the Cesare Pozzo Library Archives, curated by Eleonora Belloni and Alessandra P. Giordano, and in collaboration with the Cesare Pozzo Foundation for Mutuality.

A wide selection of more than 120 unpublished photographs from a photographic fund owned by the Cesare Pozzo Transportation and Mutuality Library will be on display for the first time, documenting not only an important historical and pressing moment, but also the birth of photojournalism in Italy. The exhibition was designed to make the photographic heritage of the Cesare Pozzo Library, an extraordinary historical testimony, as accessible as possible: of the 121 shots, a good part is displayed in the original, the other photographs are reproduced in enlargements that, on the one hand, make their details more readable, and on the other, avoid the wear and tear of the fragile original prints.

The choice of the theme of the Great War 1914-1918 as well as that of the layout and thematic breakdown denote the curators’ desire to avoid any attribution of “our” war: although the photos largely depict wartime terrain on the Italian front, what is being recounted is not an Italian war, but the Great War. The photos on display in the exhibition are divided into three thematic sections: “The Front Line,” “The Front,” and “Beyond the Borders.” Added to these is a section of photos by the “official” photographer of the Great War, Luca Comerio. A focus is also devoted to the theme of transportation with some images of trains used in the conducting of materials and sometimes of the fallen soldiers. The authorship of the images, which could be traced thanks to the stamps on the back of the photographs, refers largely to the Photographic and Cinematographic Sections of the Royal Italian Army and the Supreme Command, but there are also images taken by private photographic laboratories. The entire photographic corpus revolves around two major themes: on the one hand, the war fought on the front lines, and on the other, everyday life at the front. Attack positions and lines of advanced resistance, lookouts and prisoners, shelters, trenches, moments of action alternating with moments of waiting; and then, the destruction left by the conflict, the ruins, what remains of towns and manufacturing plants after the war has destroyed them.

Also present is a small nucleus of images devoted to the material tools of war, weapons and ammunition, documenting how World War I was also the first war that took advantage of largely new techniques and technologies, the result of about a century of technological and industrial development that had invested the entire Western world. Everyday life punctuated by official visits, musters, distribution of gifts, but also more private moments: grooming, mealtime, writing letters home, attending a church service.

“The two themes,” the curators explain, “intertwine until they are often aligned on an almost imperceptible boundary: the concept of the front line, a city destroyed by bombardment, a woman digging a trench in the mud, are all effects of a war, on a par with an artillery corps in action, the ’before’ and the ’after,’ are but faces of that same capacity that a conflict has to produce destruction, death, lacerations and rubble.”

For info: www.fondazionematalon.org

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

Tickets: Full 7 euros, reduced 6 euros.

Pictured is a sentry at the entrance to a gallery.

Unpublished photographs on the Great War, from the archives of the Cesare Pozzo Library, on display in Milan
Unpublished photographs on the Great War, from the archives of the Cesare Pozzo Library, on display in Milan

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