Farewell to Lisetta Carmi, among the most celebrated photographers of the 20th century

Farewell to Lisetta Carmi: the celebrated photographer passed away in the night at the age of 98.

There left at the age of 98 on the night of July 5 the celebrated photographer Lisetta Carmi, in Cisternino, Puglia, where she had lived for more than 40 years although she was originally from Genoa.

Born in Genoa in 1924 to a bourgeois family of Jewish origin, she began to devote herself to photography in the 1960s, when she decided to abandon her activity as a pianist to follow her passion. The lens became an instrument of political engagement for her. After an initial experience at the Duse Theater, she made reportages of documentation and social denunciation, producing an extensive archive.

Among her most important reportages are 1962’s Italsider, a series of photographic shots of the shipyards and interiors of the steel mills; 1964’s Genova Porto, a reportage on the theme of labor documenting the activities of the port and the situation of the dockworkers and denouncing the extremely harsh working conditions; and 1966’s Erotismo e autoritarismo a Staglieno. His most famous photographs include one of the poet Ezra Pound, with which he won the Niépce photography prize. He photographed numerous artists and intellectuals, including Lucio Fontana, Lele Luzzati, Leonardo Sciascia, Edoardo Sanguineti, Alberto Arbasino, Sylvano Bussotti and Jacques Lacan. Between the 1960s and 1970s he made shots in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and Palestine to Latin America.

In 1972 he published Travestiti for the publisher Essedi Editrice in Rome, a photographic series that has entered the history of photography and is the result of years of frequenting the transvestite community of Genoa, relegated to the margins of society, sharing with empathy a daily life that contrasts social marginalization with moments of communal living.

Also famous are his shots devoted to Sardinia, taken between 1962 and 1976 during repeated stays on the island.

On March 12, 1976, she met in Jaipur, India, Babaji Herakhan Baba, the Mahavatar of the Himalayas, who would radically transform her life. The same year Lisetta Carmi is in Sicily on behalf of Dalmine for the volume Acque di Sicilia, in which images of the landscape and social reality of Sicily are collected, accompanied by a text by Leonardo Sciascia. In the following years Lisetta Carmi will devote herself completely to the construction of theBhole Baba ashram, in Cisternino, and thus to the dissemination of her master’s teachings. In 1995 she met, after thirty-five years, her former piano student Paolo Ferrari and began a philosophical-musical study collaboration with him.

Photo by © Toni Thorimbert

Farewell to Lisetta Carmi, among the most celebrated photographers of the 20th century
Farewell to Lisetta Carmi, among the most celebrated photographers of the 20th century

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