In 1962, 21-year-old Bruno Barbey decided to travel around Italy with the idea of “capturing the spirit of a nation through images” and creating a portrait of its inhabitants.
At the dawn of the 1960s, the trauma of the war was beginning to fade, while the dream of a new Italy was emerging. It is no longer quite the one portrayed by the neo-realist filmmakers. People began to believe in the “economic miracle” and Bruno Barbey was one of the first to record this moment of historical transition. From North to South, from East to West, he photographed all social classes: from ragazzi to aristocrats, including nuns, beggars, prostitutes… His lucid but always benevolent gaze captures a changing reality and sheds new light on these Italians so close and so far away.
This photographic work was spotted by the publisher Robert Delpire, who decided to publish a book in the “Encyclopédie essentielle” collection, which already included Robert Frank’s work The Americans (1958) and René Burri’s The Germans (1962). The book was never published. It was not until 2002 that a first edition was published, bringing together these images of an Italy that no longer exists. The second edition was published in November 2022 by delpire & co.
“To draw a portrait of the Italians through images was the ambition of this project… For this I travelled through Italy from North to South… Nothing encyclopedic in these successive trips but an emotional journey, in the image of a country whose fantasy defies any methodology.”
This exhibition presents about sixty prints chosen personally by Bruno Barbey shortly before his death.
The exhibition is curated by Caroline Thiénot-Barbey and Jean-Luc Monterosso.