Lisetta Carmi is a central figure in the history of Italian photography, an artist who, with discretion, has marked a deep path, which gradually has become difficult to ignore. Both on an expressive level, with a work that has the same clarity and intensity as that of the great and celebrated Magnum reporters, and for a deep feeling of empathy towards their subjects. A feature, the latter, which makes us think, for example, of the subsequent lesson of Nan Goldin, whose famous Ballad of Sexual dependency it is dated 1985, thirteen years after the Carmi series The Transvestiteswhich at the beginning of the seventies represented a first and unprecedented look at this invisible population, ignored by the Italy of the time with determination and in many cases with resentment.
There are also these images, some absolutely unforgettable and full of a force that is as much aesthetic as it is social and political, in the exhibition that has inaugurated at the Gallerie d’Italia in Turin: Lisetta Carmi. Play loud. She is curated by Giovanni Battista Martini, who is also the curator of the archive of the photographer, born in Genoa in 1924 and died on July 5, at the age of 98.
On display in the Intesa Sanpaolo museum, which occupies a historic bank building and which aims to be a place of opening to the city through Piazza San Carlo, on which the grand staircase designed by Michele De Lucchi opens, there are more than 150 photographs taken between the sixties and seventies, which are part of his most significant works: there are the transvestites, but also the birth series, the shots dedicated to the world of work in Italy and the famous sequence of the meeting with the legendary American poet Ezra Pound.
The museum welcomes Carmi’s exhibition by exploiting the potential of its spaces, a sort of controlled labyrinth in which the encounter between images and other expressive languages works very well, in the case of this exhibition music. Carmi, before becoming a photographer, was in fact a pianist who in 1960 had not been afraid to take to the streets with the Genoese dockers for an anti-fascist demonstration, and from that day she decided to leave music and devote herself to photography. Today, in the Turin museum, some pieces by Luigi Nono and Luigi Dallapiccola accompany some sections of the exhibition.
Precisely this mimetic capacity, so to speak, of the spaces of Palazzo Turinetti seems to be the most interesting feature of the new museum, inaugurated in May of this year. It was already possible to guess this with the opening exhibition, dedicated to Paolo Pellegrine to his investigation of nature. The feeling is that here photography has the possibility of becoming something more, indeed, that it is somehow invited to be something more, which entails a responsibility and also risks at the curatorial level, which have so far been overcome with a certain brilliance, especially through a conscious use of multimedia. In the case of Carmi, as well as with the music of the twentieth century, also thanks to videos in which the photographer herself tells about her works and a video created for the occasion by director and screenwriter Alice Rohrwacher.
Whether they are the Italsider workers or the women of Sardinia, the phosphates of the port of Genoa or the scenes of everyday life in Sicily, Lisetta Carmi’s subjects are in some way affected by the anthropological gaze of the photographer, who documents history and society Italian, in decades of crucial passage for the history of Italy, through an idea of proximity that can be perceived even by looking at the colossal melancholy of Pound’s eyes in 1966.
Carmi’s method is to live next to the people she will photograph, creating human bonds, of closeness and complicity, which she then manages to convey to film, like a novelist who takes care of her characters. It is a community discourse that goes beyond simple documentation – a decisive element in the work of the Genoese photographer – to lead to something that becomes testimony before reportage. While giving life to great reportages.
Lisetta Carmi. Play loud is the first appointment of the project The great Italian photographycurated by Roberto Koch, which aims to “give space to the masters of Italian photography through a series of monographic exhibitions”, which are then accompanied by meetings and in-depth events.