Biography

Mario Giacomelli was born on August 1st, 1925 in Senigallia. He was left an orphan by his father at the age of nine. His mother, in order to support her children who were still very young, works as a washerwoman at the hospice. When Mario is thirteen, he finds work as an apprentice at the Typography Giunchedi until the Second World War breaks out. After the war, he returns to the Typography Giunchedi as a worker after having taken part in reconstruction work due to the bombing. In 1950 he decides to open his own typography. An elderly woman from the hospice where his mother worked will allow him to take this plunge by lending him all her savings. So The Typography Marchigiana via Mastai 5 is born, it will become, over the years, a place of ‘‘pilgrimage‘‘ for artists, critics, and scholars from all over the world. In 1953 Giacomelli buys a Bencini Comet S (CMF) 1950 model, with re-entering achromatic optics 1:11, 127 film, shuttering with tempos 1/50+B and synchronous flash.

He goes to the beach and snaps the first photos. Hence L’approdo (Landing) is born, the well-know photograp about a shoe carried on the shore by the waves, with which he takes part in quite a few amateur competitions, and with which he understands immediately his will to express himself through the medium of photography. Between 1953 and 1955 he begins assiduously taking photos of relatives, colleagues, people from his circle of friends in very theatrical poses and iconographic constructions. The famous photo Mia Madre (My Mother) (a portrait of the mother with a spade in her hands) is from this period. In these years he frequents the photographic studio of Torcoletti, and it is this man who, having perceived the great expressive potential of the young typographer, will introduce him to Giuseppe Cavalli, an artist and art critic with a charismatic temperament, who initiates him to reflect on Photography and Art, introducing him to the great photographic circles of the time such as the “Bussola” and the “Gondola”, at the heart of the reflection on the role of Photography in art and society. Under the guidance of Ferruccio Ferroni and with the supervision of Cavalli, Giacomelli penetrates photographic technique until he finds his own expressive self-assurance. And so, in 1954 the photographic group “Misa” is officially born. Giacomelli’s road to notoriety is opened when he wins the prestigious Concorso Nazionale di Castelfranco Veneto in 1955. Here Paolo Monti, a member of the jury, calls Giacomelli “the new man of Photography”. Very soon Giacomelli will feel Cavalli’s stylistic precepts too strict. He feels that the gray tones are instead not suitable to represent the impetuous and the tragic ones he finds in his strong contrasts of black and white which at the time were sensational. The first investigations on the Ospizio (Hospice) and Paesaggi (Landscapes) belong to these years, and the artist will develop them over the following decades. Giacomelli continues participating regularly in amateur photographic competitions receiving numerous awards and good reviews.

The arrival of the mythical Kobell Press, with the Voigtlander color-heilar lens 1:3,5/105, dates back to 1955, the camera from which he will never separate and that he will manipulate, personalizing it. In the same year he meets Luigi Crocenzi, introduced to him by Cavalli. In 1956 Pietro Donzelli, in a letter sent to Giacomelli, insists on the necessity of structuring the photographic production in sequences and stories. Crocenzi’s teaching was of the same kind. Several series with a “reportage” style belongs to this period; among them: Lourdes (1957), Scanno (1957/59), Puglia (1958, where he will get back to in 1982), Zingari (Gypsies) (1958), Loreto (1959, where he will get back to in 1995), Un uomo, una donna, un amore (A man, a woman, a love) (1960/61), Mattatoio (Slaughterhouse) (1960), Pretini (1961/63), La buona terra (The good land) (1964/66). Romeo Martinez meanwhile opens for him the road towards publications in specialized Photography magazines. Continuing his research, the photographer begins asking peasants, paying them, to create precise signs on the earth with their tractors, acting directly on the landscape to be photographed, and then emphasizing those sign in the printing (anticipating the American Land Art of the 60s and 70s). Giacomelli realizes that he should start from reality as a pretext to search, in its forms, a new meaning which could allow him for an extreme approach to reality through photography: Motivo suggerito dal taglio dell’albero (Motif suggested by tree cutting) (1967/69) is born, followed by the series Favola verso possibili significati interiori (Fairytale, towards possibile interior meanings) (1983/84) and others, in a creative process increasingly abstract. Through Crocenzi, in 1961 Elio Vittorini asks Giacomelli for the picture Gente del Sud (People of the South) (from the series Puglia) for the cover of the English edition of Conversazione in Sicilia (Conversation in Sicily). In 1963 Piero Racanicchi, who together with Turroni was among the first critics to support Giacomelli’s work, brings the photographer to the attention of John Szarkowski, director of the department of Photography of the MOMA in New York. In 1964 Szarkowski acquires the entire series Scanno and some of the pictures from the series Pretini (Little Priests). In the same year he partecipates at the Biennale di Venezia with the Hospice series Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi (Death will come and will have your eyes), where the concept of photo-story is highlighted. Under Croscenzi’s influence, in 1967 Giacomelli thinks about the realization of a photographic series hinging on photo-story interpreting Caroline Branson of the Anthology of Spoon River by Edgar Lee Master, and asks Croscenzi to give him a plot that he can follow. The series could be destined for television, but what would ensue is a result that Giacomelli cannot find in his chords, so the project is scrapped, but the series is completed all the same in 1973, completely distorted, and here the overlays appear for the first time, a stylistic expedient that Giacomelli will resume in all of his future productions.

In 1966, the artist meets Alberto Burri, with whom he forms a deep friendship, and to whom he will dedicate some works from Paesaggi (Landscapes) where there is a strong reference to the Non-Representational Art and to the poetics of the painter. Non-Representational Art, in fact, fascinates Giacomelli so much that, from the end of the 50s up to the 70s, he himself creates hundreds of pictorial works; and in the sixties he joins a Senigalliese artistic group where they debate on art and abstractionism, a group formed around the figure of the frame maker and seller Mario Angelini in via Arsilli, where painters and sculptors such as Marinelli, Ciacci, Donati, Gatti, Genovali, Bonazza, Mandolini, Moroni, and Sabbatini gathered.

In 1978 he participates in the Biennale of Venice with photographs from Paesaggi (Landscapes). In 1980 Arturo Carlo Quintavalle writes an analytical book on the photographer’s full body of work, acquiring a good quantity of his works for the CSAC centre in Parma. Abstractionism can be found in an explosive way in the series Favola, verso possibili significati interiori (Fairy tale towards Possible Inner Meanings) from 1983/1984. The date when he meets the poet Francesco Permunian with whom he strikes up a collaboration which produces the series Il teatro della neve (The Snow Theatre) (1984/86) and Ho la testa piena, mamma (My head is full, mom) (1985/87). From here to the end Giacomelli creates photographic series inspired by poetic texts: in 1984/85 he creates Il canto dei nuovi emigranti (The song of the new migrants) (Franco Costabile), in 1986/88 Felicità raggiunta si cammina (Happiness reached walking) (Eugenio Montale), in 1986/88 Infinito (The Infinite) (Giacomo Leopardi), in 1986/90 Passato (The Past) (Vincenzo Cardarelli), in 1987/88 A Silvia (To Silvia) (Giacomo Leopardi), in 1992/94 Io sono nessuno (I am nobody) (Emily Dickinson), in 1994/95 La notte lava la mente (Night washes the mind) (Mario Luzi), in 1997/99 Bando (Sergio Corazzini), in 1998/2000 La mia vita intera (My entire life) (Jorge Luis Borges); and later he changes the titles of the Hospice series with titles taken from poems (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi (Death will come and will have your eyes) (1954/83) by Cesare Pavese, and Ninna Nanna (Lullaby) (1985/87) by Leonie Adams), and of the Pretini series (Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto (I don’t have hands caressing my face) from a poem by Father David Maria Turoldo).

In 1983/87 he creates Il mare dei miei racconti (The sea of my tales), aerial photographs taken at the Senigallia beach. In the 70’s-2000 Giacomelli photographs the Adriatic coast near Senigallia, thus creating the series Le mie Marche (My Marche).

In 1986 his mother dies, and for the artist it is a very strong trauma that marks a change in his photographic production towards an ever more explicit autobiographical fact.

By now his fame has spread and reached to international levels and in the world his works are sought after by the most prestigious Art museums, while his research becomes ever more introspective, intimate and solitary, closed within his territory, the Marches, photographing the landscape as a possible place in which to find himself again. The series Vita del pittore Bastari (Life of the Painter Bastari) of 1991/92, his self-portraits and the corroded walls of Poems in search of an author, Bando (1997/99) (once again voted to abstraction), 31 Dicembre (December 31st) (1997), are by now sceneries completely built by a Giacomelli who is a film-director before being a photographer. Interesting to follow his existential journey through his photographic production, a total fusion between life and art, in a vision of photography as a tool to get under the skin of the real, to discover that there is no sharp separation between the world and the person who looks at it.

On November 25th, 2000 Giacomelli dies after a long illness, working on his photographs until the end, in the creation of the series: Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare (I wuold like to tell this memory) (1999/2000), La domenica Prima (The Sunday before) (2000).