Giovanni Gargiolli and his collaborators produced approximately 12,000 photographs between 1895 and 1913, creating an extensive archive of Italy’s history between archaeological sites, churches, paintings and palaces.
Giovanni Gargiolli was born in 1838, and was the founder and director of Gabinetto Fotografico Italiano. A few years before his famous endeavor, “The British Journal of Photography” had launched a plea to found image archives everywhere, believing that in the following century photographs were bound to become the most precious tools to remember the history of people around the world.
A few months ago, two hundred of Gargiolli’s photographs were spotlighted in an exhibition held in Rome by Istituto centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione (Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività culturali e del Turismo).
“Il viaggio in Italia di Giovanni Gargiolli. Le origini del Gabinetto Fotografico Nazionale, 1895-1913” was a story by images of the “Grand Tour” the Tuscan photographer embarked on with three great art historians, Adolfo Venturi, Corrado Ricci, and Pietro Toesca.
Gargiolli immortalized – in black and white – detailed friezes, cycles of paintings, monuments: a huge cultural heritage that would in part disappear, except for his photographs, annihilated by urban renovation (especially in Rome, during the reign of Umberto I and the following period), earthquakes, and the Second World War.
English art critic John Berger wrote that <q> with the invention of photography, we acquired a new means of expression more closely associated with memory than any other… Both the photograph and the remembered depend upon and equally oppose the passing of time. Both preserve moments, and propose their own form of simultaneity, in which all their images can coexist. Both stimulate, and are stimulated by, the inter-connectedness of events. Both seek instances of revelation, for it is only such instants which give full reason to their own capacity to withstand the flow of time.</q>
Here is a selection of memories of a now distant Italy, which has withstood the flow of time thanks to Gargiolli’s work.