A large, three-dimensional timeline portraying the socio-historical evolution of the city of Parma, this is how we can summarize the exhibition “ARCHIVIO AMORETTI – Il volto della città nel secolo breve, Parma 1922-1997” held in Parma, at Palazzo Pigorini and curated by Cristina Casero and Andrea Tinterri. The exhibition project comes from the donation of Amoretti photography studio’s archive to the City of Parma. Precisely, the images on display are both documentations of historical moments of the urban space and testimonies of the anthropological change that involved the city as well as Italian society itself. The show proposed by the curators is indeed a selection of the photographic archive – more than one hundred thousand images – that has been evaluated and studied in order to manifest the relationship among Armando, Mario and Giovanni Amoretti and between them and the city over more than seventy years of history.
A careful investigation from which multiple meanings and references of photography as a trace of existence emerge. The exhibition turns out to be not only a review on the city’s social transformation, but also a reflection on photography itself and its anthropological role. The exhibition progression expresses the change in the perception of the photographic medium, that is, the reactions of the framed subjects and the differences between everyday or spontaneous environments and the studio context, over time. Within the exhibition, the evolutionary process that has given photography a central role in creating, documenting, processing, protecting and preserving data and visual representations takes shape.
The exhibition path is divided in two macro-themes: portraits and the chronological trace. Both the first and the last rooms are dedicated to portraits, included as testimonies of the city and its inhabitants: a mosaic of anonymous faces, famous people and relevant artists who recreate the atmosphere of the area during the 20th Century. In particular, the first room contains intimate and vernacular shots, while the last one includes photos of the famous profiles who posed in Amoretti’s studio (taken during the period of the studio’s activity, between 1938 and 1997). This curatorial project highlights a photographic activity that is not only commercial, but rather aimed at rereading the relationship with the medium in different social and cultural contexts. The remaining rooms of the exhibition are devoted to it, starting with the 1922 shots – among the first ones taken by Armando Amoretti – to those of 1997. The short century has been masterfully immortalized up to the Barricate in Parma at the beginning of the period of the fascist dictatorship. Images in which we never see combat, on the contrary, a sense of anticipation of the moments before the clashes is the real subject. To paraphrase, Armando Amoretti beautifully imprints the tension-filled quiet before the tumult.
Proceeding to the next rooms, one can find photographs of the city during the fascist period: commercial/formal shots in which the main subject are fascist parades or festivals called to celebrate the ideology of the regime, in which there are also free, instinctive and spontaneous shots that document the environment and the population. Again, photographs from the years immediately following the liberation; an authentic account of the reactions of the crowd to the fall of the regime.
Finally, the final room maintains a chronological path but, at the same time, it results in a narrative of urban dynamics from the 1950s to the last years of the century. Here one can notice the choice of exhibiting stills of sporting events – local or large-scale – portraits of important industrialists linked to the city and shot in their working environment – in order to highlight the values that uplifted society during the years of the Italian economic miracle – ceremonies or political episodes. It is interesting to observe how these images are evidence of the commercial dynamism of the Amoretti studio, which, based on collective work, over time became the main photographic studio of reference for collective events in Parma.
Thus, “ARCHIVIO AMORETTI – Il volto della città nel secolo breve, Parma 1922-1997” is a project of study and relationship with an archive. An extensive research work on more than one hundred thousand photographs that generates numerous reflections, thus pushing the viewer toward particularly debated and discussed issues. How has the urban layout of Parma changed over the decades? What role did and still does photography play in witnessing reality? How quickly did the 20th Century lead to important social changes? These are just a few questions that the exhibition raises, without any pretensions to certain and ascertain answers. On the contrary, the exhibition reactivates open questions about photography with its many shades.
ARCHIVIO AMORETTI – Il volto della città nel secolo breve, Parma 1922-1997
curated by Cristina Casero and Andrea Tinterri
09/09/2023 – 05/11/2023
Strada della Repubblica 29/A, Parma
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