Perspective | What the United States looked like in the 1960s to an Italian photographer

Perspective | What the United States looked like in the 1960s to an Italian photographer
united states, 1960s, historical, photography, chicago, washington dc, new york
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By Kenneth Dickerman Kenneth Dickerman Photo editor Email Bio Photo Editor November 19 at 6:00 AM South Pacific Restaurant, Chicago, 1966 (Mario Carnicelli) Schoolboy, New York, 1966 (Mario Carnicelli) In 2010, Mario Carnicelli contacted photography curator Barbel Reinhard and asked if she would take a look at some of his old negatives. At the time, Carnicelli had closed the photography store he had operated in Florence since the 1970s. But Carnicelli turned out to be more than just a photography store owner. In fact, before opening his store, Carnicelli had had an entirely different life — as a photographer. As Reinhard said in an introduction to “American Voyage” (Reel Art Press, 2018): “If Mario Carnicelli hadn’t closed his photography store in 2010 and asked me to have a look at his old negatives I would never have known, like many of us, that he was a photographer. In his cellar lay a hidden treasure, a foreign and fascinating world in black and white but also in exquisite color images, hundreds of stories and microstories of the sixties and seventies mostly set in Italy, but also in America. Once we started curating and scanning the archive of carefully stored medium format and 35mm negatives, the nostalgic vintage flavour made way for the discovery of an astonishing modern attitude, beauty without rhetoric, ordinary gestures that become iconic, centered on his interest in exploring the human condition of individuals in different societies. His archive comprises a cohesive body of documentary work of thousands of images, that after fifty years finally gets the attention it deserves.” The book goes on to detail how this other life (and, in particular, how his book on American life in the 1960s came about) as a photographer began for Carnicelli. In 1966, he was a young documentary photographer living in Tuscany. He had taken some photos of demonstrations in his hometown and submitted one to a photography competition sponsored by Popular Photography magazine, as well as a film company and two camera manufacturers, Mamiya and Pentax. Carnicelli’s image won first place, and the prize happened to be a month-long scholarship to travel to the United States to take photographs. He left Europe for the first time to set foot in the United States. But that month spawned several more trips over the next few years. Carnicelli visited Detroit, New York, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago and Buffalo. The work he did, some 50 years later, would become “American Voyages.” Here are some of the photos Carnicelli took during his “American Voyage.” Two girls in a car, Washington, D.C., 1967 (Mario Carnicelli) Window Nurses, New York, 1966 (Mario Carnicelli) Men Wanted Shopfront, Chicago, 1966 (Mario Carnicelli) Waiting queue at job centre, Chicago, 1966 (Mario Carnicelli) Yellow Cab, Chicago, 1966 (Mario Carnicelli) Fashion students, New York, 1966 (Mario Carnicelli) In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. Th