No place like home: Mario De Biasi and Milan

Italian photographer Mario De Biasi taking a picture. 1950s © akg-images / Mondadori Portfolio
Italian photographer Mario De Biasi taking a picture. 1950s © akg-images / Mondadori Portfolio

Last year I wrote on the blog about the Another London exhibition at Tate Britain which brought together works by photographers who were visitors to the city, allowing Londoners like me the chance to see the city through a tourist’s eyes. Among the photographers chosen was Mario De Biasi, an Italian photographer whose archive we represent through our partnership with Mondadori Portfolio.

It was with great sadness that we learned on Monday of the death of De Biasi. Although he travelled the length and breadth of Italy and also took some stunning shots of life across the globe, I find his photographs of Milan most fascinating. De Biasi was Milanese by choice rather than by birth, moving there when he was just fifteen. Similarly I consider myself a Londoner now, although I was born in North Wales and didn’t move to the capital until 2000, so I am always interested in how a photographer presents his or her adopted home town. Whenever friends from outside of London come to visit I try to steer them away from the usual tourist traps and take them to see more esoteric sights, to see the London that I know, rather than the one mapped out in the guide books. Some times it works, sometimes it doesn’t and we have to change course and seek out Harrods, Baker Street and the rest of the London landmarks that people feel they ought to see.

To me, De Biasi’s photographs of Milan offer a lovely vision of what Milan was like for someone living there in the 1950s. There’s a quiet intimacy to some of the shots although he was also able to capture the size and the grandeur of the city as well. I am still working my way through all the images we have from De Biasi in the archive. He’s a fascinating figure: in Nuremberg in 1945, he found a camera amidst the rubble and debris of Nuremberg and that ignited his passion in photography. He produced some outstanding photographs and I am sure there are plenty of surprises still to come as I delve deeper into his collection.

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