If you are in north of Italy, few weeks are left to visit an extremely interesting exhibition in Trento: Sul set. Fotoromanzi, genere e moda nell'archivio di Federico Vender, curated by Katia Malatesta.
The exhibition discloses to the public the personal archive of photographer Federico Vender, one of the richest and most precious archives that the Historical Photographic Archive of the Department of Cultural Heritage holds, and which was donated twenty-five years ago by the photograph himself.
Federico Vender, born in Schio (Italy) in 1901, developed from a young age a passion for photography, which he could pursue recreationally in the laboratory of his father, a chemical engineer. During the 1930s he began sending his works to international manifestations and contents, getting much praise and approval. In 1947 he was one of the first to sign, together with a group of other Italian photographers, the manifest of the newly-born photographic group La Bussola – the aim of the group was to “be poets with the lens as with the brush, the chisel, the pen”, but it is only in the 50s that he finally became a professional photographer.
But why is this all so interesting for us? Because it is in these years that Vender’s life as a professional photographer brought him to a new venture: to become the director of photography for photo novels, first of Luci del Luna Park, then of Grand Hotel. The exhibition in facts uses Vender’s work in the world of photo novels as a sort of launchpad to talk about some of the main themes that are to be found in his artistic photography: female portraits and fashion photography. Although he always refused to call photo novels by their name, referring to them instead as “fumetti fotografici” (“photographic comics”) – in a typical fashion of the time that not only disapproved of photo novels, but also made people who worked in the photo novel production feel slightly ashamed – he threw himself into work with passion and, while taking some stunningly beautiful photographs, he also enjoyed overcoming all the technical issues that analog photography presented at the time.
With photographs from the back-stage along with those for the photo novel version of literary classics such as Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights (which as photo novel was titled La Voce nella Tempesta) and La Dame aux Camélias, this exhibition is truly a “must-see” for anyone interested in the production side of photo novels and, particularly, in the role that photographer(s) had in this production. The curator Katia Malatesta and her collaborators masterfully set up an expo that brings visitors through stunning photographs and various sets of photo novels, and raises a discussion on photo novels that takes its distance from conservative and negative views of the medium, but that, contrarily, asks for a fresher, more interested approach to the subject. Much recommended is also the excellent catalog of the exhibition, edited by Katia Malatesta.
The exhibition, set in the beautiful Palazzo delle Albere in Trento, is open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 to 18:00 and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 19:00. It runs until December 10th. Entrance is free.