The way of Pasquale De Antonis from neo-realism to fashion and cinema
26 September, 2018
The way of Pasquale De Antonis from neo-realism to fashion and cinema
Time passes, pictures stay – this phrase fits the career of the Italian photographer Pasquale De Antonis, whose career is full of glamour, art and Italian neorealism. In 1946, Italy started recovering from the destructive consequences of the WWII. People started to walk in the streets with the cameras and one of them was Pasquale De Antonis. A bit later, portraits taken by him decorated personal galleries of then celebrities like Francesco Mastroianni, Gina Lollobrigida and Anna Magnani.

Pasquale De Antonis
started his career as a photographer by taking ethnographic photos in Italy, a part where he was from – Abruzzo. He wanted to show the real Italy with its traditions and culture, against the fascist propaganda.

The way from neo-realism to fashion and cinema – son of Pasquale De Antonis, Ricardo speaks with the Georgian Journal exclusively about his father.
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Fig 1

1. Pasquale De Antonis was a legendary photographer, my first question is about the beginning of his career. How did he begin?

Pasquale started shooting in the ‘30s, during and after his studies. Some very interesting examples of photos he shot in 1935 are ethnographic photos (fig.1,2). He started traveling across Abruzzo, his native region, with writers such as “Ennio Flaiano” and artists such as “Tommaso Cascella” shooting folk festivals, giving birth to ethnographic photography in Italy, as stated later by many Italian anthropologists, showing misery, arcaic cults and traditions of Italian peasants, in contrast with the fake propaganda of the fascist regime that wanted to portray Italy as a country with healthy, happy and catholic roots.
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Fig 13. Marcello Mastroianni. Rome, 1950

During the same years Pasquale De Antonis showed a great attitude for shooting portraits as in (fig. 3, fig. 4). Bringing out the real nature of the human mind, seeing the expressions of the model’s personality that each of them displayed in front of the camera.

He also shot some interesting images about sports during those years as can be seen in fig.5 about motorsports and athletics.
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Fig 14. Silvana Mangano, 1950

2. Pasquale De Antonis became a stage and set photographer for directors such as Luchino Visconti, Giorgio Strehler and Franco Zeffirelli and took beautiful portraits of iconic actors and actresses. Could you tell us how he met Luchino Visconti? Or Franco Zeffirelli? which legendary films making process he photographed?

Pasquale De Antonis opens his studio in Piazza di Spagna 51, Rome in 1939 buying the licence to practice the profession from a big name of Italian Futurism, Anton Giulio Bragaglia. An interesting story to testify this fact is that almost 70 years later in 2007 an amazing French gallery owner and friend of mine, Serge Plantereux, found in a French archive Anton Giulio’s letterhead with the address stating: “Piazza di Spagna 51” just like Pasquale.
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Fig 2

The studio later became famous and often visited by the most influential people in cinema and theatre, among the many that came by Luchino Visconti and Franco Zeffirelli are two notable mentions that Pasquale portrayed (fig.6,7) even Rossellini started his movie “Roma Città Aperta” showing the door leading to the studio to tell a story that really happened inside that place.
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Fig 20. Paolina Borghese Canova Con Pelliccia di Balani. Rome, 1948

Pasquale De Antonis also shot all the theatre shows done by Visconti in such a way that “Tennesse Williams”, after seeing the images during the premiere of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, said she had just seen the most beautiful theatre photos ever.Those shots were the result of Pasquale’s research on theatre and Visconti used to change the stage lighting to fit the vision he had with Pasquale.(fig. 8-9) All this work was displayed during two major exhibitions, one was “Festival dei Due Mondi – Omaggio a Visconti” in Spoleto, the other was hosted in Rome inside a gallery owned by Angelica the daughter of Savinio and was named “A photographer in the theatre”.
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Fig 6. Luchino Visconti, Rome, 1948

3. He has photographed a lot of celebrities of fashion and cimena industry - Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Magnani, Sophia Loren and ect. Maybe he had some interesting stories about them, how did he work with different characters?

Pasquale De Antonis collaborated with many people such as Strelher and Gassman and shot actors and actresses such as Mastroianni, Massimo Girotti, Sophia Loren, Silvana Mangano, Gina Lollobrigida and Anna Magnani (fig 10-14).They were all friends at the time as can be seen in many portraits of sculptors and painters such as, Burri, Capogrossi, Calder and Afro or famous writers such as Pratolini or Alvaro and musicians such as Petrassi, Aprea and Nino Rota (fig 15-17).He was also close with Corrado Cagli and Leonardi Sinisgalli which presented two exhibitions of Pasquale’s abstract photography in 1951 and 1957, both hosted at “Galleria dell’ Obelisco” owned by Irene Brin.(fig 18-19)

4. How he met Irene Brin? Was his works with Irene Brin the new word in fashion industry?

Irene Brin, legendary art expert and high fashion journalist, was together with Pasquale when he shot inside the great monuments of Rome the birth of Italian High Fashion with designers like “Ferragamo”, “Schubert” and “Sorelle Fontana”.They were the new word in fashion as these photographs started a new way of presenting haute couture models to the world. A marvelous example is the famous “Paolina Borghese con Pelliccia” (fig 20).
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Fig 7. Franco Zeffirelli, Rome, 1948

5. If Mr. Pasquale were alive today, would he like Italian designers? For example, did he like “Dolce & Gabbana”? What was his opinion about the Brand?

I’m confident saying that Pasquale always had great admiration for contemporary designers, like Dolce e Gabbana and I think I can say on his behalf that he was an estimator of Italian research in the fashion field and an experimenter of ideas that derive from the contemporary artistic language and his connection with industry.

6. How did your father’s Art influenced on your career?

As you can imagine, after 20 years of working together with Pasquale, his inputs are deeply imprinted in my work, that shares some common themes with him such as ethnograpy, with my reportages in Afghanistan during the ‘70s, and avant-garde theatre as can be seen in the book “Luce Fisicità e Spazio del teatro”.Currently with the new digital era and the help of softwares my research is going towards anamorphic utopic landscapes.
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Fig 9. “A Streetcar Named Desire” Tennese Williams Visconti

Author: Nino Tsipuria

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