Gianni Berengo Gardin


Man, work, machine. In this exact order, and unconcerned by any possible assonance with similar research carried out years ago by Henri Cartier-Bresson (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man and Machine, IBM France, 1969).

Berengo needed this precise sequence of terms to define his long association with factories, companies, and laboratories, a subject that has been one of his favourite fields of interest from the end of the sixties to the present day.

Throughout his long career, Gianni Berengo Gardin has always focused his attention on human beings: their activities, their emotions, the important events in their lives. Factory life and work have provided a background and material for a large number of the subjects in his photographic works.

In his industrial photography, there is no trace of the fascination for mechanics and technology shown by photographers like Albert Renger-Patzsch and Làszlò Moholy-Nagy.

Berengo considers machines as mere work instruments, graphic elements that act as a backdrop or that interact with the efforts of the worker, alongside the constant repetition, the wait for the end of the work shift, but also the pride of a well done job, the pleasure of manual skill and the social awareness of sharing a common human condition.

Whether shooting the Olivetti plant in Ivrea, the Ansaldo works in Genoa, the Dalmine steelworks, or the textile factories in Mantua, Berengo describes the life of the worker with the same empathy. Most of the images are taken from professional commissions, but shot with complete narrative freedom, where Berengo always manages to combine his poetic perspective with the information he has to convey.

Viewing his vast archive of images featuring workers and their labour resembles a voyage back in time, a glimpse of the life style and the aesthetics of the world of production, but above all it provides an opportunity to appreciate the incredible narrative power that pervades all of Berengo’s photographic work.

Giovanna Calvenzi, curator of the show / Courtesy of Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia

01 – Gianni Berengo Gardin – Cantieri navali Ansaldo, Genova, 1978 – © Gianni Berengo Gardin COURTESY FONDAZIONE FORMA PER LA FOTOGRAFIA
02 – Gianni Berengo Gardin – L’industriale Alberto Alessi, i designer Achille Castiglioni, Enzo Mari, Aldo Rossi, Alessandro Mendini, Milano 1989 – © Gianni Berengo Gardin COURTESY FONDAZIONE FORMA PER LA FOTOGRAFIA