Cesare Colombo

The mirror of industry

Cesare Colombo is the Italian expert in 19th to 21st century Italian industrial photography. He represents the most appropriate introduction to Foto Industria.
Convinced of the importance of the creative aspects in this field of photography, he has developed a fascinating and richly illustrated conference on the subject showing, the wide range of aesthetic forms of expression as well as the historical and social interest provoked with the discovery of these documentary photos.
Foto Industria taped this conference which is presented in the form of a 30 minutes permanent projection in the prestigious setting of Bologna University.
A pleasure for the senses as well as for its extremely valuable historical significance.

Guglielo Chiolini. Necchi Foundry, Pavia, Italy, 1930s. Private Archive

​Demonstrative image of the habitability of Fiat 500. Quattroruote magazine archive

Luca Comiero. Pirelli workers in front of the factory in Via Ponte Seveso. Milan, 1907. Pirelli archive.

Guglielmo Chiolini. At the Necchi mechanic workshops. Pavia, Italy, 1930s. Private archive.

Vincenzo Aragozzini. Production of Bracco medicines.  Milan, Italy, 1950s.  Bracco historic archive.

Born in 1935.
Lives and works in Milan.

Since the second half of the 19th Century Photography in Italy has been at the service of industry, initiating the prosperous branch of company albums and catalogues. Soon enough the photographer ends up as a "technical arm" without any independent vision, at the service of industry's executives. The resortingto manual retouch on the plates, the necessity of long exposures and the "promotional" intent that was always at the origin of the pictures, have not encouraged the development of autonomous language. In the '20s of the 20th Century, the presence of some photographers-authors, the possibility of taking snapshots and the new means of reproduction of the printing presses, impose more dynamic and personal visions. It is finally possible to see in a realistic way the hard working conditions of workmen, technicians, women, children engaged in hard work and in unhealthy spaces.
During the fascist period (1925-1945) some authors (Bruno Stefani, Vittorio Villani, Mario Crimella), with the help of innovative graphic designers (Antonio Boggeri, Bruno Munari, Erberto Carboni) have widened the creative horizon with extremely modern visions.
Companies like Fiat, Olivetti, Pirelli, Dalmine, Montecatini have encouraged a more vivid and honest photographic style… and the pictures of the industrial production almost seem to show an idealized version of it. After World War II , the so called "economic boom" of the 1960s have transformed both Italian territory and its society. Photojournalists and union photographers enter some of the factories; in others, authors like Ugo Mulas and Federico Patellani—using 35mm cameras—accurately document the conditions of work and the success of its products.


Cesare Colombo thanks the authors and archives that helped during his researchs, and in particular: Luigi Paparoni (Confindustria), Claudio De Polo (Archivi Alinari), Touring Club It., Antonio Pinna Berchet (Fondazione 3M), il Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea, Silvia Paoli (Archivio Fot, Comune di Milano), Archivio Negri, Brescia, Archivio CdL Milano, Fond. ISEC, Biblioteca Cadioli, Sesto S.Giovanni, Craf, Lestans.
Then: Nicolò Biddau, Giovanna Calvenzi, Claudio Pastrone, Elisabetta Porro, Roberta Valtorta.
And: Chiara Bressan, Chiara Guizzi /Pirelli, Carmen Figini /Ed. Domus, Tommaso Fanfani /Piaggio, Luisa Longhi /Bracco, Alberto Sciumè /AEM, Alberta Simonis /Fiat Group.

© the authors and the collections
Portrait of Cesare Colombo by Lorenzo Ceva Valla
© the authors