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L'anima dei luoghi. La Toscana nella fotografia stereoscopica

G. Fanelli

23,20 €

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by G. Fanelli

publication year: 2001
paperback with flaps
230x290 mm, 192 pp.
240 colour and b&w illustrations

88-85957-73-0 Italian

Mid nineteenth century: cinema is yet to be born, photography is at its very beginnings. Always on the look-out for wonders and marvels – it was the heyday of Universal Expositions – men devise stereoscopy.

Stereoscopic, or three-dimensional, photography is based on a very simple optical principle: portraying the same subject from two different viewpoints – distanced between them about as much as the human eyes are – it is possible, thanks to a special viewer (the stereoscope), to reproduce the illusion of depth.

The world went berserk: millions of ‘stereoscopic couples’ were produced by the most eminent photographers of the time, and sold by specialised companies to a rapt public. Today, in what has become known as the Digital Era, this trick may make us smile (but make no mistake about it, it still retains much of its charm). The artistic and documentary value of these images remains, however, intact: the best-known monuments, quiet landscapes, ‘instantaneous’ views of cities and countryside (with an almost cinematic feel to them) will plunge you back in the streets and hills of a long-vanished Tuscany.

Giovanni Fanelli’s introduction examines the stereoscopy phenomenon from the technical, historical and artistic standpoint, devoting particular attention to its development in Tuscany. A brief but dense biographical dictionary includes all relevant data about the photographers mentioned in the book: the major foreign companies (Ferrier & Soulier, Furne & Tournier, the London Stereoscopic Company, the Keystone View Company, Underwood & Underwood) and the “classics” (the Alinari brothers, Anton Hautmann, Giacomo Brogi, Giorgio Sommer, John Brampton Philpot), as well as the local photographers and amateurs (Bianchi, Colonna, Carrara, Del Campana Guazzesi) – a little-known group of practitioners of exceptional interest, which has become the subject of intensive study over the past few decades.

The core of the volume are of course the images: two hundred of them, many accompanied by close-ups and details. Thus comes back to life a fascinating itinerary through nineteenth-century Tuscany. Particular attention is of course devoted to urban centres: Florence and Fiesole (64 pictures), Siena (15), Pisa (17), Lucca (20), Livorno (19). Large sections are devoted to Valdarno (14 pictures), San Miniato al Tedesco (10) and Viareggio (7). But well represented are also Impruneta, Greve in Chianti, the Mugello, Colle Val d’Elsa, San Gimignano, Incisa, San Giovanni Valdarno, Arezzo, Cortona, Scandicci, Signa, Empoli, Pontedera, Prato, Pistoia, Montecatini, Collodi, Montenero, Piombino, Portoferraio and Carrara.

The pictures differ in character and inspiration: some are sophisticated, some natural, some affected, most of them simply brilliant. The spell which captivated generations has quietly wound its way through to the present day.