Pastoral Portraits – Giancarlo Rado’s Italians

 

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Since 2008, Giancarlo Rado has wandered the backroads of northern Italy, documenting as he goes. The resulting series Italians is almost entirely comprised of single and group portraits. Direct and diverse, these portraits also have a strong sense of art direction, but do not feel posed or stiff. Many subjects in their environments rest on walking sticks or hold the tools of their trades, which gives their body weight and their gestures tension.

These farmers, herders and youth smile too. Not the forced smiles you often see from folks in front of a camera, but smiles that suggest they’re enjoying the unusual interaction with Rado; who has clearly walked into their world with his medium format Hasselblad. As for his subjects who do not smile, we are left with the impression that they are just as interested in the photographer/viewer as he is of them. The photographer, curator and publisher, Aline Smithson said this of making portraits:

“Creating portraits is a collaborative process where the experience becomes a two-way gaze: both the photographer and subject reveal themselves to each other.”

Rado’s portraits reveal Italians of all ages and walks of life — all of whom have revealed a little of who they are; and thus a little of who we all are.

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Shot primarily with film camera in natural light and with the horizon at the mid point, portraits and landscapes have a wonderful consistency. The way Rado publishes his image uncropped showing the edge of the frames  butted up next to each other is reminscent of Richard Avedon’s work. There is a feeling of directness and intimacy with this approach; a feeling of inclusion that we are there, looking into the eyes of Rado’s subjects and ‘seeing’ them as he saw them through his camera.

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Rado also includes non-portrait work in his series — a collection of images that he group-titles ‘Intermission.’ But these images are not to just fill the space between portrait sessions. The landscapes, environs and vignettes give us a glimpse into the type of places where his subjects live and work.

The intermissions give us reference, some context for the lives of his Italian subjects, and gives us a chance to pause and reflect, and ultimately connect with the people who Rado has given us the opportunity to know.

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Visit Giancarlo Rado’s Flickr site for an overview of his work. See also: VNB Film Photographer Feature: Giancarlo Rado

All images © Giancarlo Rado

[Article originally published July 25, 2015]

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