The New Italian Renaissance

Carlo Bevilacqua, Bearing witness to Italian optimism
Published in the dossier of December 2020


Carlo Bevilacqua came to photography by chance. As a young man, he was friends with many artists, and photography proved to be the medium that suited him best. He still remembers his first shot: light reflecting in a puddle on the street.
The French photographer Robert Doisneau was his role model. But his greatest source of inspiration was classical painters.
He set off to work in Palermo, then Milan, both in advertising and in media stories, and also makes television documentaries.

Severely hit last March by the Covid-19 pandemic, Italy is not throwing in the towel. Despite an extremely strict lockdown, its economy is bearing up thanks to the adaptability of its key sectors: design, food, fashion, marble, automobile, etc. It is continuing production despite it all, applying all its energy and ingenuity to keeping these stalwarts of the Italian economy alive. Keeping going, yes, but not at the cost of a resurgence of the epidemic.
Businesses have had to adapt in order to start up production again while keeping protective measures in place. Some have changed how their work is organized, getting some of their workers to work in the morning and others in the afternoon to ensure adequate physical distancing. Others set up crowdfunding to purchase ventilators for the local hospital. Revitalizing industry also means exploring new markets, such as Russia and China. Despite the difficult circumstances, there is a sense of energy and optimism.
Renaissance is in Italy's DNA.

This report came into being during the first lockdown in March.

“Lots of photographers showed the dramatic sides to the epidemic,” states Carlo Bevilacqua. “I wanted to offer a different perspective, such as the measures taken to contend with Covid-19. I also wanted to understand how the people affected by this crisis could bounce back after experiencing such terrible things.”

To his surprise, the people that he met were extremely positive. Worried, of course, but ready to rise to the challenge posed by this unprecedented situation impressed, the photographer decided to depict this fight, traveling around the country. The photoreport was shot under very strange conditions, with deserted streets and hard-won photography permits due to the contamination risks.

Carlo Bevilacqua likes to shoot in natural light... which is just as well, as there is no shortage of it in these industries! He has long discussions with employees, asking them to explain what they are doing, the different phases of their work, as well as how they feel.

Looking for humanity

This photoreport differs from his usual choice of subject. However, last spring, it was impossible to offer his favorite topics: the pandemic was on everyone’s minds and lips. So, like the workers that he photographed, Carlo Bevilacqua adapted.

“Usually, I’m interested in gender fluidity in traditional cultures,” he states. “I do reports on these cultures in India, Panama and Mexico.”

He also reports on utopian communities and hermits.

“You find a lot of humanity in these people,” he points out. “I like to work on nuances and ‘borderline’ people and show the world another point of view. For me, photography is the way to get to know the planet I live on better.”

It comes as no surprise that a photographer particularly interested in people outside the norm has been able to capture an exceptional situation so well.