The American photographer Leonard Freed represented Italy from Post- 2nd World War onwards with emotional, intimate black and white photography…
Leonard Freed (1929-2006) defined his relationship with Italy as a love story. Born in Brooklyn, New York, but with Russian Jewish origins, he travelled to Europe for the first time in 1952, when he discovered photography, but he was not yet committed to it as he loved painting instead. In 1954 he moved to Little Italy, New York, alone, starting the connection with the Italian universe that will lead him to visit Italy 45 times throughout his life. In the Sixties he visited Israel for the first time and back in New York he photographed Brooklyn’s Afroamerican neighborhoods.
In 1972 he became member of Magnum, the most famous photography agency.
His love of Italy was constant throughout his life until the end, leaving, in the year of his death in 2006, a photographic anthology about Rome unfinished.
Leonard Freed, Firenze, 1958 © Leonard Freed - Magnum (Brigitte Freed)
He shot in Naples, Venice, Rome, Florence, Siena, and Palermo capturing the essence of Italy, starting from the Post-War era until this century. He caught the atmosphere as only few photographers have been able to do so; fascinated by the culture, the warmth, the empathy of Italians and representing them within every social class; from the women waiting for fishermen at the Port in Naples to the aristocracy of Rome.
Leonard Freed, Napoli, 1956 © Leonard Freed - Magnum (Brigitte Freed)
It's his love of people that make Freed's photography engaging: it is not the general place that matters but the mother, the sister, the soldier, the grandfather. Freed mirrors the daily life of people and his images are almost an anthropological example: people strolling in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, a bicycle ride in the city center, an old man's ambling walk in a little town of Tuscany. It's the people who are making the place - and consequently the image – special; who treasure a whole story, an entire set of habits that are so intertwined with tradition that it ends up becoming a symbol of a broader culture, of an entire Country. That's what Freed does, and his profound love for Italy says a lot about its spiritual richness. He recounts a story through a single image, and that's exactly why he chose to use the black and white: more evocative, more profound, black and white is perfect to create a moving narrative, something that color almost spoils with all its "realism".
Leonard Freed, Milano, 1992 © Leonard Freed - Magnum (Brigitte Freed)
You can see Freed's works in Milan until January 8th 2012 at Fondazione Stelline (Corso Magenta 61): 100 vintage and modern print are on display at Leonard Freed. I love Italy. (Leonard Freed. Io amo l'Italia). The exhibit shows photos all set in Italy that span from 1950 to 2006.
Leonard Freed, Sicilia, 1975 © Leonard Freed - Magnum (Brigitte Freed)
Written by Elisa della Barba
Cover credits, from the left: Leonard Freed, Milano, 1998 © Leonard Freed - Magnum (Brigitte Freed); Leonard Freed, Milano, 1992 © Leonard Freed - Magnum (Brigitte Freed Freed); Leonard Freed, Sicilia, 1974 © Leonard Freed - Magnum (Brigitte Freed); Leonard Freed, Roma, 1958 © Leonard Freed - Magnum (Brigitte Freed)