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Mario Giacomelli: Figure/Ground

Virginia Heckert

A new look at the work of Mario Giacomelli, one of Italy’s foremost photographers of the twentieth century.
Mario Giacomelli (1925–2000) was born into poverty and lived his entire life in Senigallia, a seaside town along the Adriatic coast in Italy’s Marche region. He purchased his first camera in 1953 and quickly gained recognition for the raw expressiveness of his images. His preference for grainy, high-contrast film and paper produced bold, geometric compositions with glowing whites and deep blacks. Giacomelli most frequently focused his camera on the people, landscapes, and seascapes of the Marche, and he often spent several years expanding and reinterpreting a single body of work or repurposing an image made for one series for inclusion in another. By applying titles derived from poetry and literature to his photographs, he transformed ordinary subjects into meditations on time, memory, and existence. 

Spanning the photographer’s earliest pictures to those made in the final years of his life, this publication celebrates the J. Paul Getty Museum’s extensive Giacomelli holdings, formed in large part through a significant gift from Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser.

This volume is published to accompany an exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center June 29 to October 10, 2021.

Virginia Heckert is curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. She is the author of several books, including Light, Paper, Process (Getty, 2015) and Ed Ruscha and “Some Los Angeles Apartments” (Getty, 2013).

160 pages
6 x 7 5/8
124 color illustrations, 1 map
ISBN 978-1-60606-718-5

Getty Publications
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum