Gianni Berengo Gardin: Leica Oskar Barnack Award winner 1995

Gianni Berengo Gardin honoured for the second time

On November 15, 2017, in Rome, Leica Camera AG honoured the Italian photographer, Gianni Berengo Gardin, with the Leica Hall of Fame Award for his life’s work. This is second great recognition that connects him to Leica, as he was already the recipient of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award in 1995. Twenty-two years span the two events, and during that period the world of photography has been totally transformed: as a medium, structurally and also aesthetically. In this regard, Berengo Gardin’s oeuvre appears all the more classic today, yet it has lost none of its quality.

In 1995, the Leica Oskar Barnack Award was already a renowned competition, even though the jury at the time only had to select the winners from a total of 100 submissions from 18 countries. Current figures reveal the degree in which the competition has grown in significance, as in 2017 around 2,700 photographers from 104 countries submitted their picture series for the Leica Oskar Barnack Award.

The number of motifs in a series remains the same, with each photographer today still presenting twelve images. Berengo Gardin’s winning series in 1995 was titled Lost Happiness and offered a glimpse into the world of the Roma and their love of life, which, according to the jury, “had been partly lost due to their loss of any social status, but had remained unchanged within the family”. “With this picture series, Gianni Berengo Gardin’s precise talent for observation does a great job at expressing the case of a positive relationship between people and their environment,” the jury added. Without a doubt, the photographer (born 1930) has had a significant impact on Italian photo journalism. His unequalled eye for people and country, daily life and the special moments in life, ensures that his work is quite distinctive. Time and again he manages to keep the right balance between images of current daily life and images of timeless moments. He has not only been published in numerous newspapers and magazines, but has the delightful sum of 200 books to his credit. 

„I live through my photography. That has been my real education.“

The photographer’s work and career have been closely associated with Leica for over 60 years: “My relationship with Leica began even before the M system existed. Long before that, with a Leica IIIc. Then, when the M3 came out in 1954, it became an irrepressible passion. I’ve had every M model that came out since then. Up until the M7, which I still use. It’s the one I use most. For me, a Leica isn’t just any camera, it is THE camera.” It is hardly surprising then, that all his cameras have found a place of honour in a display cabinet in his home. This is where the circle is completed, because, within the framework of the Leica Hall of Fame Award, he can now add another one to his collection: a Leica M-A produced especially for him – fully mechanical and analogue. This ensures that the photographer can remain faithful to his working style, and makes the twenty-two year gap no longer appear quite so large.

The interview and film made of the photographer on the occasion of this current honour, offers further glimpses into his life and work

Recently inducted into the Leica Hall of Fame, the photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin stands between Karin Rehn-Kaufmann and Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, who have just presented him with a custom-made Leica M-A. Rome, November 15, 2017

Curator Hans-Michael Kötzle, Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Roberto Koch (Contrasto), Dr. Andreas Kaufmann and Gianni Berengo Gardin opened the I Grandi Maestri. 100 anni di fotografia Leica exhibition at the Complesso del Vittoriano – Ala Brasini. Rome, November 15, 2017

Gianni Berengo Gardin during the event in his honour on November 15, 2017, in Rome. The photographer (born 1930) has influenced photo journalism in Italy like few others.

Gianni Berengo Gardin

Gianni Berengo Gardin was born in Santa Margherita (Liguria) on October 10, 1930, and spent his childhood in Rome. His family moved the Venice after World War II. Berengo Gardin, who became a young, amateur photographer early on, decided to go professional, working as a photo reporter for Il Mondo, up until 1965. In 1964 he moved to Milan where he opened a studio for fashion, commercial and still life photography.

Many of his pictures are currently on display as part of the large ‘Grandi Maestri. 100 Anni di Fotografia Leica’ exhibition in Complesso del Vittoriano – Ala Brasini, Rome, from November 16, 2017, till February 18, 2018. With this title, the successful touring exhibition ‘Eyes Wide Open! 100 Years of Leica Photography’, has found its ninth location.

Photo: © Maurizio Beucci