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Photography: an image with great potential force

Constructing the archive of the works of Malcesine photographer Franco Toninelli and opening it to consultation offers a unique possibility to get to know his works better and, at the same time, to appreciate and relive life as it was here.
A professional photographer dedicated to working in different situations, Toninelli knew how to capture the poetry of those days through the places and people he photographed, leaving us free to enjoy them with the emotions of those moments.
As well as searching an aesthetic composition, Toninelli gave his photos a personal gift: through them he preserves memories and stops the passage of time from changing them. The vast numbers of photos that he took cover scenes of places and people who lived there, various aspects of social life, business life, craftsmen at work and not only this.
It is possible to say that his work grew from a desire to show life as it really was and not in the tradition of painting where a picture could represent something other than what it truly was. Toninelli was proudly aware of and sure that, like his other colleagues of the same period, Photography would become more, much more, than just an Art.
In the period when Gianni Berengo Gardin, Federico Patellani, Nino Migliori, Ando Gilardi, Mario De Biasi, Mario Dondero, Mario Giacomelli, Franco Pinna and many others, considered the forerunners of the neorealistic period in photography, were working, Toninelli with his expressive and technical research, gave his photography the value of documenting daily life. Through his photography, Toninelli has earned international fame: his vision has captured the imagination of his people and he has brought them to the attention of the world through many exhibitions, prizes and other testimonies to how much appreciated his work is, enjoyed through the years and in many different environments.
Thus Toninelli has brought his vision of Malcesine to the World: the atmosphere of this place, where wonderful natural scenes can be enjoyed, has been kept alive. So, the events of today – the building of and opening for consultation to this archive – show another stage in the appreciation of his work, through the proposal to put his work on-line: this will allow his picture of a life to be instantly accessible through the Web (the new world of global communication) where photography proliferates, travels and thus reaches new and different people.
The photos taken by Toninelli possess a fourth dimension: that of time.
You can admire the photos and also get a feel for the passing of time shown in his works: one of his photos hung on the wall becomes a true window on the past. Over the years, our daily experiences gather innumerable pictures of our history which bring to mind the comments that Ando Gilardi expressed in a similar situation, at the beginning of the '60s, at the time of the building of another photographic foundation, the important historical photographs of CIFE (the Ferranian Centre of Information).
Ando Gilardi as well as being the founder of the Photographic Archive which bears his name and which we have the privilege to attend to, is a pioneer of Italian study into photography: his intuition and his views on the basis of work which should be done from a historical/cultural perspective when establishing a photographic archive, seem important and have been shared with his colleagues building the Malcesine archive: they define a 'new' function of the historical photo archive.
He said: "Being interested in photography is fairly easy when you are talking about your own work. It is perhaps less easy to be involved with other people's photographs: to research them, restore them, reproduce them, classify them (or perhaps, I should say, to read into each work every significance that they might hold) and, above all, to organise them in such a way that new information, ideas and significance can be shown by them.
New information, ideas and significance that perhaps even their creator hadn't imagined. That would not be because the photographer wasn't able to see such things, but because a photo is truly an extraordinary thing: something that doesn't fade with time but becomes enriched and, sometimes prodigiously, increases the value of its eloquence. This enrichment happens because photographic images offer the viewer the chance to get closer to the subject than normal viewing does with short glances (brief but still sufficient), with visual observations that French call "coup d'Oeil", achieved not only at various times but in various places and composed by different thoughts: the force of this is more often than not superior to a normal human glance. To help you realise how important this is, you have to consider photography as we do i.e. as a measure of all things visible that are interesting to Man, starting with Man himself: that which we know as Society and Culture.
The measurement of photography, as with every other measurement, happens thanks to a large quantity of, inevitably, inconclusive data collected individually. This is what is about: using this data, these impressions, in the best, most efficient and most objective way at the same time; this is the basis of our hypothesis, historical and scientific, and for which a visual documentation seems ever more necessary if not essential."
In this case, Franco Toninelli's beautiful images have a very high eloquence value: they contain real and poetic elements together, and you can see in them the constant passion and professionalism which tells you above all of the fresh enthusiasm of the 'novice' (said in its best sense).
These emotions are comparable to the child that Picasso said he was when he declared himself satisfied with his work.
This visual patrimony is a treasure to be protected and valued, even with the passing of the photographs onto digital media: we shouldn't forget that all of Toninelli's photographs, which were obviously created analogously, have been published, as in this catalogue, in ink, or enlarged on chemical photo paper thanks to their transformation into digital format, enough to say immortalised.
The lengthy work which has been undertaken and is still being done to preserve and to share these works is praiseworthy and an example of how many other similar situations exist in the immense and extraordinary world of those passionate about photography.

Written by: Elena and Patrizia Piccini | National Historic Photograhic Library, Ando Gilardi

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