This book is a marvel of charm, tenderness and sensuality. This is the reissue of Holidays in Italy by Claude Nori out of stock for 30 years. A reissue to which are added previously unseen images. Claude’s text is also great.
Holidays in Italy! It is a powerful, joyful, eternal desire reinforced by films, songs and novels.
It is also a colour where the sky and the sea melt together in a sun that warms our happy memories of travels, encounters, idleness or seaside loves.
One will find there his known images but also new photographs in colors accompanied by a story in which he relates the so particularly optimistic atmosphere of the Seventies and Eighties but also his approach and his photobiographical approach of which he was one of the precursors.
Claude Nori has established his fame with his photographs of seaside, the sensuality of beautiful Italian women, his art of framing to capture teenage loves and the dynamism of youth, the thirst for happiness in which hides a touch of melancholy and creative nostalgia.
The modernity of his images remains intact. We owe him for the way he sets up his camera system, and situate himself between reality and fiction, occupy the field for several days, to establish a relationship of trust around him, affirming his presence, creating this special relationship with his models that could resemble a photographic flirtation… Then, widening the frame, he is attracted by the seaside landscapes, marginal places that do not interest the guides but that are charged with a great emotional force and reminiscences of his childhood with his parents. The book updates the vernacular architecture typical of those years of economic and tourist boom, sheds, ephemeral bathhouses, advertising signs, campsites, convertible cars, jukeboxes and vespas that express Claude Nori’s passion for the neo-realistic cinema and Italian comedies in black and white. But, let him talk !
“From 1982, I decided to photograph the Italian seaside, the one where I was happy with my parents but also places yet unknown to me, mythical destinations and cities with significant names: Capri, Naples, Portofino, San Remo or Stromboli, whose names featured in songs or were used as setting for films. I had realized that the particular territory of the seashore, the activity which took place on the beach in summer was really an extract of Italian culture, a ritual through which this art of living was expressed.
This way of life contained everything I loved, the dolcefarniente, sand, sea, sky, the pretty girls in bathing suit, skin’s sensuality offered to the sun, large tables bringing families together, bodies in all shapes and forms, released from everyday clothes, movement, laughs and the Vespas always present in the set.
I have certainly become a photographer in order to prolong this adolescence with impunity and by inventing a life which would allow me to enjoy its benefits as long as possible. I realized later that it was not an easy task to photograph happiness. It must be extracted gently to not take away the charm, taking a step back, take out the camera, careful not to disturb anything. Sometimes, we become the center of attention, the one to which we look with curiosity or kindness, and we emphasize this complicity. Then, through faces and portraits of the loved or desired ones, there comes an incredible nostalgia.
I had just acquired a brand new camera, a plastic autofocus Canon which was revolutionary at that time, a perfect partner in crime of seduction with which I started a series of images about flirts. It was fully automatic with a fixed 38mm lens made for amateurs whose film was advanced by a battery engine. Small, handy, not afraid of sand, it followed me everywhere and allowed me to aim and shoot with one hand. Then, in the summer of 1982, I bought a small single 8 camera and a second-hand tape recorder to film on the Italian beaches.
If I did not have a specific goal, I would freely switch between the film camera and the photo camera and I sensed that the films, sounds and photographs I was taking that would later tell me a story. The girls posed amused and seduced, naturally showing off their new bathing suits, sometimes nervous and sometimes provocative – as if they understood that during this summer, they were at the zenith of their beauty like those girls they admired in the glossy magazines. Their boyfriends watching on the side, a bit jealous. Sometimes I asked them to pose with the girls.
Mothers begged me to take photos of their daughters, who asked me in turn to shoot a portrait of their boyfriends to whom they dedicated their beauty to. I imagined love stories between boys and girls who just wanted to be filmed and photographed together, between fiction and reality, lovers for a day or a summer.
Many of my photos recall film scenes and I always put special care in finding the right backgrounds, create stories about the main character and transform myself into a protagonist by marking my presence, physically intervening in the shooting.
I owe all this to my love of cinema, Italian cinema and neorealism in particular, which ignited my first big emotions as a teenager and I will never forget the dance of Silvana Mangano in Bitter Rice, the face of Monica Vitti invading the screen in Antonioni’s The Adventure, or Claudia Cardinale lying on the sand in Zurlini’s Girl with a Suitcase. The images in black and white, and often in cinemascope by these great film and photography directors have structured my framing and my aesthetic. Always a mix between reportage and fiction, spontaneity and staging to evoke the feelings’ disorder.
I was inspired by the cinema of the ’50s for the photograph of the girl in the black jersey, leaning against a pillar in Naples. I was passing by a private beach and I noticed her form afar through the entrance gate which was manned by a guard. It seemed she was waiting for me. In these cases (extremely rare!), one feels that one shouldn’t step back, that the photo is imposed as a vital evidence.
I then went to her and it is only a few meters away from her that I realized my boldness. But she stared calmly into my eyes and gave me her disturbing look as if she wanted it to fit into my camera forever as a gift from her, marking the end of summer.
The girls that I took photos of were mostly shy, playful, reserved, often far from the usual provocative roles of actresses or models from Lollobrigida, Loren or Mangano. These were natural women who could have been girlfriends or even lovers!
I remember that Italians loved taking these photos. They liked to pose and had a lot of fun while showing off. This is the only country where I have never had a problem getting my camera out. Of course, it was necessary to set a kind of complicity, avoid certain situations. I always got away laughing, joking, playing on the fact that I was both Italian and French. Aren’t we cousins? I had the feeling that the girls were having fun with this photographer who ran through beaches, in white shirt and pants with a scarf around his neck, just like Francois Truffaut, and who seemed to be sincere when confessing to find them beautiful as in Antonioni’s films. In addition, it did not happen every day that a Parisian photographer was interested in them. So their fascination for the culture of cinema and the fotonoveal made it easy. Would they end up in a magazine where they could be discovered by a director?
The camera, loaded with a roll of film was a sensitive and mythical object. Today, digital has swept away the mystery of the exposed yet undeveloped image, waiting to finally reveal the photographs. Cellphones and hybrid devices have trivialized and broken the spell of the photographic process. It has become difficult to simply take a picture in the streets, on the move; mistrust is now present everywhere because of the social networks. As soon as they are taken, these images move anarchically along on the internet. People prefer to avoid a photographer yet take multiple selfies, a phone with camera at the end of an articulated arm whose wide angle lens disfigures them.
Looking back and observing my Italian adventure, I am aware of having photographed a privileged territory at a time that was particularly happy and carefree. I had the chance to witness this happiness while trying to capture these images of adolescence that we preserve deep inside ourselves.”
Claude Nori, Vacances en Italie