"A quei tempi era sempre festa"
The incipit from Cesare Pavese La bella estate - "Life was a perpetual holiday in those days" in the Penguin Books English translation - opens this book of photographs as a manifesto for the stories of youth, beach and gelatos it so perfectly captures.
Claude Nori is a French photographer from Italian descent with a youth filled with summers spent on the Adriatic and Mediterranean coasts. He has been photographing Italian summers through the iconic bagni of Rimini, Capri, Catania, Riccione, Santa Margherita, Naples and Stromboli for more than 30 years.
A close friend of Luigi Ghirri and Bernard Plossu, Nori founds Contrejour in 1975 in Paris. A journal, publishing house and gallery altogether, Contrejour publishes the first monographs of Jeanloup Sieff, Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis or Pierre et Gilles and acts as a catalyst for a whole new generation of photographers. Nori publishes his first work, Lunettes, in 1976 with a preface by another long-time friend, Agnès Varda. In her introduction to the book, Varda writes that "Claude is not looking to create beautiful pictures. (...) He looks for impressions, he's not a purist nor a reporter, he's a teller".
Un été italien is probably Claude Nori's most personal work.
Spanning the 1982-1999 years, it gathers black and white and color photographs capturing the true essence of Italian summers made of bagni, lettini, vespa and gelato. An ode to the youth, carefree approach to life, the book depicts various scenes of summer daily life infused by a fresh, spontaneous sensuality.
Whether it's a group of kids in bathing suits laughing at the camera in Rimini or a girl in a black polka dot dress nonchalantly smoking against an Alfa Romeo spider in Sicilia, what struck in Claude Nori's photographs is the absolute expression of the pure, lively truth of the moment. We're caught wondering about what this group of kids had done just after the click and where that young woman had been right after that cigarette.
Claude Nori's work has been a very important inspiration for us because it transcends this Italian lifestyle experience we feel so deeply about through apparently meaningless moments suspended in time.
Eating a gelato, smoking a cigarette, riding a vespa or just hanging by the hundreds of colorful lettini so perfectly arranged on the beaches of the Riviera Romagnola, each and every story told by those photographs are impressionist in their truest essence. We eat that gelato, smoke that cigarette and are under the next ombrellone on that beach, right in the middle of this Italian summer where time slowly goes by in a fresh breeze of arancini.
Agnès was right, Claude really is a teller.