Gabriele Basilico (1944-2013)

Italian photographer Gabriele Basilico who died on Wednesday in Milan where he was born was not as well-known in the UK as he should have been, perhaps because the area in which he worked, the urban landscape is not generally highly regarded in this country. Although I went to several exhibitions of his work in Paris (for example Vertical Moscow), I can’t recall having seen one in the UK.

There is a good introduction to his work at Studio La Città, which also has a list of his solo and group shows around the world since 2000 – and none have been in the UK. His pictures from Palermo were shown in Cardiff in 1998 and work from a war-torn Beirut at a private gallery in London the previous year, but seem not to have featured in any of our major London galleries. It’s a shame that we’ve never really had a major space in London devoted to photography – and in particular that the Photographers’ Gallery which gets so much of the photography funding that crumbs down from the opera-dominated Arts Coucil has failed to step up to the mark in this and many other areas of photography.

You can see more of his work online at the Amador Gallery (New York). Although best known for his black and white work, there is an interesting colour series, Roma, on the Galerie VU website, which presents a rather different view of the city. There is a fine collection of his work at the Galerie Anne Barrault, which includes one of my favourite of his images in the 1984 series bord de la mer.

Basilico trained as an architect and had his first important photographic show in and on Milan in 1983. The following year he was the only Italian of the 36 photographers commissioned by the French government for their major DATAR project to ph0tograph the natural and built environment of France. Among the other photographers involved were Lewis Baltz, Raymond Depardon and Robert Doisneau. (A full list is in the French Wikipedia article, and there is a history of the project, La France vue du sol, by Vincent Guigueno published in 2006 in études photographiques and available online – if your French is up to it.)

Several if not most of those photographers whose work is featured on the urban landscapes web site I run with Mike Seaborne were impressed and to some extent inspired by the work of Basilico, and by his success. We would have loved to have featured his work on that site, but never quite got around to contacting him, overawed by his reputation.

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