The “Lorenzo il Magnifico” Lifetime Achievement Award 2015 goes to Mario Carbone for his outstanding achievements in using photography as a medium to represent and document historic events while shedding light on a vast array of social and political themes and, not least, exploring the world of art.
Born in San Sosti (Cosenza) in 1924, Mario Carbone discovered the secrets of photography by undergoing a long apprenticeship in his native land, Calabria, and also in Milan, where he wohrked at Elio Luxardo’s studio.
In 1955 he moved to Rome, and started his career in cinematography – initially working as a camera operator, then as director of photography, and later as director of documentaries. He thus had the chance to collaborate with other directors, namely Libero Bizzarri, Romano Scavolini, and Raffaele Andreassi. Within the framework of the production of I vecchi (1959) directed by Andreassi he was director of photography, and for that work he obtained his first Nastro d’Argento award.
In 1960 Carbone accompanied Carlo Levi to Lucania, and during that journey he photographed the places that would become the unforgettable scenes described by the writer while he was exiled in Cristo si è fermato a Eboli. Carbone took nearly four hundreds pictures, some of which illustrate his Viaggio in Lucania con Levi (published in 1980). Still in 1960 he shot his first short film, Inquietudine, featuring Franco Angeli as a protagonist.
During the 1960s Carbone made a series of documentaries imbued with neo-realism, initially focusing on generational conflict as in Il muro dei giovani (1961), La città ci è nemica (1962) and Capelli fuori legge (1962). In 1963 he collaborated with Cesare Zavattini as camera operator and director of I Misteri di Roma, a film based on investigative reporting. In 1964 he documented the abandoning of the formerly feudal lands of Calabria by the nobles with Stemmati di Calabria, which worthed him his second Nastro d’argento award. That same year he shot, with Giuseppe Ferrara, two films that were produced by ENI in India, thereby taking pictures of life in Calcutta, Bombay (Mumbay), Madras (Chennai), and New Delhi as well as in rural villages. Some of those photographs are reproduced in Paralleli. India-Italia anni Sessanta (published by Gangemi in 2006). In 1966 Carbone turned back to Italy and cast light on the life conditions of agricultural workers, which are shown in Dove la terra è nera. He then brought to the audience’s attention the theme of disability and architectural barriers through Anche noi parliamo (1967) and Alla fine dell’arcobaleno (1968). In 1967 he was awarded the Leone d’Argento at the Venice Biennial for his Firenze, novembre 1966, an outstanding visual account of the flood that devastated Florence (with text by Vasco Pratolini read by Giorgio Albertazzi).
In 1970, on the 10th anniversary of the founding of Nouveau Réalisme, Carbone went to Milan and filmed the event performed by different exponents of that movement, including Christo, Mimmo Rotella, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Cesàr, Armand Pierre Fernandez (Arman), Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely, and Pierre Restany. In 1977, the during the International Performance Week, he filmed the performances executed by Marina Abramovic and Frank Uwe Laysiepen (Ulay), Vincenzo Agnetti, Luca Patella, Hermann Nitsch, Luigi Ontani, and Vettor Pisani at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Bologna. A few years later he founded the DARC film making company and produced Attraverso l’arte moderna (1979) and Artisti allo specchio, educational series that were broadcast until the late 1990s to show the works of artists such as Enrico Baj, Mimmo Paladino, Carla Accardi, and Mario Schifano. By the end of the twentieth century Carbone had to shut down the DARC company. However, he still owns the archive of its photography and film productions, which is being reorganised.