A “very demonstrative” way of communicating

Richard Kalvar tells how he discovered the gestures of Italians

MONDAY 24TH OCTOBER 2022

On the occasion of the guided tour of the exhibition La voce delle mani, Maria Callas and the Italians at Palazzo Callas Exhibitions, Richard Kalvar talks about his first encounter with the gestures of Italians, discovered by chance more than 40 years ago on the occasion of a visit to Rome.

Our particular way of communicating with words and gestures, which the American photographer defines as “very demonstrative”, inspired one of his important photographic series present in the exhibition halls.

In the words of the photographer of Magnum Photos also a reference to the street photography workshop he conducted in Sirmione.


“I was in Italy for the first time in 1978 when Pope Paul [Paul VI] died. Of course I already knew a lot about Italy but the fact of being physically there for the first time was an overwhelming experience. Between the death of the pope and the ceremonies for the election of the new pope I had about 10 days of time available that I spent walking around Rome, discovering it and taking the kind of photos I like to take: photos of human beings who interact or not and Rome was really a perfect place, because first of all people interact a lot and they do it in a very physical way, with their hands. So I took a lot of photos and that was the beginning of what you see here [on display]. Then I went back to Italy other times and I continued to photograph people who talk together or who don’t talk together and I made all these photos of people who talk in a very demonstrative way.

[Sirmione] is obviously a very beautiful city, with an interesting history, but from my point of view it is a bit difficult because there is basically an industry in Sirmione than tourism and most of the people you see are in German rather than Italian realities … but that’s okay, why not? I like to photograph people, so I took pictures and am also conducting a workshop for students. It is an interesting experience, I am having fun and I am taking some good pictures. Some of my students are taking day trips to Brescia or Verona, because maybe more things happen in bigger cities. They go there but then come back here and stay here the rest of the time because they actually enjoy taking pictures here. “

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