I photograph is not created by a photographer. What they do is just to open a little window and capture it. The world then writes itself on the film. The act of the photographer is closer to reading than it is to writing. They are the readers of the world.
– Ferdinando Scianna
Ferdinando Scianna (Born. 1943) is an Italian photographer. Ferdinando Scianna started taking photographs in the 1960s while studying literature, philosophy, and art history at the University of Palermo. It was then that he began to photograph the Sicilian people systematically. Feste Religiose in Sicilia (1965) included an essay by the Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia, and it was the first of many collaborations with famous writers. Scianna moved to Milan in 1966. The following year he started working for the weekly magazine L’Europeo, first as a photographer, then as a journalist from 1973. He also wrote on politics for Le Monde Diplomatique and on literature and photography for La Quinzaine Littéraire.
In 1977 he published Les Siciliens in France and La Villa Dei Mostri in Italy. During this period, Scianna met Henri Cartier-Bresson, and in 1982 he joined Magnum Photos. He entered the field of fashion photography in the late 1980s and at the end of the decade, he published a retrospective, Le Forme del Caos (1989). His first work, in 1987, was to photograph Marpessa Hennink for Dolce & Gabbana’s advertising campaign for their Fall/Winter collection, clothing which was inspired by Sicily. Scianna returned to exploring the meaning of religious rituals with Viaggio a Lourdes (1995), then two years later he published a collection of images of sleepers – Dormire Forse Sognare (To Sleep, Perchance to Dream). His portraits of the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges were published in 1999, and in the same year, the exhibition Niños del Mundo displayed Scianna’s images of children from around the world. In 2002 Scianna completed Quelli di Bagheria, a book on his home town in Sicily, in which he tries to reconstruct the atmosphere of his youth through writings and photographs of Bagheria and the people who live there. Scianna won the Prix Nadar in 1966 and has produced numerous books.
Whether his subject is the backstage life of the fashion world or street photography in his native Sicily, Scianna touches the human soul with discourses that are both literal and poetic, revealing the emotions of its subject, while begging us to see more. He has always remained true to his roots. His empathy for his subjects, their misery and hopes, and the raw, natural beauty of Sicily lend authenticity to Scianna’s early work that is at once both tender and profound. His works are in the permanent collections of Bibliothèque Nationale and Fonds National de la Photographie, as well as both Paris and Salford University, Lancashire, England.