Alinari History of Italy
Università IULM Fratelli Alinari Università degli studi di Milano with the contribution of
Fondazione Cariplo

DIDACTIC WORKSHOP:

Greetings from...

Photographs taken during the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography workshops.

Activities:
didactic workshop

Objective:
to create a postcard of your city

Duration:
30 minutes to 1 hour and a half

You will need:
photographs on paper (also taken from postcards or newspapers) of your city or other cities; glue, scissors or cutter, ruler and square, pencils and crayons; in alternative, if you use new technologies you will need a computer with photo retouching software, a scanner to upload the photo and a printer.

Description:
Create a postcard of your city: postcards are made of images and a text and, depending on the author, postcards may send very different messages. Choose if you want to express a wish relating to certain places or highlight an issue, or represent places that are meaningful to you or depict ordinary ones, remember an event or simply trace the route you take every day from home to school …choose the images to assemble in a way that will illustrate the idea you wish to express. The montage you create will have a different significance to that of the original pictures. At this point add a text to convey your message also in words. You can use traditional techniques or new technologies, your postcard can be sent in the classic way by post or by email.

Suggestions on how to work independently:


Photo by Marino Sterle
1. Once you have decided what message you want to convey on the theme of the city, start with the practical part: the creation of the postcard. Select a suitable image to communicate your idea. Photo by Marino Sterle.
Photo by Marino Sterle
2. Insert a detail from another image. We started with photographs from the Alinari archive. You, on the other hand, can choose from photographs which are easiest for you to find. Use old or modern pictures of your choice. Photo by Marino Sterle.


Photo by Marino Sterle
3. Carefully consider the subject you want to insert: its shape, colour, size and position within the new context. The montage changes the significance of the two images you started off with. Photo by Marino Sterle.
Photo by Marino Sterle
4. Now insert a phrase to enrich the message of your postcard. We have chosen a quote from Calvino's "The invisible cities" by Calvino: "When travelling you realise that differences are lost: every city starts to resemble all others". Postcard made with photos from the Alinari Archives by Laura Pezzini. Photo by Marino Sterle.


Photo by Marino Sterle
5. For this exercise it can be useful to use digital photo retouching software because of the many creative options they offer. Photo by Marino Sterle.
Photo by Marino Sterle
6. Another postcard with a quotation from "The invisible cities" by Calvino "For everyone comes the day, sooner or later, in which we lower our eyes down the waterspout and are unable to take our eyes of the pavement". Postcard by Laura Pezzini made from photos of the Alinari Archives Photo by Marino Sterle.


7. "Take a look at Florence" made with photos from the Alinari Archives by Tommaso Cappelletti and Serena Girasoli of the Liceo Artistico Leon Battista Alberti, Florence for the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography "Greetings" project.
8. "Florence ... quite a different world" made with photographs from the Alinari Archives by Alessia Cacciato, Arianna Ingrassia, Guya Ghiandelli, Romina Ridolfi of the Liceo Artistico Leon Battista Alberti, Florence for the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography "Greetings" project.


9. "... the silver Arno mirrors the stars in heaven" made with photos from the Alinari Archives by Leon Fiorella Pedraza, Liceo Artistico Leon Battista Alberti Florence for the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography "Greetings from..." project
10. Vincenzo Balocchi, Bale of Hay, c.1950, Fratelli Alinari Museum Collection (RMFA)- Balocchi archive, Florence. During the "Foto di classe fuoriclasse" (Class photos outside class) MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography workshop, the participants developed their projects on the photos of the Alinari archives representing both urban and rural landscapes.


Photo by Silvia Mazzei
11. In the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography Class photos outside the class workshop, participants divided into small groups to interpret the space represented in the photos of the Alinari Archives through a sort of mime game. With special thanks to the schools of Florence. Photo by Silvia Mazzei.
Photo by Silvia Mazzei
12. At the end of the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography Class photos outside the class workshop, the class received the reinterpretation of the students' portraits. In this case the postcard made from a montage (i.e. using a photo from the Alinari Archives and simply adding the MNAF logo) invites us to reflect on the portrait photo and on the ritual of the class photo. With special thanks to the schools of Florence. Photo by Silvia Mazzei.


Photo by Lucia Fattorini
13. In the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography "Posing City" workshop, a group of children are asked to add their personal touches to some photographs. This produces a series of postcards expressing the children's considerations on the city. Photo by Lucia Fattorini.
Photo by Lucia Fattorini
14.In the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography "Posing City" workshop, children work on images from the Alinari Archives: this is possible because they are reproductions and not originals. The result invites us to ponder on the concept of photographic print and reproducibility of an image. Photo by Lucia Fattorini.


Photo by Lucia Fattorini
15. In the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography "Posing City" workshop, the children present their work to the rest of the group. Their words help to integrate text during post-production by a graphic designer. Photo by Lucia Fattorini.
Photo by Marino Sterle
16. The works produced in these workshops can generate a variety of editorial products, in which the children themselves lead the creative process. Photo by Marino Sterle.


Photo by Lucia Fattorini
17. In the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography "Posing City" workshop, a postcard is made mixing images and words to reflect on the subject of the city. Photo by Lucia Fattorini.
Photo by Lucia Fattorini
18. In the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography "Posing City" workshop, a postcard is made mixing images and words to reflect on the subject of the city. Photo by Lucia Fattorini.


Photo by Lucia Fattorini
19. In the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography "Posing City" workshop, a postcard is made mixing images and words to reflect on the subject of the city. Photo by Lucia Fattorini
Photo by Lucia Fattorini
20. In the MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography "Posing City" workshop, a postcard is made mixing images and words to reflect on the subject of the city. Photo by Lucia Fattorini.


Photo by Marino Sterle
21. For the purpose of creating a postcard of the city, we proposed a series of exercises in various versions, starting from the historical photographs of the Alinari Archives. Photo by Marino Sterle.
Photo by Marino Sterle
22. Another possibility is to tour around your city observing it through the camera lens. During your tour you can take photos which you can turn into postcards to send. This exercise can be done in groups to study the territory and express their interpretation of the city. Photo by Marino Sterle.


Questions and thoughts:

  1. Postcards are a very interesting topic in the History of Photography. Did you know that the first postcards - printed at the end of the 19th century in Germany - did not contain images? And that some postcards, typically in a certain period, were actual photographs? And that some of these pictures were taken by famous photographers? As Italo Zannier explains, only after the 1950's photographs started circulating in large numbers, first in the greyish typography format of newspapers, then in offset and finally in the glossy illustrated magazines where they are manipulated and retouched to become exquisitely kitch.
  2. In the Nineties, Italo Zannier wrote: "The most influential visual mass medium is still the postcard and not television as commonly believed; every day billions of pictures printed on stamped and postmarked cards, of all shapes and kinds cross the planet with the speed of a jet and then with the more gentle pace of the postman. They travel at a rhythm which, agreed, is not simultaneous, and is slower than that of the fax or internet, but they guarantee that everyone, even those who don't have access to technology, receives a cheerful 'greetings from...' card in the form of an appealing, colourful and glossy picture postcard". The appeal of the postcard perhaps lies in its democratic character and in the journey it will brave, sometimes adventurous, or even heroic
  3. The stamps too can be beautiful and significant and of some value. On the150th anniversary of Alinari's foundation a series of stamps were made from images of the Alinari Archives. Stamp collecting has always been popular but there are also postcard enthusiasts, and in fact, from the end of the 19th century magazine dedicated to both called "Stamps and Postcards" was printed was quite popular
  4. "Greetings from" is the title of a book by Bruno Munari: the author works on a number of postcards that lend themselves to be pierced, decorated, livened by play of words, cut out in different shapes other than the classic rectangle and so on. The result was a series of cheerful, ironic postcards, in character with this great Italian artist's style. Like Munari other authors offer cues on how postcards contribute to influence our perception of places. Photographer Luigi Ghirri, who even imitated the Postcard in his book "Italian Landscape" (Electa, Milan, 1989) thanks not just the famous authors who had inspired him, but also the "anonymous photographers of illustrated postcards that represent the first evocative encounter with a place". Fulvio Roiter, on his part, before setting off on a photographic shoot around the world, would pass by the souvenir shop to study the postcards, which in his view expressed the essence of a location (not through a defined point, but through a somewhat limited surface of about 10x15).
  5. Nowadays all sorts of digital postcards are sent throughout the world. The classic cardboard postcard though is still with us, maybe because both sender and receiver like it, because it carries a crossed "greeting" and because it is a tangible object that one can possess and therefore is not ephemeral. The appeal of the postcard is in the fact that you read it, turn it over in your hands, put it away, pick it out to show it others.
  6. An author who has written much about cities is Italo Calvino. You can find plenty of very original phrases and thoughts in Calvino's "The invisible cities" that can copy to help you complete your postcard and offer a most original interpretation of the city.
  7. In another literary endeavour, the Alinari often worked on Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy", promoting a competition for its illustration and later publishing the illustrations of the selected artists, such as Fattori, Spadini, De Carolis, Costetti; they also published a volume called "Italian landscapes in the Divine Comedy" where they collected a selection of photographs of the locations mentioned in the book, that is at the same time illustrates our country like a postcard album.

Variations:
To produce a postcard in alternative or in addition to your previous work, you might also want to take time visiting your territory. Retrace with your camera the places you usually hang out in: you will realized how through photography you can capture every smallest detail, choose a different perspective, stop the action and change a common element into something unusual, stimulating discussion on a certain topic. The series of picture postcards that you produce will represent your perspective of the city. In some cases, photography has been used to study and understand young people's ideas and points of view.

Suggestions for continuing the activity:
follow the suggestions or invent your own creative path: answer the questions, take part in MNAF. Alinari National Museum of Photography didactic workshops in Florence.

For further information:
Gabriella de Polo
Didactic Coordination
Fratelli Alinari. Fondazione per la storia della Fotografia
gabriella.depolo@alinari.it
www.alinarifondazione.it/eng/didattica.php

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