Cecilia Mangini (Mola di Bari, 1927) understood from a very young age, as soon as she started holding a camera to, in her own words "tell the world" thanks to the prodigious invention called the photographic device, in a career that begins in part inspired by the neo-realist cinema and its radical commitment to the relationship between film, photography and reality. In this online exhibition we review her career, witness of the core years of the 20th century in Italy: a country marked by the devastation of fascism and World War II, and by the industrial economic boom, of which Mangini shows several facets. A way of seeing characterized by her empathy and unwavering militancy, thirty-six accurate shots that we will see in a tour in four movements.

CECILIA MANGINI_Ph. Enrico Carpinello _A


"I have been a street photographer – for me taking photos was a training in speed to capture an image: Ladri di biciclette taught me that you either get the picture at once, or you don’t get it at all. Be patient because I’m about to be boring: “kinema” in Greek means movement; cinema means the movement of images that advance in procession, they follow each other in hordes. The image is meaningful, the image is significant, the image is the load-bearing axis of the cinema, and photography was certainly a necessary conquest for me so as to make cinema.

It all began by chance, as it almost always does: an uncle of mine owned an amazing camera, called a Leica - during the Thirties it had been produced in parallel with the Arriflex for the photographers and operators wanting to immortalize the victories of the Wermacht during the lightning war that Hitler was soon to spark off.

Alas, the Leica was too expensive for me and I reluctantly made do with a Zeiss, a semi-professional instrument with an extraordinary lens, the Tessar. Naturally my first photos were of my family, those domestic ones that I found incredibly boring. I almost regretted my purchase."


"For me, taking pictures was the joy of walking, finding and imagining what I had taken with my camera...


A day with plenty of pictures, for me was a beautiful day, an important one. It was over and I felt satisfied. I discovered and told the world through my photography. Photographing is a shamanic ritual. Going to a camera obscura and seeing the images that are developed is a miracle. Also the happiness of understanding that if photography came through it would stay and tell what I wanted, it often was far more important than I had thought and that a cause of infinite joy."

Two forgotten boxes - Cecilia Mangini ph


A dispossessed land, marked by economic decline in sharp contrast to the industrial wealth of the north.

"All I had to do with the south was to photograph its beauty, its virgin beaches, its wonderful people, who welcomed you and embraced you. I wanted to be useful and help you in every way... Its atrocious poverty.


The south was also about walking around with the camera and photographing the girls who played in the streets, the faces of the people, the peasant women who returned from the fields with the harvest of what they had grown and tried to sell it to make a living. They were all so happy to meet you that they would give you something if you purchased it. I loved those farmers very much and they loved me more. There was a strong, close, beautiful exchange.


The south was about photographing the old people sitting in front of the rocks who kept each others company while sharing a few phrases with each other. The South was the barbers who shaved and cut the hair of the men in the streets. The South was a phantasmagoria of events in which it was nice to get lost in, to find yourself and to get lost again."


Reveals the other side of economic "boom" and the development of these cities, from the side of the working class.

"I loved to travel, but I loved traveling to take pictures. In my trips to Italy I photographed much of Milan and Florence. I have photographed the Milan destroyed by the American bombings. Its squares, its streets, its center reduced to ruins, razed to the ground by the American bombings. Milan was the economic capital of Italy, for its factories, for its ability to attract people from the South, because in Milan there was work. I have photographed the factories, the workers, I have photographed what is called at that time the economic miracle.


Florence was a beautiful city, because great architects saw it being created, imagined and built into the city of all its citizens. And now, unfortunately, it is a tourist city, occupied militarily by tourists. For me Florence was the Ofici with galleries with wonderful paintings. Florence was to go to mass in the Santissima Anunciata all together, with my father and my mother, and I was bored to death and looked at the wonderful paintings on its walls. And then go out and see the beautiful porcelains that adorned Brunelleschi's porticos. In Florence I loved to photograph the streets, the children playing, the girls going for a walk with their mother holding hands and the streetcar that was running at that time, because there were no buses. I wrote a poem: Amo gli abitudinari atteggiamenti tranviari senza i binári non sanno andare avanti."


(Artisti e ritratti di celebrità) 

brings us closer to the Mangini as a magazine and newspaper photographer, chronicler of the 20th century and celebrities, among which are Fellini, Chaplin and Silvana Mangano.

"I started photographing for magazines and photographic newspapers such as Rotar and Cinema 60 and this has allowed me to photograph important characters from that time. I have photographed Fellini, Pasolini, John Huston and many more. It was easy, not difficult, to photograph an important figure.... He cared a lot to be recognized ... and then women always for that job I did in newspapers and magazines: Elsa Morantes, Silvana Mangano, actresses, writers ...

The exploration of faces was also about finding the right moment. For example, Vasco Pratolini , a very important writer, would get stiff if he felt photographed. I photographed him smiling with his eyes, his mouth, his hair, with everything, because I had a camera that allowed me to photograph him when he didn't notice. Photographing those characters, photographing people of humble origins allowed me to put together a sample of faces that were famous or unknown, they were for me, my personal collection that I would love in a particular way because it was mine."



Her perspective on the Vietnam of 1965 (in her journey to prepare a film that never came to see the light) radically different from that which is engraved in the subconscious collective about that conflict.

"In 1965 Lino del Prat and I went to Vietnam. Lino presided over me because we had to make a documentary film about North Vietnam and its war against South Vietnam, to liberate it and make it into a unified Vietnam. All united and independent. The beautiful state, getting to see the North Vietnam with all its beauty, culture, vegetation,... That is, it has been a journey of many wonders.

Afterwards, we had to return quickly because the American planes controlled everything and the North Vietnamese didn't want heroes, they didn't want victims. And for this reason we were sent back to Italy along with other personalities. They didn't want any victims.


They were people with an inner strength, with a capacity to oppose all the abuses that could have been committed against them, along with a desire for freedom, to live like more than anything else. Truly extraordinary.


Those photographs that I took were graphic notes for my films that I had to shoot, and in the end, it was the longest photographic report that I have ever taken in my life.


And I'm very fond of that, it's the story of the life of the Vietnamese people. A people who have known how to fight and win a war against American imperialism."

“If people ask me what I am, I answer “I’m a documentary film-maker”. Even if one hasn’t made any documentaries for years, one is still a documentary maker… It’s true, I have given most importance to a documentary view of reality, starting from the actual material and production conditions of a documentary, from the liberty of expression which is an integral part of it. I am convinced that a documentary maker has more freedom in making films than someone who makes films based on fiction, and it is for this that my tendency to freedom, with which I have lived since I was a child, has made me a documentary maker. Documentaries are the freest way to make films”

Cecilia Mangini ph. Paolo Pisanelli Sale


Paolo Pisanelli


Matteo Gherardini



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