A Photographic Discovery

A library. A secret door. An attic full of trains. Carlotta di Lenardo’s grandparents’ house in Italy is shrouded in mystery – with bookshelf passageways leading to hidden model railways. It is also the place where an extraordinary archive of over 8,000 photographs was found. Taken by Carlotta’s grandfather – Alberto di Lenardo (b. 1930) – the collection captures the world in vivid colour. It spans 70 years of travel across Europe, the USA, South America, Africa and beyond.

The pictures in this book have never been published before. They present a world of leisure, journeys and endless summers – all rendered with a saturated palette. Lenardo’s subject matter is equally rich and vibrant: beaches and bars, mountains, road trips, strangers, lovers and friends. Close-up faces speak of intimacy and human relationships. Languorous landscapes highlight the heat and freedom of holidays. There is a palpable sense of movement – figures sleep on planes, drive vintage cars and splash through rolling waves. When viewed together, these images provide a joyous crosssection of life in the 20th century.

An Attic Full of Trains is also about experimentation. Lenardo continually plays with reflections, angles and framing devices. People shift in and out of focus, caught in mirrors or through windows. Crowds blur in front of bright city lights. Rows of cars line up like dominoes. Sometimes, we are offered “before and after” shots – a rare glimpse of two versions of the same scene. This is a portrait of a photographer honing their craft and revelling in the act of creation. Lenardo’s work is reminiscent of some of Italy’s best-loved photographers; MACK cites Luigi Ghirri and Guido Guidi as likely counterparts.

Find out more here.

Image Credits: Courtesy the estate of Alberto di Lenardo and MACK.