Lorenzo De’ Medici. Detail, 1992.

Interview by the team

In the course of the last fifty years, Aurelio Amendola dedicated his life to capture the works of artists from diverse styles and ages. An artist on his own, Aurelio is the author of a series of penetrating and highly emotional portraits of the sculpture of Michelangelo. Like in the story of Pygmalion, where a lifeless statue was brought to life, the photographic work of Aurelio Amendola has, through a masterful use of photographic film and a dramatic positioning of light, the ability to allow a dialogue between today’s public and a half-millenium-old sculptures.

Dusk, Tomb of Lorenzo De’ Medici.
Detail, 2004.

THE TEAM: Hello Aurelio, it is a pleasure to meet you! Why don’t we start off with where you were born?

AURELIO AMENDOLA: Hello, absolutely! I saw the light for the first time about eighty years ago in Pistoia. A city that I came to photograph a great number of times, having the architect Giovanni Michelucci as an exceptional guide.

And, for the better part of those eighty years, what has been your work?

Always and only that of a photographer.

How would you define the life you have lived so far?

I would say that to have had the good fortune of living amongst artists and to surround myself with the greatest works of art, as well as to photograph them, tells me how wonderful life is and how lucky I am to live it so intensely.

Dusk, Tomb of Lorenzo De’ Medici.
Detail, 2004.

What can you tell us about the way how your interest in photography grew?

I believe I am an autodidact. I made myself a photographer after attending compulsory education in a city re-emerging from the war years. In fact, my first jobs happened to be commercial.

And what made you turn from commercial work to photographing art?

My first assignment as an art photographer came quite unexpectedly. It was Gian Lorenzo Mellini, an important art historian, who proposed me to take pictures for a project in which he was involved. I accepted his invitation with great reluctance and soon after, in the late sixties, I was commissioned to photograph a great masterpiece of Gothic sculpture in Pistoia, Giovanni Pisano’s pulpit for the Church of Sant’Andrea. The photos that resulted from this project were published in 1969 in a book that was the first of a long list of publications in which I participate to this day.

David. Detail, 2001.

So, we assume, this was one of the events that planted the seed of your interest in arts. Were there any other clues by that time which could have indicated this would be your future?

Yes, in 1966 I visited the wonderful anthological exhibition held by Marino Marini at Palazzo Venezia in Rome. Such opportunity allowed me, not yet thirty years old, to discover a new world and to realize what I strongly loved to photograph. By the same time I was also lucky enough to get to know Marino Marini himself and to become his friend. My friendship with him taught me the great power and strength of art and, in particular, of sculpture.

“My connection with
Michelangelo is so intense
that I talked to him as if
he were still alive”

After all these years, how would you sum up your work as a photographer? Was it worth it?

I would say that my work is to create images capable of stirring up emotion in those who see them. This has been the reason of my life for over fifty years.

Day, Tomb of Giuliano De’ Medici.
Detail, 1992.

Your photos are soaked in emotion and intensity. What does the preparation of each picture involve?

I have always been convinced that the purpose of photography is to communicate to others what one can see. Photography is a second act of looking and thus it becomes a new way of seeing. This is what I always try to accomplish with the help of natural and artificial light. I find light to be fundamental while interpreting sculpture and so I could never separate myself from my lamps and light meter.

Aurora, Tomb of Lorenzo De’ Medici.
Detail, 2004.

Why this particular approach to black-and-white?

Despite publishers, and perhaps the general public, prefer coloured photography, my work is essentially done in black-and-white. I am thrilled to be able to capture the world in shades of grey and also to manipulate those shades while revealing them in a darkroom—as you know I still use photographic film—it is within this darkness that photography is born, here it retains its magic to which I cannot renounce.

Aurora. Detail, 1992.

And what about your interest in capturing the work of Michelangelo?

For someone who has chosen to photograph sculpture, the chance of capturing the works of Michelangelo is not only a dream but also an inevitable, yet dangerous, step. In my case I have been able to photograph his works many times. I have photographed the Medici Chapel, for example, both in the early nineties and again a decade later, in the beginning of the new millennium. On the second time my approach was even more humble and discreet as I practically worked on my tiptoes. The result was this series that I consider to be “my Michelangelo”. My connection with Michelangelo is of such intensity that, in the end, I talked to him as if he were still alive.

David. Detail, 2001.

Is there any picture you feel particularly proud of having produced?

Each shot is a story, a friendship. So for me, it’s very difficult to make a ranking and place a specific photo before another. However, I feel safe to say that I am very proud of my most famous images—such as those of Giuliano de Medici or of Aurora in the Medici Chapel—and that I couldn’t ever forget the series of Alberto Burri’s combustions and neither the picture of Marino Marini on the beach with a horse. I feel particularly attached to the intensity of the relationship I had with them. Establishing a human relationship with whom, or what, I am facing is, to me, a necessity.

David. Detail, 2001.

How extent is the body of work you have produced so far?

I would not know, I have never made a precise count, yet my work dedicated to sculpture can testify the evolution from Jacopo della Quercia to Jannis Kounellis. As a matter of fact, I am working on an exhibition that tells the history of sculpture from the 14th Century to our days. It will of course present a very personal point of view, it will be the history of sculpture as seen by myself.

Is there any other special and exciting project in the making?

Oh yes! Right now I am working on the other great dream of my life. I’m currently producing the photos for the most difficult and complex book of my life: that of the places which were a part of the life of Leonardo da Vinci.

scala regia magazine

Opening spread of the paper version.