Paolo Pellegrin. an anthology

The word “anthology” derives from the ancient Greek. “Collection of flowers” is its literal meaning. Precisely for this Paolo Pellegrin. Un’antologia  is the perfect name for a careful selection from the archive of one of the leading names in international photography. The favorite flowers of Paolo Pellegrin – born in 1964, author for more than a decade of Magnum Foto – are human beings. To reach the gallery number 5 you have to go up three floors on flights of stairs that wind like a long black snake inside the Maxxi Museum in Rome. It is here that, from 7 November until 10 March 2019, the works drawn from the repertoire of the last 20 years of the great photographer are exhibited, after two years of research and work behind the scenes of the exhibition. A bit ‘of numbers. There are more than 150 images, many unpublished, with the support of some videos. The dates of the photographs range from 1998 to 2017. During this time Pellegrin lived on the heels of some of the main phenomena and events on a global scale. For example, wars and anti-racist protests in the United States, migrations to Europe, humanitarian emergencies. The interest in human beings is the leitmotif, as content and as a method of research. This is why it is not surprising that the set-up places are scattered all over the world. The darkness and the light are the two fulcrums on which the exhibition is built. Not a coincidence, because Pellegrin’s goal has always been moving from one extreme to another. The first impact with the anthology is a room almost totally immersed in darkness. A black space, in which even the captions are read with difficulty and the light comes only from the images. A visual and sound narration together: the lapping of the sea is repeated at a fairly high volume, it gives rhythm to the episodes of human history that the public very often already knows. There is the battle of Mosul in 2016, fought by the Kurds and the Iraqi army to free the city from the occupation of ISIS. Pellegrin is direct: the war is made up of corpses, crying, ambushes, oil fields in flames, people who run away or are taken away blindfolded to be interrogated. Among the photographs, short video clips of attacks and armed men running under enemy fire. From Iraq we pass to the barbed wire of Guantanamo with a series of snapshots populated by inmates dressed in white that cross the empty spaces between a fence and the other of the American prison, pray, speak.An entire corridor is dedicated to the design and construction of the works that have earned this great photograph of ten World Press Photo Awards and several other international awards. Hanging on the wall are his notebooks full of notes, drawings and diagrams, mini-portfolios and the shots published on the covers of newspapers and magazines around the world.