Basso Cannarsa, a great photographer of black and white writers from Termoli

Tony Vaccaroan American of Bone Franca descent, his fame is mainly due to war photos. Frank Monacoalso born in the United States of Molise parents, became an established professional photographer after reporting in the 1950s on the women of Cantalupo del Sannio.

Paolo Di Paolo, born in Larino, between the fifties and sixties, collaborates with the weekly magazines Il Mondo and Tempo. His pictures of characters connected to the world of culture, politics and art are now part of the history of Italian culture and customs of those years.

In addition to these great masters of twentieth-century photography who honor Molise, there is another photographer also from Molise and still in business, which has long conquered a not small space in the world of photographic art.

Low Cannarsa

He is the sixty-six year old from Termoli Lower Cannarsa, known in Italy and abroad as the “photographer of writers”, a definition that now accompanies him everywhere, as the subjects he portrays are exclusively writers and exponents of culture.

Cannarsa’s specialty is: black and white photographic portrait, a very difficult technique that not everyone can improvise, in which the relationship one manages to establish with the subject to be portrayed and the speed with which one manages to capture the important moment of his expression play a major role, in order to enhance “the communicative character of the image”.

How and why he turned to the photo portrait is unknown to us. Basso is of few words. However, we know how his passion for photography started: thanks to a device bought with detergents when he was a teenager† But it will be a long time before what seemed like a hobby, quite common, would become his profession.

Freelance in 1986, the turning point came the following year when he teamed up with Grazia Neri, photographer and owner of the first major Italian photo agency, who immediately understood his talent. Thus, his photos immediately began to circulate in the main Italian press and in the cultural circuits that matter.

Bas Cannarsa Portraits

Kenzamburo Oe

Basso now has a huge archive, currently managed by the prestigious Agence Opale of Paris. Among the characters of his shots there are Nobel laureates and equally famous authors† A few names: Josè Saramago, Octavio Paz, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kenzaburo Oe, Josif Brodskij, Jan McEvan, Jonesco, Natalia Ginzburg, Primo Levi, Roberto Calasso, Aldo Cazzullo, Rossana Campo, Giorgia Tribuiani, directors Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonio. The list can go on and on.

It would be interesting to learn from him how to interact with personalities so different in character and education. How does he get their availability and cooperation. The little that happens through those who know him professionally is that he never insists, nor does he smother the object of his work with constant questions. His approach is “made of elegance and discretion”. To this he combines the speed with which he manages to grasp and capture the right revealing image.

Bas Cannarsa Portraits

Elfriede Jelinek

In none of the photos, at least not of the photos we can see in the catalog of his first exhibition (Pordenone, 2020), is the subject represented in a rigid, starched pose, perhaps behind a bookcase, as you might expect from cultural personalities full of glory and accolades.

What surprises by those images is theirs naturalness and spontaneity, sometimes even their playful, if not self-mockery. Shots that speak and tell the man. This can only be credited to the photographer if he manages to create the right atmosphere and the most suitable conditions to express the best of his art.

Bas Cannarsa Portraits

Primo Levi

A few examples: the portrait taken of Primo Levi, perhaps the last before his death, reveals a man burdened with the immense weight of lived-in horror staring into the eye of the device as if to convey it to him in order to to relieve yourself of it. Gillo Dorfles’s, with the wrinkles in the bony face, seems to be carved out of wood. Full of intimate tenderness, the embrace of the elderly Portuguese Nobel Prize winner Saramago. National and as from other times the shot of the Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek. An ironic for the Portuguese Antunes caught in a relaxing after shower.

Basso Cannarsa has made many portraits in about 40 years of activity, has some regrets. However, his collection does not contain what he wanted to do to the Keinesian economist and academic Federico Caffè. Basso had contacted him and got a few days before choosing to disappear into thin air.

Overcoming his reluctance, in 2020, Cannarsa agreed to create the first exhibition of his portraits in Friuli, entitled “Eloquent portraits” (never more appropriate title), whose duration has been extended due to the success of audiences and critics. It therefore shows space to other regions.

Bas Cannarsa Portraits

Gillo Dorfles

In our humble opinion, the time is more than right to organize something like this, also in Molise and Termoli, where it is very close. In this regard, an appeal is made to the Molise Culture Foundation and the Macte Foundation to ensure that this happens as quickly as possible.

Bas Cannarsa Portraits

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