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Paola Agosti

Born in Turin in 1947, Paola Agosti began working as an independent photographer in 1969, a career that has taken her on many and varied voyages in Europe, South America, the United States, and Africa. She has met and photographed political leaders, men and women of culture, and artists of international renown. She has paid particular attention to faces and feats in the world of women. She has explored the end of a way of life for farm hands in the poorest regions of Piemonte, the vicissitudes of Piemontese emigration to Argentina, and has photographed the great protagonists of European culture of the 20th century, publishing several volumes on these subjects.

Since 1976 she has published numerous photo books and has exhibited her images (some of which now belong to the permanent collections of various museums) in Italy and abroad. In recent years she has also curated volumes dedicated to family memories, to individual histories that become History.

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Finding Aid

To view a detailed listing of contents for the Paola Agosti Photographs and to request materials for consultation in the Beinecke Reading Room, visit the Online Finding Aid

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Paola Agosti is an Italian photographer whose work documents social movements, contestation, and protest as well as social and cultural change in postwar landscapes from Italy to South America, Cuba, and beyond.

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Paola Agosti Photographs

The Paola Agosti Photographs document a variety of social and cultural landscapes in postwar Italy. Turbulence, upheaval, social contestation are frequent themes in Beinecke’s collection. But Agosti’s photographs also capture moments of personal drama, sudden flickers of humor, joy, sorrow, surprise, humility, frustration, gestures of friendship and solidarity alongside expressions of profound loneliness, fragility, and isolation, all playing out against the backdrop of a society in the throes of vast and momentous change. Feminist protests and gay liberation activists figure next to women workers in factories, emigrés from the South transferred to the vineyards of Piemonte, Piemontese cultural transferred to the landscapes of Argentina. The quiet beauty and personal hardships of cultures in transition and decline.

Collection Highlights

  • Italian Feminists of the 1970s

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Protests and clashes with police; the act of creating posters and signs; self-proclaimed “witches” with broomsticks who defiantly “choose for themselves,” the Women’s House in Rome, assemblies, meetings,  everyday life inside an urban commune.

  • Gay Rights Activists of the 1970s

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Leaders of the magazine and movement F.U.O.R.I. (the acronym means ‘outside’); public and private displays of forbidden affection; moments of playful and joyous defiance; protests before a public both sympathetic and wary.

  • Women Workers in Italian Factories

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Rows of women in beehive hairdos hammering away at typewriters; women with pneumatic wrenches on an automotive assembly line; strolling by men on lunch break at the Fiat plant; a young woman in a Micky Mouse t-shirt concentrates on a messy job; another caught up in the threads of a textile mill; others still dwarfed by machines they manhandle; moments of hilarity, friendship, solidarity of single women in and outside the workplace.

  • The Lost World of Piedmontese Vineyards

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Odd couples, women from the South coming to join farmhands from no local woman will marry; dilapitaded vineyards nearly deserted by youth seeking more promising work in the factories; the quiet beauty and terrible privation of ancient vineyards on the verge of collapse; domestic scenes of poverty, gestures of pride, despair, resignation; signs of religious piety; children at work on the farm

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Piedmontese emigrants in Argentina; road signs with the names of Piedmontese towns out in the Argentine scrub brush; cowboys with lassoes; a stalwart farm wife in the pasture; a small shirtless boy sitting on a pool table in the local tavern; old couples at a village dance; a young woman in her wedding dress; desolate streets and stray dogs.

  • Women Workers in Cuba

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Women rolling cigars in factories; laughing on their breaks; typing at desks beneath a portrait of Castro; proudly posed in front of a television in the family parlor.

  • Piedmont in Argentina

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