Above image: © Archivio Paolo Di Paolo

In anticipation of the landmark exhibition arriving at Rome’s MAXXI museum in March next year, a new volume of photographs documents the work of legendary Italian photographer Paolo Di Paolo from 1954 to 1968, supported with the help of Gucci.

Born in 1925 in the small town of Larino, southern Italy, Di Paolo moved to Rome on the eve of the Second World War with dreams of an aspiring photographer. Having originally taken images purely for pleasure, Di Paolo became increasingly influenced by the visionary abstractionist collective, Forma 1, whose radical attitude towards the visual arts would inform Di Paolo’s formative experiences of photography. 1954 saw Di Paolo hired by the weekly current affairs magazine Il Mondo where he went on to become on of its most esteemed contributors, but it was from the mid fifties to the sixties that Di Paolo carried out the bulk of his most acclaimed work, photographing the stars of the day in the intimacy of their own homes.

It is the photographs taken during his time at Il Mondo that form the bulk of this new publication. From Tennessee Williams lounging on the beach with his dog, to Kim Novak ironing in a room at the Grand Hotel and Anna Magnani sunbathing in her villa outside Rome, the images tell the story of a nation rebuilding itself from the ashes of World War II. “These images that have re-emerged after more than 50 years of oblivion are not only the story of a unique era – the Italy of the 1950s and 1960s,” says the show’s curator Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, “but they are also a glimpse into the heart, mind and eye of a photographer who knew how to give these images out-of-the-ordinary cultural, psychological, artistic and anthropological depth.”

In addition to this hugely important collection of photographs, Di Paolo was fascinated by the social customs and cultural idiosyncrasies of his country. Working almost as an anthropologist, he set out in 1959 with renowned Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini in a Fiat to uncover the diverse range of cultural dialects across the peninsula, from Neapolitan slang to Ligurian curses. Along the way, Di Paolo photographed chaise longues, heaving beaches and bronzed youth, images that would come to illustrate the resulting publication, The Long Road of Sand, essential further reading for anyone interested in this pivotal figure of modern photography.