Mario Cattaneo (Milan, 1916-2004) belonged to the generation of Italian photographers who in the second half of the 20th century found a place of expression and a forum for debate on photography in the world of amateur photography clubs: from the study of technical matters to getting to know the work of the masters of international photography and the formulation of theoretical and aesthetic hypotheses on the medium. In Cattaneo’s pictures we can find accents present in the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. The account of the social scene that he presents often has the tones that characterize authors like Gianni Berengo Gardin, Mario De Biasi or Pietro Donzelli.
He took his first photographs at “La Fera del Sinigaglia,” Milan’s traditional flea market, revealing right from the start his extraordinary ability to capture moments of intense, spontaneous humanity, with simplicity. In 1952 he was fascinated by the bustling life of the alleys of Naples and would return there over the following years, taking a large number of photographs that were published by Electa in 1992 under the title Vicoli. This work was followed by others: Luna park (Milan 1956-60), Una domenica all’Idroscalo (Milan 1958-62), Giovani al Juke Box (Milan 1960-62), Caravaggio (1964-65) and Festival pop (Milan 1973-75).
Mario Cattaneo received awards and recognition in Italy and overseas, including first prize in the competition “Racconto e reportage fotografico” held in Fermo. In 1991 the FIAF (Federazione Italiana Associazioni Fotografiche) named him Author of the Year and devoted a traveling exhibition accompanied by a monograph to his work. In 1996 La Fera del Sinigaglia, edited by W. Tucci Caselli, was published by the Fondazione E. Monti. He died in 2004 on the last of his many journeys to India.