The collection comprises photographs, documents and books whose great variety reflects its gradual formation over the course of more than thirty years (mid-1960s to late 1990s) and the lively personality as well as wide-ranging activity as a cultural organizer and gallery manager of the man who created it, Lanfranco Colombo, “pioneer of Italian photography.” The identity of this extremely heterogeneous collection is complex, almost impossible to grasp, as its formation and growth were guided by a sort of encyclopedic desire to embrace every aspect of photography, from the professional (reportage, portraiture, fashion, still life or sport) to the amateur, from artistic research to historical documentation.
Lanfranco Colombo (Milan, 1924) has worked as a journalist, promoter of sports publications and cartoon books, sales director for a steel producer, the Gruppo Riva, from 1966 editor of the Italian edition of the magazine Popular Photography, which became Il Diaframma Fotografia Italiana in 1972 and continued publication until 1979, from 1967 to 1996 manager of the Galleria Il Diaframma, for over twenty years from 1969 director of the cultural section of the SICOF (Salone Internazionale di Cine Foto Ottica at the Milan Trade Fair) and organizer of exhibitions on photography all over Italy and in many foreign countries.
The collection contains photographic materials that correspond to his long involvement in the activities of organization, curating and publishing. While not reflecting the entire range of his work (Lanfranco Colombo has also made donations of photographs, books and documents, although much less substantial than this, to the CSAC of Parma University, the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, the CRAF in Spilimbergo, 3M, the Biblioteca Civica in Seregno and the Centro Internazionale di Fotografia Scavi Scaligeri in Verona), it does permit a credible reconstruction of it.
Various areas of photography are covered in the collection, in particular classical and contemporary reportage, artistic research from the time of the historical avant-gardes to the 1980s, professional and more frankly commercial productions (fashion, advertising, sport), the photography of the past, in the form of reproductions, and amateur photography. The range is very wide and embraces every current in photography over the period of the gallery’s existence. There are complete series, entire personal or joint exhibitions, large groups of photographs taken by Colombo himself and individual or small sets of works. They are the creations of a large number of historic and contemporary authors, from Italy and elsewhere, artists, professionals, amateurs, masters of 20th-century photography or up-and-coming young authors, indicating, as is well-known, that what guided Colombo in his indefatigable, vibrant and energetic activity as an organizer has not been the peculiar taste of a collector, nor the methods of a scholar, nor the precise choices of a curator, but the passion for photography, for any kind of photography, of a man who has always been not just a cultural impresario but also a manager and a person driven by his curiosity about the world.