A master of Italian photojournalism, Federico Patellani (Monza, 1911 – Milan , 1977) began to take pictures professionally in 1935 when he took part in the operations of the Italian army in East Africa and used his Leica to realize photographic features that were published by the daily newspaper L’Ambrosiano.
From 1939 onward he devoted himself exclusively to photography, commencing his collaboration with Alberto Mondadori’s weekly Tempo. His reportages left a deep mark on the style of the magazine, for which he invented “photo-texts,” extensive features accompanied by captions written by the photographer himself and molded by that spirit of total and interdisciplinary involvement in the means of information that, according to Patellani, ought to inspire the “new formula journalist.” A sharp observer of Italian society, Patellani reported on the postwar state of the country, its economic revival, its industries, fashion and cultural life.
In 1952 he began to work freelance, contributing to major foreign and Italian publications (Epoca, Storia Illustrata, Successo, La Domenica del Corriere, Atlante). In that period he combined his activity as a photojournalist with work in the media of cinema and television: in 1953 he was assistant director on Alberto Lattuada’s film La lupa (The She Wolf); in 1955 he made two documentaries for television: Viaggio in Magna Grecia and Viaggio nei paesi of Ulisse; in 1956 he shot a feature-length documentary in color and in CinemaScope entitled America pagana (“Pagan America”).
From then on, and with ever greater determination, Patellani’s work was to focus on the dimension of travel (with every journey planned down to the smallest details), and he chose to use color, leaving the black-and-white photography to assistants and collaborators.