Anton Giulio Bragaglia (Futurist Movement)

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The Futurist movement had an intrinsic figure in it’s midst in the form of Anton Giulio Bragaglia (February 11, 1890 – July 15, 1960). Set in an era before World War I, the Italian based movement was filled with a desire to capture the motion, dynamism and change of the time. They picked up the baton passed to them by the likes of Edweard Muybridge, Étienne-Jules Marie and Thomas Eakins.

Anton Bragaglia was from a family of artists that concerned themselves to a greater or lesser extent with photography, film and the arts. In 1906 he went to work as an assistant director at the Cines film studio in Rome that was managed by his father Francesco Bragaglia. He also worked on many photographic artworks with his brother Arturo. In a lot of cases Anton would concern himself with the theory behind the images and Arturo the technical realisation of these imaginings. Their father Francesco brought another younger brother, Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, into film making. Together these brothers cross-pollinated ideas and worked together on various artistic projects, photographs and films. Anton and Carlo were the driving force behind setting up "Casa d'Arte Bragaglia", an Italian gallery where futurist art could be shown which carried the family name.

'Typist', Anton and Arturo Bragalia (1911).jpg 'Typist', Anton and Arturo Bragalia (1911)

It was primarily Anton who was to sow the seed for Futurism in photography and moving image in his texts Fotodinamica Futurista (1912) and Manifesto of Futurist Cinema (1916). These manifestos laid bare the meaning of Futurism so that other followers and artists could understand the movement and it is for this reason that I think he is a representative for all of the resultant futurist photography and film making.

'Change of Position', Anton Bragaglia (1911).jpg 'Change of Position', Anton Bragaglia (1911)

Futurism is, in essence, an attack on the established world in Italy at the time. Very much like the Modernism of the Secessionist era in New York, it moves away from the conventions that lie within the established trends within photography. The images looked towards a dynamic, fast moving future of multiplicity. A future where the blur of movement within an image was not a technical flaw, but an aesthetic to be embraced. It also was devised with an aggression that attacked principles of morality and even feminism at the time of its conception. Female artists like Mina Loy found it hard to exist in this misogynistic movement. She left and wrote the play The Pamperers (1916) which attacked the movement through satire of the increasingly outdated beliefs on feminism. The initial voice of the movement was a rallying cry to the young males to destroy libraries and museums and everything that represented the establishment. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti set out these beliefs in the very first Futurist manifesto, The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism (1909) which appeared on the front page of the French newspaper Le Figaro. Marinetti was absorbed into the Fascist party in Italy after he founded Partito Politico Futurista or the Futurist Political Party. The fascist beliefs of Marinetti do not appear to be transposed within the artwork of the Bragaglias and their world of blurs and movement.

'Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash', Giacomo Balla (1912).jpg 'Dynamism_of_a_Dog_on_a_Leash',_Giacomo_Balla_(1912)

Anton Bragaglia is credited with the creation of the photodynamic photograph. These images make use of long exposures to try to capture the energy contained within life and living and place it within the borders of a photographic print. He attempted to realise a kind of spirituality within his images, inspiring painters within the movement such as Giacomo Balla. In his work Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912), the swirls of the dogs’s legs copy the aesthetic created within the photography. The Futurist films that Anton made, in particular Thais (1917) display geometric set designs painted by the famous stage designer and painter Enrico Prampolini. Indeed, futurism also manifested within the theatre. The designs of Prampolini went on to influence the later German expressionist cinema.

'The Futurist Painter Giacomo Balla' Anton Bragaglia (1913).jpg 'The Futurist Painter Giacomo Balla' Anton Bragaglia (1913)

[Go to Week 5 of Theory & Photography]