This article is a tribute to the Italian photojournalist Mario de Biasi and his wonderful book “Five Continents by Bike,” a pretty series of street photographs showing people riding bicycles from all five continents. He is considered one of the masters of 20th century Italian photojournalism.
Deported in Germany during the World War II, Mario de Biasi (1923-2013) discovered the art of photography in 1944, when he recovered an equipment among the rubble of Nürnberg. This was a lifeline in the torment of the war, a sign of the fate that changed his life. De Biasi’s first reportage was precisely about the devastation of this German city. In 1953, he began to work with Epoca magazine, an Italian publication very similar to Life. He was the author of important reportages from all over the world. One of these is about the well-known uprising in Budapest in 1956.
Even in such a dramatic situation, he was able to grasp photographing a kiss, the irresistible force of love in spite of any circumstances. He said, “At the end of the revolt, I returned to Budapest from Vienna […]. As I went to the Austrian-Hungarian border, there was a river where people were able to cross it passing on an iron rope; there was a lady with a basket with a child inside, while on the other side her husband was waiting for them. I took the whole sequence and this is the kiss to freedom.” (source)
De Biasi was also a great street photographer. One of his famous photos is “The Italians turn around (Gli italiani si voltano)” taken in Milan in 1954, which shows a group of men who turned at the arrival of a shapely Moira Orfei, who was then considered the queen of the Italian circus. This image was on poster of the exhibition, “The Italian Metamorphosis” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1994.
Di Biasi published more than 100 books. One of my favorites is “5 Continenti in Bici (5 Continents by Bike),” which shows a series of photos of people riding bicycles, street artists using them, as well as parked bikes from all five continents, from Milan, Italy, Canada to the Netherlands.
For this tribute, I chose a series of photos of bicycles taken in the city of Como, ranging from bikes parked to people and children riding them.
From the bike with the little umbrella to one covered with strips of paper during the recent carnival; from a child too small to ride an adult bicycle (and therefore pushed by his father), from the photos of two people touching the “miracle ring” on the wall of a church, I took these photos as spontaneous as possible, without ever asking people to pose.
A Salute to the Masters is a series dedicated to great photographers that I like. I posted other tributes for Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Helen Levitt, Ernst Haas, Stephen Shore, Gabriele Basilico, Robert Adams, Thomas Struth, J.H. Lartigue, Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank, Gianni Berengo Gardin, André Kertész, Willy Ronis, Brassaï, Rodchenko, Dan Graham, Henry Grant, William Eggleston, Dennis Stock, Juergen Teller, Martin Parr, Peter Mitchell, Mario Giacomelli, David Burnett, Michael Williamson, Bernard Cahier, Harry Gruyaert, Bruno Barbey, Paul Strand, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Lothar Rübelt, David Goldblatt, Henry Cartier-Bresson, Raymond Depardon, Aaron Siskind and Izis Bidermanas. I especially love street photography and urban architectural photography.