Dhamal in 700 pictures

Photographer, music journalist, gallery owner Guido Harari (his Wall of Sound gallery in Alba is a gem) tells me over the phone, “The best picture is the one I’ll take tomorrow.” And how can you not believe the man who, in a career spanning fifty years, has immortalized everyone from Bob Dylan to Kate Bush, Lou Reed to Frank Zappa, Tina Turner to David Bowie and then Paolo Conte, Pino Daniele, Fabrizio De Andre, Ligabue, Mia Martini, Gianna Nannini, Vasco, Vinicio Caposella? And then, the great Italians like Alda Merini, Carmelo Benne, Liliana Segre, Miuccia Prada, Giorgio Armani. Guido Harari explains, “Not pictures, meetings”. Incontri is the title of the exhibition, commissioned by the Ferrara Arte Foundation and the Municipality’s Art Museum Service, which until October 1 brings photography back to the Palazzo dei Diamanti, a jewel of the Renaissance that has recently been redecorated (“Forty years after the last exhibition, dedicated to Luigi Ghirri: what a responsibility!”). In autumn, the exhibition will also close in Milan: “It is a work in progress, in fact I must go now: I have a portrait to make”, he added.


«I wanted a lively exhibition and therefore, with eleven rooms and at the end of three hundred portraits of famous people in the field of music and culture, I thought of putting a gallery with the faces of absolutely strangers visiting the exhibition. I’m making it these days (Book, edition at Mostraguidoharari.it)».

And how does it work?

“I give each one an hour. The first thirty minutes we talk, the next half an hour, without makeup and hair, I would say with Caravaggesque lights, I do portraits. It’s a kind of catharsis: everyone who comes here talks to me about their problems, their dreams. The set is called The Magical Cave.”

What’s the difference between shooting a pop star and an ordinary person?

«I serve as a litmus test: I go where the subject takes me. Famous celebrities have filters, they know their image is a marketable product. This does not happen with common people.

Which audience are you meeting in Ferrara?

“This is an exhibition of stories, from the seventies till today you will find all the great artists in music and beyond. For those in their 50s or 60s, it’s a journey through time.

And for the youth?

«Some people know more than us, I think they capture the times of our happy essence, to quote the words that Vittorio Sergibi uses in the text accompanying the exhibition. You don’t come here to analyze photographs from a formal point of view, I would say we are in the emotional realm.

What is photography for you?

“I limit myself to the definition of portrait, which is the art of encounter.”

Does it also depend on your mood at the moment?

“Some. Sometimes I prefer to put the car away and give the privilege of building a future relationship, if I understand that the topic or I was profane. It happened with Joni Mitchell. Even Liliana Segre didn’t want to expose herself: it took me years to convince her.

what did he say to her?

“It was necessary for me to paint her, that it was a way of preserving the memory.”

Ute Lemper came to Ferrara for the inauguration.

“The first meeting was in ’92 for a service on Max. She didn’t know me, she was single, but then she liked the service so much that she proposed it to the record company for the cover of the Illusion album. We lost contact, thanks to Instagram we found each other ».

What is the meaning?

“One day Ute posted a picture of me tagging me, and from there we started hearing from each other about projects related to their 60s: we have a great rapport.”

Guido Harari, born in Cairo seventy years ago, lived in Milan and is now in Alba, when did you realize that you would become a photographer?

“Ever since I was a kid, I was attracted to images, I devoured some of the American magazines that came across our newsstands. In 71” there was an electric shock.


In the issue of Rolling Stone comes a mega interview with John Lennon for his first solo album since breaking up with the Beatles. There is a shot of Annie Leibovitz on the cover. At that time she was a pure reporter: the photo was in black and white, with almost no lighting, with Lennon’s eyes straight at the camera. I said to myself: If music can be told so honestly, then that’s what I want to do with my life.

his master?

«Cesare Monti who immortalized Battisti, Armando Gallo who followed the British music scene, Giuseppe Pino who dedicated himself to jazz. But I was self-educated, I didn’t go to school.

How has the way of photographing rock stars changed?

“I have always chosen artists that I like musically and interest me in terms of subject matter and even without taking a commission from a newspaper, I was able to connect managers and agents to get a meeting for a shoot. Today everything is different, standardized. I would like to photograph Lizzo, but she is unavailable. To be honest, they are emerging as well.

Let’s Browse the Meeting Album: How Was It With David Bowie?

“No talks, he managed all the staff, but at Piper’s showcase in Rome in March 1987, I photographed him for an hour. Even before, relationships with big stars weren’t easy, but at least you got to follow them together. Now not even that: they walk you in, play three songs for you, and then walk you away. You cannot study body language, expression.’

Does he still go under the stage?

“When there’s really someone I’m very attracted to, like Florence and the Machine”.

Let’s go back to the meeting album. On the day of Tina Turner’s death, she posted a photo on Instagram with a very sweet message.

“A tiger on stage, calm in privacy.” I had the pleasure of immortalizing her when she went downhill with ‘Let’s Stay Together’ in 1983: I felt her energy, I understood the joy of liberation.

Patti Smith?

“I painted her in ’96 when, after the death of her husband, she returned to music again with the album Gone. He was followed on tour by his son Michael Stipe and his musical family. It was heartbreaking: She broke down onstage, in between songs. I held her in her moments of weakness and she gave generously of herself. Maybe he needed it.”

This is one of the most beautiful pictures of Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. In Italy Reed only wanted pictures from him.

“Actually, the first time was bad. Lou Reed was in Milan in ’75, and as he performed a concert surrounded by protests, he was also in the midst of an alchemical transformation. We met again in Verona in the eighties: I followed their live shows, a bond began to develop, but it was only twenty years later that I met Lou and Laurie again as a couple. We spent about ten days together in Italy: I saw them, I saw Laurie’s efforts to free Lou from the obligations of the job, from the burden of the promotion. In Turin, at the end of the tour, he was very relaxed and so emerged the intimate portrait that Laurie decided to use with one of his poignant text in Rolling Stone when Lou died. It’s nice when a photo of yours has some meaning to the subject you’re portraying.

Dee had a special relationship with Andre.

In ’79 he was on tour with PFM. I surprised him as he fell asleep on the floor, next to the radiator, in the sports hall. He was shot: I saw his vulnerability. From there we worked together for twenty years»

Best gift to a painter?

“Let the censors of the soul always be on the alert”.

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