Art and design






Life and style








US news

World news

Nino Migliori's best photograph: a gravity-defying Italian diver

The Diver … ‘These two were brothers. It was difficult for the one jumping because he only had two or three metres to build up speed.’
The Diver … ‘These two were brothers. It was difficult for the one jumping because he only had two or three metres to build up speed.’ Photograph: Nino Migliori

Italy went through a rebirth after the second world war. It really was the most beautiful time, especially for a boy who had spent the war years in hiding – from the bombardment of Bologna but also because I was afraid of being captured by the Germans.

I took this in Rimini in 1951. Back then, it was a popular seaside destination for people from Bologna, since it was affordable and easy to get to. My parents had taken me a lot when I was a boy, because the sea air helped my asthma. But by then I was 25 and rarely went to the beach any more.

That day, I wandered around the town before going to the port, to watch the people and the passing boats. There were some boys playing on the dock, joking around and throwing each other in. They would go there every Sunday and have diving competitions, landing on their bellies and making a big splash.

These two boys were brothers. The younger one is sitting down, while the other has tried to run, jump and dive over him. It was very difficult as he only had about two or three metres to build up speed. The other boy kept his head down to avoid being knocked.

I had taken hundreds of other shots before this one, many of them winning awards, but I did not put this into any competitions and so it remained unknown for a long time. Then, years later, an American gallery owner came to Italy and fell in love with my work. He was particularly enamoured of this one and bought the original.

Since then it has become iconic, a little like a novel. In 2010, it was published in a Bologna newspaper and the readers were asked if anyone recognised these boys. Of course, many people started to write in, claiming they were relatives. For two months, the paper received messages each day. Everyone wanted to have a connection with the photo, since they thought they could make some money out of it. But we couldn’t corroborate any of the claims.

My work has always been what you might call explorative. I joined the photographers’ club in Bologna after the war and set out to discover new people and places. We were able to enjoy the simple things that had been missing during the war years: walking along streets, making new friends, eating in their homes, going dancing.

I had to do other jobs to earn a living, but my free time was dedicated to photography. I travelled to southern Italy and lived with families for weeks at a time, eating with them and getting to know them. Initially they were very aware of the camera and would stop and pose, but after a while they relaxed and the images became more natural.

I spent a lot of time with Italian painters, too. I wanted to see how they worked, what motivated them. In particular, I became good friends with Tancredi Parmeggiani, who was close to Peggy Guggenheim. He introduced me to her in Venice and I started taking pictures of her. Many of them now hang in the Guggenheim museums in Venice and New York.

I was at Peggy’s home the day Jackson Pollock’s first drip painting arrived in Italy. It was an enchanting experience. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. We celebrated and all got drunk while looking at it.

Nino Migliori’s CV

Nino Migliori.
Nino Migliori. Photograph: Antonella Minzoni

Born: Bologna, Italy, 1926.

Training: Self-taught.

Influences: The Italian painters Emilio Vedova, Giorgio Morandi and Virgilio Guidi.

High point: “Photographing sculptures produced by the Renaissance artist Niccolò dell’Arca with a candle as the only source of light.”

Low point: “Plenty!”

Top tip: “Use photography to express thoughts, moods and situations. Don’t place too much emphasis on it as a career.”

This article titled "Nino Migliori's best photograph: a gravity-defying Italian diver" was written by Interview by Angela Giuffrida, for The Guardian on Wednesday 14 February 2018 04.03pm

Art and design

Tania Bruguera wins Tate Modern Turbine Hall commission

An artist who has used mounted police officers to corral gallery visitors and, on another occasion,… Read more

Portraits by Bacon and Freud of same man go on display together

Two portraits by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud of the same man, one intense, twisted and… Read more

See change: the battle against sexual harassment in the art world

When the American artist Betty Tompkins was a senior at Syracuse University in 1966, one of her… Read more

Ronina, Shingle Street review – on the beach, all MoD cons

I am looking at a ceiling in which rough wooden joists are sloping this way and that, their… Read more

Popping into Picasso's: stranger's holiday snaps of artist on show

For half a lifetime after Stanley Stanley met a jolly, heavily tanned, bald man on the beach at… Read more

Studio 144: why has Southampton hidden its £30m culture palace behind a Nando's?

Southampton’s new culture palace squats on the town square like a particularly lacklustre block of… Read more

Do you know an artisan working in the UK? Share your stories

From modern silversmiths to bicycle frame builders and a woman keeping Viking fishing traditions… Read more

My best photograph: Mars rover Curiosity's shot of the hill she'll never climb

Ken Herkenhoff Planetary scientist, US Geological Survey Mount Sharp was the first thing Curiosity… Read more

Andy Warhol at the Tate Gallery: 18 February 1971

This has been National Warhol Week. The notorious American wonder boy of Pop, whose painting of a… Read more

Robin Spence obituary

Robin Spence, who has died aged 79, was a talented architect, whom I first met in 1958 at Cambridge… Read more