This Thursday, November 28th (Thanksgiving day in America) at noon, the City Archives of Florence (L'Archivio della città) will present what are believed to be the only color photographs of the 1966 Flood of Florence: Tutti i colori dell'alluvione. (The exhibit itself will take place in the Biblioteca delle Oblate in the Sala Consultazione Sezione Storica, the library is across the street from the archive - PDF of the invite). The images were taken by advertising executive Joseph Blaustein while on a trip to Italy with his then pregnant wife. Luckily for all of us, Joe just happened to have a couple of rolls of color slide film on him (fairly expensive and rare in 1966).
Virtually trapped in their pensione near the Arno (like most everyone in the city), Mr. Blaustein captured images from the pensione windows the night of the flood, and then during the next morning and next day made his way around Florence on both sides of the Arno and took these amazing, historically significant, one of a kind photographs.
He tried (unsucessfully unfortunately) several times in the ensuing years to present the city with his images, but finally a confluence of events made the presentation possible:
I had started this website (Florence-Flood.com) during the second year I lived in Florence (which was the 40th anniversary year of the flood, 2006), and since its inception (and probably due to it being in English) I have received correspondence over the years from many people who were either in Florence during the flood or people who came after and were called "mud angels" - volunteers from all over the world who helped clean and restore books and art works.
Joe Blaustein is one of these people who originally contacted me via this website, and by email he was able to share his story (and what a story - more of which is here) with me and finally some of his images.
To make a long story (from our first contact to the exhibit opening Thursday will be more than 3 and a half years!) very much shorter: via my friends and contacts in Florence, and especially with the help of Paolo De Rocco of Centrica, I was able to get a first meeting and present some of the photos (scanned slides at this point on my laptop) to Carlo Francini who heads the UNESCO office for the Comune di Firenze. Mr. Francini then brought the images to the attention of the Archivio della città and eventually we all met (Mr. Blaustein who was in Tuscany at the time on a teaching trip, Paolo De Rocco, Silvia Gallini and others in Mr. Blaustein's party) with Luca Brogioni and his colleagues at the City Archives of Florence in early 2013. The city archive at that meeting enthusiastically accepted Joe's generous offer of donating his slides to the city of Florence, and started the preparations for the first public showing.
Here are a couple of minutes of Joe and Silvia at the initial meeting with the city archives:
I have to add that there were many more people involved that were instrumental in seeing this all come together, especially the aforementioned artist, film maker, and assistant to Mr. Blaustein Silvia Gallini, whose help, especially with the Italian language going back and forth in endless emails was vital:
Silvia Gallini - this is Silvia's film about Joe: The Dog and The Duck
Paolo De Rocco
From the Archivio della città:
Luca Brogioni [email protected]
Giulio Manetti [email protected]
Antonella Chiti [email protected]
From UNESCO Comune di Firenze:
Carlo Francini [email protected]
Sadly (for me), this has finally all come together and I wil not be able to attend as I left Florence in June of this year! I hope one day to return to Florence and see Joe's photos exhbited somewhere - maybe in 2016 for the 50th anniversary of the flood.
Anthony Finta, Clermont NY, November 25, 2013