Antonia Zardini

Antonia Zardini, the First Italian War Photojournalist

In the picturesque Ampezzo Valley, memories abound with admiration for the photographic talent of the great Stefano Zardini. However, the Zardini family legacy extends beyond individual brilliance, shaping generations of lens artists. Within this realm of photographic excellence, the roots of a true pioneer emerge: Antonia Zardini Verocai, the first Italian war photojournalist.

The story of Antonia, often overshadowed by family success, deserves to be unfolded and celebrated. Today, we delve into the past, uncovering the narrative of this courageous woman who left an indelible mark on the history of photography and the Zardini family legacy.

Antonia Zardini was a pioneering figure in the history of Italian photography. An avant-garde woman, especially considering the era, she left a lasting impact by documenting the First World War in the enchanting backdrop of Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Recognized as Italy’s first war photojournalist, her artistic journey and dedication came to life in 1915, a crucial year during which her husband, Raffaele, was interned on suspicion of irredentism in the picturesque “wooden city” of Katzenau.

The period of internment did not dampen Antonia’s passion; instead, it propelled her to use photography as a means to capture the essence of an era marked by conflict. Her images transcend mere war documentation, sensitively embracing the faces of soldiers, the worried looks of refugees, landscapes ravaged by war, and the daily scenes of life during those tumultuous years.

In addition to her role as an indomitable photographer, Antonia Zardini collaborated with the Italian Red Cross, bringing her talent to humanitarian assistance. Through her lens, she narrated stories of courage, resilience, and solidarity, offering the world an authentic and moving glimpse into the realities experienced during the global conflict. Her legacy goes beyond the photographs themselves, serving as a precious testimony to a crucial period in Italian history. Her photos, captured with the Voitgländer stereoscopic camera featured at the beginning of the page, have been exhibited in various shows and published in several books.

The camera, manufactured by the renowned Voitgländer company, was a stereoscopic model with a format of 10.5 by 4.3 cm. It featured a magazine containing glass plates for 8 poses, providing the convenience of quick changes.

A Courageous Woman

A enterprising and courageous figure, of whom we, her fellow citizens, can be proud. Antonia Zardini Verocai, a woman from Cortina d’Ampezzo whose indomitable spirit soared beyond the peaks of the Dolomites. Over a hundred years ago, in a pivotal moment in history, Antonia firmly embraced the mission of narrating the events of the Great War.

Italy entered the war on May 24, 1915, and by May 28, 1915, Antonia began documenting the happenings in the Cortina of her time through photography, capturing everything she deemed relevant to create a well-documented account. She meticulously gathered dates, names, and information, personally developing both her plates and those provided by the soldiers. From May 1915 onward, Antonia felt a profound duty to document not only the war in general but also the conflict unfolding right in her beloved town and on the majestic mountains that surrounded it.

Despite the challenges and horrors of war, Antonia did not hesitate to employ her passion and professionalism to capture the harsh reality of the clashes between the Italian and Austrian armies. In an era when cameras were still rudimentary tools, she transformed her art into a precious testimony of those tumultuous times. First as a wife and later as a mother, she adeptly balanced her family life with her commitment to documenting the events.

Her photographs are not mere snapshots but narratives of the front-line events, the fires, the bombs streaking across the sky, and the movements of troops in the city streets. Simultaneously, they depict the daily life of Cortina d’Ampezzo striving to survive the conflict. Antonia Zardini risked her life, courageously joining the ranks of photojournalists who, just like her, would narrate the events of their time.

This passion, passed down like a blazing torch, perpetuates in the life and professional stories of contemporary reporters, creating an eternal bond between the past and the present.


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Enrico Maioni Mountain Guide Dolomiti

Enrico Maioni

Certified Mountain Guide, with a wide know-how of the Dolomiti.
I was born in the heart of the Dolomites, where I live and work to this day.
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