Futurist Photodynamism (1911)
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Modernism/modernity 15.2 (2008) 363-379

Futurist Photodynamism (1911)
Anton Giulio Bragaglia
Translated and edited by Lawrence Rainey

Anton Giulio Bragaglia (1890–1960) was a key figure in early Italian cinema and in theater of the 1920s. From 1906 on he was a director's assistant at Cines, a film production house run by his father. In December 1911 he published Futurist Photodynamism (Fotodinamismo futurista; Rome: Nalato, 1911), an attempt to formulate a Futurist theory of photography, drawing on the chronophotography of the French photographer Jules-Etienne Marey. Perhaps because of concern that Bragaglia's photographs were undermining the status of Futurist painting, he was formally expelled from the Futurist ranks on 1 October 1913. Despite this, he seems to have maintained a cordial personal rapport with various Futurists, especially the Futurist painter Giacomo Balla, who also resided in Rome. In 1918 Bragaglia opened a gallery, Casa d'arte Bragaglia (The Bragaglia House of Art), which lasted until 1933 and sponsored 275 exhibitions by artists such as the Futurist sculptor and painter Umberto Boccioni, De Chirico, Gerardo Dottori, the Futurist and dadaist groups, Gustav Klimt, Vinicio Paladini, Ivo Pannaggi, and Enrico Prampolini. In 1922 he enlarged it to include a theater and club, with rooms decorated by the Futurist artists Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero, and Enrico Prampolini. The theater, which became the most innovative theatrical venue of the period in Italy, staged works by Luigi Pirandello, Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Schnitzler, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Ardengo Soffici, as well as Futurist syntheses (extremely brief dramatic works, often lasting only a few minutes) by Emilio Settimelli, Bruno Corra, and F. T. Marinetti. Bragaglia also wrote books on theater, dance, film, and archaeology, and was an active journalist, critic, and reviewer. [End Page 363]

Bragaglia's major theoretical achievement was undoubtedly his Futurist Photodynamism. It consisted of a forty-seven page essay, accompanied by sixteen plates, that was divided into fifty-five numbered sections. A second edition was published on 30 June 1913. It was enlarged by six additional sections, so making sixty-one in total, and eighteen smaller expansions of the text, typically a single sentence in length. A few months later a third edition was published, unaltered from the second. (The third edition was later reprinted: see Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Fotodinamismo futurista [Turin: G. Einaudi, 1970]). The text presented here is taken from the third edition, the most widely accessible; however, in the eight instances where that edition transmits material added in the second edition (and so not contained in the first edition of 1911), these are registered in a list of variants indicated in the text proper by an alphabetical superscript. The following translation presents twenty-two sections of the book in their entirety, specifically sections 1, 4–8, and 16–31, all indicated by section numbers. The only previous translation of this work, by Caroline Tisdall (found in Umbro Apollonio, ed., Futurist Manifestos [New York: Viking, 1973], 38–45) consisted of isolated paragraphs taken from sections 18 and 28, together with eleven sections given in their entirety (19–26 and 29–31), though with no indication of their enumeration.

The translation that follows was originally prepared for inclusion in Futurism: A Reader and Visual Repertoire, edited by Lawrence Rainey, Christine Poggi, and Laura Wittman, and scheduled for publication later this year with Yale University Press. Under U.S. law, Photodynamism is currently out of copyright; under European Union law, it will remain in copyright till 2030. To conform with EU law, the translation was withdrawn from Futurism: A Reader. It is printed here as an example of the heady mixture of philosophical and quasi-mystical formulations that circulated in Futurism's early years.

Futurist Photodynamism

Anton Giulio Bragaglia

December 1911


At the outset, it is important to distinguish between dynamism and dynamism.

There is the realistic, effective dynamism of objects unfolding with real motion—which, for the sake of precision, should be called movementism—and there is the virtual dynamism of immobile objects, which is of interest to Futurist Painting.

What interests...